TMCnet Feature
June 27, 2013

Microsoft Hopes Windows 8.1 Preview Fixes Problems Seen with Windows 8

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

Windows 8.1 Preview is now available for download. A free update to Windows 8, the official version won’t be offered until later this year – perhaps in time for the winter holidays. A prerelease version is now available for developers and anyone else who wants it.

The preview version of Windows 8.1 was released Wednesday at the start of the Build conference for Microsoft (News - Alert) partners and developers.

The changes clean up some of the problems found with Windows 8, which was released Oct. 26, but still keep many of its benefits.

"With Windows 8 we built a new Windows, reimagined from the chipset to the experience. It was an ambitious vision, and with Windows 8.1 we refine it," Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president of Windows, said in a company statement. "Windows 8.1 will support the widest range of tablets and PCs and demonstrates how responsive we can be for customers.”

Image via Shutterstock

One key example of the changes with Windows 8.1 is with the Start button.

With Windows 8, the Start button was removed because of Microsoft's emphasis on touch screens.

“The new Start button brings back all the functionality of the Start button from Windows 7, but with the look and feel of the more modern Windows 8.1,” said in a review.

“Microsoft has reintroduced the Start button in Windows 8.1 in the lower-left corner of the screen. Clicking on it brings up the Start screen, where you can type a few letters to find and open apps, just like in Windows 8. While you still don't get the exact same pop-up menu you had in Windows 7, Microsoft has added the ability to right-click the new Start button to get to common Control Panel settings, open the Task Manager, perform a search, and other useful system tools. At the bottom of the pop-up menu you have the option to shut down or restart your computer – a function that was previously found in Windows 8 by mousing to the top-right corner of the screen, dragging downward, clicking Settings, clicking Power, then clicking Shutdown or Restart,” CNET said.

There is also a change with the snap view option.

The snap view option is expanded in 8.1 – with “multiple apps on the screen at the same time,” said.

“Windows 8.1 will let you run up to eight apps side by side -- up from just two in Windows 8,” the review said. “Windows 8.1 lets users decide how much space each app takes up on the screen.”

Another change will be seen by Skype (News - Alert) users. If a user gets a call on Skype and the computer is locked, he/she “will be able to answer the call without having to first unlock your computer,” said.

And there will be changes when it comes to the use of the cloud.

“The SkyDrive cloud storage service will be more tightly woven into Windows 8.1,” said. “SkyDrive won't just make your cloud files look and feel native inside Windows, but it will also sync all your Windows and app settings on the fly, so that you don't have to reconfigure every Windows 8.1 device you use.”

In addition, users can “boot directly to the desktop from within the OS,” CNET said.

When it comes to searches for popular musicians, Xbox Music “will create a radio station with songs from that artist and similar music from the genre,” CNET said.

A search for some well-known musicians may lead to seeing photos, songs, videos and additional background in the results – via something called “Search Hero.”

“You can even play music from the search results, so long as you search for an artist or album already in your Xbox Music collection,” Engadget said.

In addition, with the new camera app, there new editing tools, color enhancements/adjustments, and filters, CNET said.

Microsoft also announced new search controls from Bing in the user interface. Bing now features improved maps, such as 3-D images. Also, app listings have a new layout. There is better navigation and more related content is provided.

Several of the new features were already shown by the company prior to the conference, The Associated Press reported.

Last year, Windows 8 was criticized by IDC (News - Alert) and others. Some analysts blamed the new operating system for lower PC sales. called it a “forward-thinking but flawed PC operating system.”

But the improvements with Windows 8.1 were praised by

“By addressing some of Windows 8's more problematic aspects with subtle, iterative improvements, Microsoft is slowly transitioning its user base to this radical new mode of computing,” the review said. “That not only makes Windows 8.1 a promising upgrade, but it may go a long way towards validating Microsoft's somewhat risky strategy.” 

The result is not a cure-all, however.

“The company has done a good job on a lot of fronts and has added a lot more to like, but we suspect that some people will still find the OS' reliance on touch off-putting,” CNET reported in its review.

Edited by Rich Steeves
» More TMCnet Feature Articles


» More TMCnet Feature Articles