Looking to breathe life into Windows, Microsoft shows off 8.1 update with Start Menu

Posted:
in macOS edited January 2014
Microsoft on Wednesday launched its latest effort to reverse the fortunes of its Windows platform, showing off a line of new devices and unveiling Windows 8.1, a new build designed to boost interest in the company's underperforming Windows 8.



At its Build developer conference at San Francisco's Moscone Center, Microsoft looked to woo developers and win over customers who have been reluctant to upgrade to its newest operating system. As the company confirmed in the past, Windows 8.1 will feature the return of the Start Menu, as well as the option to bypass the touch-centric Modern UI and boot directly to the desktop.

The changes represent possibly the biggest about-face in the history of the software giant, which rolled out Windows 8 last year with the intention of reversing a trend that has seen consumers increasingly opting for smartphones and tablets while the PC market struggles. The pivot back toward Windows standards like boot-to-desktop and the Start Menu has been described by some observers as the biggest reversal since New Coke.

The Build conference came just eight months after the company's last developer conference, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pointed to a new "rapid pace of innovation" at the firm as the reason.

"It's about the transformation that we are going through as a company to move to an absolutely rapid release cycle," Ballmer said in his address to kick off Microsoft's keynote. Microsoft typically iterates Windows every three years or so, but the new version will likely release before Windows 8 is even one year old.

Ballmer in his initial address took the time to show a range of devices running Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 software. Wednesday's presentation, though, focused little on Microsoft's struggling smartphone OS.

Instead, Ballmer simply mentioned and showed off several new handsets ? including Nokia's Lumia 925 and several low-cost handsets ? before moving on to Windows 8.1. The largest news on Microsoft's smartphone front, perhaps, was the arrival of Windows Phone 8 handsets from Nokia and Samsung on Sprint, the United States' third-largest wireless carrier.

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Ballmer attempted to put a positive spin on one of Windows 8's largest problems, the dearth of apps specifically designed for the platform. Windows 8 runs legacy Windows apps in a desktop environment but, due to low overall adoption rates for Windows 8 and Windows RT, developers have been reluctant to devote the resources to developing apps that run in the new tile-centric user interface.

"Within this month," Ballmer said, "I think we'll pass the 100,000 application mark in the Windows Store."

While 100,000 apps would represent a milestone for the platform, Ballmer's statement is a tacit admission of Windows 8's struggles. Launching Windows 8 last year, the company predicted there would be 100,000 apps in the Windows Store by February, with some 400 million Windows 8 devices sold by July of this year.

Over the course of the presentation, Ballmer and other Microsoft representatives showed off a range of form factors running the newest version of Windows, including iPad mini-sized tablets, touch-enabled all-in-one desktops, and convertible hybrids with detachable keyboard docks.

Windows Vice President Antoine Leblond took the time to specifically call out Apple in showing off a new Samsung Ultrabook, noting the device's high pixel density display.

"It blows away a MacBook Retina," Leblond said, holding up the Samsung device, which has a higher resolution screen than Apple's Retina MacBook Pros, as well as battery life comparable to the new MacBook Airs, "and it has a touchscreen."

Aside from the return of the Start Menu and the boot-to-desktop option, Microsoft showed off a number of tweaks and additions to its operating system. The Windows team has worked to improve touchscreen text entry on their devices, showing off a gesture based auto-suggest interaction feature, allowing users to swipe along the keyboard in order to select a suggested word.

Microsoft also showed off increased Bing integration, saying that the search engine has consistently grown market share in the United States since its introduction. Bing powers the full search experience throughout Windows 8.1, with features built in to show not only links to content, but also different ways to interact with that content.

The latter portion of the presentation was devoted to showing off Microsoft's vision for its Xbox One console. The company demonstrated a number of game-creating utilities that interface with Windows 8 and Microsoft's Smart Glass app in order to let players build their own game worlds and experiences.

