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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.

7 Mistakes Microsoft Made In 2013
7 Mistakes Microsoft Made In 2013
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For several days last month, Satya Nadella's impending promotion to Microsoft CEO was one of the technology industry's worst-kept secrets. In the days since, more reports about Microsoft's confidential plans have trickled out, including leaks about upcoming updates to Windows and Windows Phone.

Expected this spring, Windows 8.1 Update 1 includes a number of tweaks to make the touch-centric OS more appropriate for mouse-and-keyboard use. Microsoft has yet to confirm the update, but with several functional builds hitting the web over the last few days, signs point -- barring a veto from new boss Nadella -- to an imminent release.

Previously leaked details included UI changes that make Modern apps respond to mouse clicks more as desktops apps do, as well as a new option to pin Modern apps to the desktop taskbar. Update 1 will also reportedly recognize whether it is running on touch or nontouch hardware. This will allow it to adjust dynamically which user interface elements it displays and which programs it uses by default to launch certain files.

[Will Satya Nadella and Bill Gates click? Read Nadella, Gates: Right Team for Microsoft?]

The tech enthusiast site McAkins Online uncovered additional details over the weekend while investigating a recently leaked build. The site said that, when an app has been added to the taskbar, users can right-click the app's pinned icon to reveal a Windows 7-style jump list of related features and items.

A leaked build of Windows 8.1 Update 1 includes Windows 7-style jump lists for Modern apps pinned to the taskbar.(Source: McAkins Online)
A leaked build of Windows 8.1 Update 1 includes Windows 7-style jump lists for Modern apps pinned to the taskbar.
(Source: McAkins Online)

Modern apps also include new access to the taskbar in Update 1, McAkins said. Whereas Windows 8.1 currently keeps desktop UI elements out of the Modern UI, Update 1 enables users to access the desktop taskbar from within Modern apps by navigating the mouse to the bottom of the screen. This move toward cross-pollination between Windows 8.1's two UIs fits into reports about Windows 9, which is expected to push the concept further by allowing Modern apps to be run in a windowed mode on the desktop.

As for Windows Phone, Microsoft is evidently making progress on the long-awaited Windows Phone 8.1 operating system. Previous reports have indicated the OS will include a notification center and digital assistant, features already present in iPhone and Android smartphones. Though Cortana, the alleged digital assistant, is still mostly the stuff of rumors and guesswork, new evidence of the notification center emerged in the last few days. The Windows fan blog site Winphollowers has published purported screenshots of Windows Phone 8.1's "Action Center."

A screenshot displays an 'Action Center' Microsoft will allegedly debut with Windows Phone 8.1.(Source: Winphollowers)
A screenshot displays an "Action Center" Microsoft will allegedly debut with Windows Phone 8.1.
(Source: Winphollowers)

Citing unnamed sources, the website The Verge reported Monday that Microsoft has begun sharing an early version of its Windows Phone 8.1 SDK with select developers. On cue, a developer started a Reddit thread Tuesday morning that catalogues the SDK's various feature upgrades.

Neither Cortana nor the Action Center are present in the kit, suggesting that if Microsoft is planning these tools, it doesn't want to spill the beans early. But the SDK does include at least one potential blockbuster change -- support for "Universal Apps" that let developers build Windows Store and Windows Phone titles using the same HTML and JavaScript code. This move could encourage app-makers to pay more attention to Microsoft's Live Tile ecosystem, and might represent the early stages of a rumored Windows Phone-Windows RT merger

Other features discovered in the SDK include an option to select which apps receive texts; a tool to track battery life; separate Music and Video apps in place of today's combined Music + Video app; and Internet Explorer 11 with improved YouTube support. The kit also tweaks the mobile OS's multi-tasking feature; currently, apps terminate when the user hits the back button, but based on the SDK, Windows Phone 8.1 will instead suspend apps in the background, more like the multi-tasking in Windows 8.1.

