Microsoft has reportedly signed-off on the final version of the upcoming update to Windows 8.1 with the final update to the code supposedly finalized on February 21st.
As you've probably read already, the changes coming in Update 1 represent a sort of backtrack for Microsoft, bringing better desktop (keyboard and mouse) support to Windows 8. Windows 8 was sorely lacking support for regular users at its launch and was meant specifically for touchscreen, consumer devices.
Microsoft faces a conundrum with Windows 8, with the most current OS not seeing the uptake or acceptance of previous versions. Some have suggested that Windows 8 is the new Vista. Vista also saw extremely poor adoption due to various UI changes and lack of industry driver support. The industry has similarly been slow to support Windows 8, which shows how important Microsoft's partnerships really are. Microsoft must always balance change and innovation with the ability to bring partners on board. And, they need to do it early on in the process.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 hopes to strike the balance, not just between Microsoft and its partners, but also between Microsoft and its customers. The majority of Microsoft's revenue comes from businesses, and the Windows 8 release was perceived by businesses as directly developed for consumers and more of a missing link in the evolution of Windows for corporate use. Many businesses still have not been sold on touchscreen devices, so a desktop-friendly fix could be welcome.
Still, we'll have to wait and see. Did Microsoft do enough with the update to woo businesses? With the deadline of Windows XP support looming large (April 8, 2014), more businesses are choosing Windows 7 as the migration platform instead of Windows 8. With Windows 7, there's far less end-user retraining needed because of how much the Windows 8 UI has been altered. With Windows 7, older, out-of-date software can be made to work. And, of course, there's the Start menu that has become the mainstay for computer operation for the entire computing planet.
So, what does Windows 8.1 Update 1 bring to lure customers to the modern OS? Here's a few:
- Windows 8 apps can be shown on the desktop taskbar
- The taskbar is present even during Windows 8-style app usage
- The minimize, maximize, and close buttons are back
- Shutdown is now an integrated part of the Windows 8 Start screen
- A new Search button is available on the Start screen
- More Right-click options have been added to the Windows 8 Start screen
- Non-touch PC users will be booted to the desktop automatically
Microsoft has consistently referred to Windows 8.1 Update 1 as their "Spring Update" for Windows 8, and it's not clear if the final bits will be renamed to match. Obviously, 'Windows 8.1 Update 1' is a mouthful to say, so let's hope a better name is attached in the coming weeks.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 will be publicly released next month.