Microsoft Windows 8.1 Update Takes Shape

Details about upgrades to Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 emerge, as Microsoft urges customers to dump Windows XP.

for a software design engineer to build a "groundbreaking interactive reading app on Windows, which incorporates books, magazines, and comics." Windows 8.1 already features a somewhat basic reader app, but the employment listing suggests a more robust and interactive version is in the cards. Microsoft is also reportedly working on a separate Office Reader app, which is thought to be a cross-platform tool that will support a range of content, including textbooks. An early version of the Office app was allegedly demonstrated last fall at an internal meeting.

A new Microsoft campaign demonstrates why the company is evidently working so hard on updates to make its Live Tile ecosystem more attractive. In a blog post published Friday, Microsoft senior marketing communications manager Brandon LeBlanc encouraged people who have already moved on from Windows XP to help their friends and family do the same.

It's easy to see why Microsoft feels compelled to push users along. According to Net Applications, Windows XP (which will lose support in April) still accounted for more than 29% of desktop users in January. Windows 8 and 8.1 combined to encompass only 10.58%. The new OS has achieved modest inroads among tablet users but has been mostly ignored by Microsoft's traditional customers, such as businesses.

"Windows 8 and the enterprise aren't things you usually hear in the same sentence," IDC analyst Al Gillen told us late last month. Most enterprises don't rely on Modern UI applications, and Windows 8.1 doesn't help most employees complete their jobs any faster.

LeBlanc's blog post hit a sour note with some Microsoft customers, who voiced their frustration in the post's comment section. "It's not that Windows 8 is non-intuitive or challenging to learn, it is that it literally cripples a non-touch device," said one of several commenters to decry the challenge of running Windows 8.1 on nontouch hardware. "Installing it on a computer makes that computer essentially non-usable."

Other bemoaned Windows 8 and 8.1 in general, while others took umbrage with LeBlanc's assertion that most of his readers had already moved on from Windows XP. LeBlanc defended the statement in a comment of his own; he said that Microsoft's analytics data "shows very few people are visiting our blog on PCs running Windows XP."

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