Microsoft's devices and studios group is also evidently building a new reader app for Windows. According to a recent job posting, the company is looking

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2014 | 3:05:09 PM
Windows 8.1 Update this Spring
Ok, so it makes sense for Microsoft to help consumers move away from Windows XP. Security reasons alone would dictate that. All those Windows XP boxes will be ripe for malware takeovers for denial of service attacks and perhaps worse. So how about making Windows 8.1 (with its fixes for desktop users) be had for the $39 that Windows 8 was offered originally. Or even better, give consumers a choice of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

Now that the time is fast approaching (April 8th) many people who were hedging their bets on upgrading an older PC would be more likely to bite on an offer than they were 15 months ago.

To hedge my own bets I've already installed Ubuntu on my older lap top and my Dell Dimension E520 that is still going strong. I mean, why throw perfectly usuable hardware in the landfill? Makes no sense. I just wish Apple would write iTunes for Ubuntu...rats! so I guess I'll be moving my music library, which is on an external drive, to my new but not much loved Windows 8.1 box.

User Rank: Ninja
2/12/2014 | 10:32:34 PM
Re: Moving on from XP

You're right, of course. But when I consider that almost all of what I do involves producing documents that can be read by MS Word, spreadsheets that can be read by Excel, communicating by cloud-based email such as Yahoo, and posting to boards such as this, Ubuntu will work for a backup machine. I still spend most of my time on my Windows 7 machine. I learned last week, on this forum actually, that you can run some apps on a Chromebook, so it's not dead in the water when the internet is temporarily down. And, speaking of Chrombooks and Ubuntu, I also just found out that it is possible to install Ubuntu on Chrombooks, so you'll have a lot of capability even when the internet isn't available
User Rank: Strategist
2/12/2014 | 3:16:07 PM
Support 25 years of Microsoft.
Linux can do your Network, and your security.  It can do your Word Processing, Spreadsheets, and many other functions needed by business.  Linux Servers are used throughout the web.  If they were not secure, they would not have a huge presence.  Networking Linux is also Cheaper. Not all those CALS, and per user racking.  Tell me how fun Microsoft is when you install a new Server, and have to sit there with 85 updates before you can get to work. We have Linux at the desktop, and never touch the Susie V11 box.  It never needs a reboot because of a crash, hang or update.  Ouch!  no insult intended.   
User Rank: Strategist
2/12/2014 | 3:04:12 PM
Re: Moving on from XP
Microsoft has dominated the desktop for decades, but now faces new technological changes that may be the writing on the wall for its doom if it does not change.  The decline of Microsoft has begun with its arrogance in forcing the consumer away from the desktop. It will take time because of the power and presence of Microsoft.

  In all its glory, it Hurriedly pushed out a new OS that is not friendly to the desktop, and only to a new tablet / Laptop touch market which it serves fairly well.  Sure, the Windows 8 can be customized to start the Desktop, but it is difficult to stay away from the GUI touch screen.  After all, that is the "New" start screen.

 With the Advent of Chrome, android, cloud services, improved Linux available and easy to use ( Also very cost effective) ,  and others are on the horizon.   Microsoft cannot afford to lose the Business desktop base of customers.  It also has upset many home users because of the drastic change. Windows 8 is just not easy to use!   With murmurs of Windows 9 being ahead, we wonder if there will be any back peddling by Microsoft to save it's self, and give users at the desktop what they really want?   Simplicity, Security, performance, and affordability.
User Rank: Ninja
2/12/2014 | 1:07:57 PM
Re: Moving on from XP
All about the apps, Gary. If all you do is use browser, smart move. But good luck joining that Ubuntu to an Active Directory domain or a RADIUS WiFi access point.

Leaving that stuff out of mix, did you hear Google Chrome passed the latest hacker contest without anyone earning a reward for finding a flaw?  Linux has some new competition in the non Windows arena.
User Rank: Strategist
2/12/2014 | 12:18:32 PM
M$ is learning a well known truth....
Businesses tend to hang on to what works for them (mainly because they're trying to save money however they can).  If XP is running well for them, and they know that 8.1 won't run well on the hardware they have, a business will keep using XP until they can't any more (yes, it's a broad brush stroke, but it's true often enough that it's worth pointing out).
User Rank: Ninja
2/11/2014 | 10:01:11 PM
Moving on from XP
I've moved on from XP, alright. This comment is written on my new backup laptop, which runs Ubuntu.

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