Microsoft has announced that the long-awaited update to the Windows OS (codenamed Windows Blue) will be available for free to existing Windows 8 users, with the public beta downloadable from June 26th.
The Windows 8.1 update has been reasonably quick in development in an attempt by Microsoft to minimise any fallout as a result of the Windows 8 backlash. The operating system has largely polarised opinion since its release, due in part to its two distinct user interfaces as well as the lack of a start button, which has been a Windows staple since 1995.
Windows 8.1 will be available via the Windows Store to existing users of Windows 8 and Windows RT, and Microsoft is hoping to meet the expectations of both businesses and consumers with the update. Windows 8 drew criticisms particularly in the business world for not being streamlined enough for office use, with many professional users citing the touch-screen elements of the OS as a gimmick intended to corner some of the burgeoning tablet market.
Windows 8.1 is expected to revert back to the more traditional Windows platform in some ways, whilst innovating in others. Users are given the option of a start bar, and this reversal suggests that Microsoft may be attempting to shift more copies of Windows 8, which now ships with the majority of new desktops, laptops and hybrids, despite underperforming in sales terms.
Developers are also set to tweak the Charms in order to make them easier to use via mouse, as well as further adjustments to the start screen in order to make things simpler for desktop users.
It could be easy to assume Microsoft’s updates in Windows 8.1 as an admittance of getting things wrong in the initial release of the operating system, which is perhaps slightly unfair. Whilst many users have taken to Windows 8 with aplomb, it remains clear that many were happy with things the way they were – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, so to speak.
The truth is that Windows 8.1 should offer the best of both worlds to customers, with those accustomed to the new features able to simply ignore the new options, or (as will be the case with many we suspect) implement them as and how they see fit.
One thing is for certain, Windows 8 is likely to become a lot more user-friendly as a result of these changes, and public opinion on the operating system might just turn around.
Jon Smith is an e-Marketing Specialist for Insight UK, a leading provider of IT hardware, software and services.