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10/17/2013
06:41 PM
Michael Endler
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Windows 8.1: Visual Tour

Can Windows 8.1 avoid the fate of Windows 8? Take a look at Microsoft's newest OS.
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Windows 8.1 is now available, almost a year after its predecessor Windows 8 hit the market with a resounding thud. Early reviews of the update run the gamut, with some pundits lauding Microsoft for delivering what Windows 8 should have been in the first place, and others claiming 8.1, although improved, is still plagued by the same core problems.

Although reactions have tended toward cautious optimism overall, the divergent reactions speak to the variety of critics the update seeks to please.

Windows 8.1 will need to reassure desktop users, many of whom resented Windows 8's attempts to force feed them Live Tiles, and the clumsiness with which it joined the touch-centric Modern UI to the traditional desktop.

The update addresses many of these issues with additions such as the boot-to-desktop mode -- but questions remain. Will users accept the new Start button and search functions? Or will some dismiss the OS because it still doesn't have a built-in Windows 7-style Start menu?

Then there's Windows 8.1's impact on PC sales. It's unfair to blame Microsoft for the market's ongoing slump, as the consumer shift toward tablets was inevitable. But based on Windows 8's desktop market share, the OS didn't help.

At this point, analysts generally agree that the traditional PC market's best days are behind it. But if Windows 8.1 can show the value of touchscreen desktops, or at least convince some with aging Windows XP and Windows 7 systems to give the boot-to-desktop mode a chance, Microsoft might be able to slow the bleeding.

Windows 8's desktop-related problems would be somewhat less distressing if the OS's Modern UI had achieved its primary goal: to give Microsoft a presence in the tablet market. That hasn't happened; IDC said in August that Windows tablets account for only 4.5% of the market. With cheap Android tablets becoming increasingly capable and new iPads expected to dominate holiday sales, Windows 8.1 slates will face an uphill battle.

In many ways, Windows 8.1 is oriented toward technologies that are years away from their mainstream peak. Many people are still getting used to the cloud, but Windows 8.1 bakes SkyDrive deeply into the system. The benefits of device convergence are still uncertain, but Microsoft continues to push the idea that one slim package can house both a tablet and a laptop.

Still, for those looking toward the future, the update offers intriguing potential. Windows 8.1 devices such as the Surface Pro 2 can be used as tablets one moment, attached to a keyboard accessory to become laptops the next, and then docked to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse to function as desktops. Windows 8.1 scales screen sizes automatically.

Will Windows 8.1 be able to convince users, developers and hardware partners that Windows is back on the right track? Microsoft's market share is sure to jump in the short term, thanks to existing Windows 8 users who take advantage of the free upgrade. The fact that Windows 8.1 devices will be cheaper, lighter and more powerful than Win 8 models won't hurt. Now take a closer look at what the new OS does and does not improve.

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AllenJ031
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AllenJ031,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2013 | 5:16:04 PM
re: Windows 8.1: Visual Tour
After installing the upgrade, I realize even more that Microsoft is trying to cover the tablet base as well as the traditional non-touch Windows "7" base. The problem is, I believe, that you can't really meld both into one OS. Maybe when the table market, i.e. Windows RT, etc matures, then this confusion may go away. Until then, people that are traditional users of PC's/laptops are going to continue to be frustrated.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/18/2013 | 5:37:38 PM
re: Windows 8.1: Visual Tour
Definitely one of the big issues. More than 100 million people are using Windows 8, but a lot of them took advantage of discounted upgrades and simply installed Win 8 on aging, non-touch PCs. Win 8.1's boot-to-desktop mode helps these customers, as does the ability to disable hot corners. Public response to the new Start button is still unknown, though I've found the right-click option is more useful than some have said.

Will it be enough to convince "traditional" PC customers give the Windows 8.1 desktop a chance? And if they do, will they spend any time in the Modern UI? Or will they enable boot-to-desktop and banish the Live Tiles from their workflow? Windows 8.1 is a definite improvement, but it faces a barrage of questions and doubts.
mattgray
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mattgray,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 11:10:44 AM
re: Windows 8.1: Visual Tour
Microsoft has gotten a lot of things right with Windows 8.1 and it seems they are headed in the right direction....
http://www.aress.com/Software_...
Tom P
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Tom P,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 12:56:05 PM
re: Windows 8.1: Visual Tour
I couldn't really tell any difference. The new start button is much worse than no start menu at all, so I quickly re-installed iOBIT's StartMenu8. Remember the 'Windows 7 was my idea' slogan? I swear Microsoft still isn't listening to its customers, and they've been screaming for a year.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 1:08:45 PM
re: Windows 8.1: Visual Tour
"so I quickly re-installed iOBIT's StartMenu8"
And, that's the point. Windows 8.x is a platform upon which anyone can apply customizations to it whether they are native or third party. To completely diss the OS when there are plenty of free/cheap solutions to alleviate any perceived shortcomings does not make any sense.
CharlesC861
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CharlesC861,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/6/2013 | 10:07:18 PM
re: Windows 8.1: Visual Tour
I HATE Windows 8. I didn't like it when I had to upgrade to windows 7. A friend of mine has a NEW computer, that she bought on line, and it came with it, but without a word program unless she wanted to rent one by the month or the year. It reminds me of when we went from DOS to Windows, why go backwords? After reading some of the post, I now realize that it must have been developed for touchscreens, which her computer isn't. We're not computer people so I guess we'll have to find someone to fix it and put something on it that we can understand or scrap it and hopefully Apple isn't going in the same direction.
I hate this program of coming out with something new every 18 months. It is rediculous.
Sometimes all of this crap make me feel bad that I dedicated 20 years of my life to protecting this country so some pinhead somewhere could set around thinking up ways to phuck it up.
TheGFEwebcomic
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0%
TheGFEwebcomic,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 12:32:03 AM
It is a horrible OS
I don't know what technical issues people are talking about, but the GUI alone is horrid and was the reason that the last new machine we bought I decided to downgrade to Windows 7 so that my less technically inclined spouse could use the thing without bashing her head against the keyboard in sheer frustration.  The sudden switch from an interface with the familiar start menu in the desktop seen at least as far back as Windows 95 which PC users grew accustomed, to this insane mess of bland colored squares was to say the least awkward for a lot of long time users even for me and I am the one in this house who deals with the technical issues since I know how to build, install, and run PCs which have various operating systems including Windows, Linux and Mac.  The GUI alone is the most horrible mistake which alienates a loyal long held customer base.
GeorgeM116
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GeorgeM116,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/25/2013 | 2:16:23 AM
Re: It is a horrible OS
Where are the windows? I do not want to look at a screen filled with colorful boxes that have no meaning. It is overwhelming and hard on the eyes. Productivity is down with W8. Resizeable, overlapping windows was efficient. I could construct a work space for the task(s) at hand. Now I have a visual assault on my senses. W8 SUCKS. I want may W7 back.

 
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