The presentation ended with a summation of what the company is trying to accomplish across the multiple devices it supports and services it provides. "One experience, on every device for everything important in life," was the motto projected on stage, and Ballmer ended on an optimistic note to drive home that point for developers.

The Microsoft chief predicted that the company would sell "literally hundreds of millions of Windows devices this year."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 118
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member


    Hahahahahahahahaha....(deep breath)...hahahahahahaha!

  • Reply 2 of 118
    zroger73zroger73 Posts: 778member
    "It [the Samsung Ultrabook] blows away a MacBook Retina", huh? In what respect - the number of pixels on a spec sheet? 99% of the population can't distinguish individual pixels in a Retina display as it is - let alone an even higher resolution. Seems like a waste of processing power to me. Marketing gimmick.
  • Reply 3 of 118
    herbapouherbapou Posts: 2,227member


    Despite people not liking Microsolf, imo they have the best ecosystem after Apple because they offer a complete set from PC, phones, tablets to gaming. The only mistake they made is not allowing old school desktop on PC's. They are correcting this ATM, but the damage has been done. They are missing windows 8 Tv's with Xbox integration.


     


    After than Google Nexus hardware on android is a nice ecosystem. I would not buy an android device that is not Nexus to have a clear path for OS updates. If google would make Nexus TV's with integrated gaming, and put more effort in Chrome OS they could have a decent ecosystem too.


     


    On the Apple side, Apple is missing a TV with integrated gaming and an Apple TV box with gaming. Hopefully, games and apps build with the game remotes API will make it to the Apple TV at the next updates.

  • Reply 4 of 118
    povilaspovilas Posts: 473member
    I wonder if it's possible to make something more convoluted than this.
  • Reply 5 of 118

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    Hahahahahahahahaha....(deep breath)...hahahahahahaha!



    well said...

  • Reply 6 of 118
    ronboronbo Posts: 669member
    I was hoping the video would be more "info" and less "mercial". I couldn't watch more than a few seconds of it. Which is a pity, because I'd have liked to have actually learned something. Sadly....
  • Reply 7 of 118
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,221member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by herbapou View Post


    Despite people not liking Microsolf, imo they have the best ecosystem after Apple because they offer a complete set from PC, phones, tablets to gaming. The only mistake they made is not allowing old school desktop on PC's. ...



     


    Fairy tales can come true,


    It can happen you


    If you're young at heart....

  • Reply 8 of 118
    ronboronbo Posts: 669member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post The Microsoft chief predicted that the company would sell "literally hundreds of millions of Windows devices this year."


     


    Which they may well do. But it won't be because people actually like Win 8.1. There's just a certain sales momentum that Microsoft can count on for Windows; whether or not it's actually diminishing, it's still something they can count on in 2013.

  • Reply 9 of 118
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    That's a seriously, deeply confusing video/advert.

    The thing they are forgetting here is that "different and new" only attracts new users if it's eventually something one can figure out and if it's the "latest and greatest." Ads like this perk up a person's interest only (because they suck at explaining anything). Windows 8 is neither of those things.

    You could do a confusing, jazzy ad for iOS like this for instance, and it would work because it would make people investigate the OS which they would then find is both ubiquitous and easy to use. That's a sale right there.

    This will make people go check out Windows 8 (maybe), but when they find it and realise that it's seriously confusing, problematic software that almost no one is actually using ... no sale.

    They would be better off with the type of adverts that explain the OS and [I][B]why[/B][/I] it's better and so forth.
  • Reply 10 of 118
    ronboronbo Posts: 669member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by herbapou View Post


    Despite people not liking Microsolf, imo they have the best ecosystem after Apple because they offer a complete set from PC, phones, tablets to gaming. The only mistake they made is not allowing old school desktop on PC's.



     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mr. Me View Post


     


    Fairy tales can come true,


    It can happen you


    If you're young at heart....



     


    He's right, though. It's partly the strength of that ecosystem that kept Macs from being able to make significant market share gains for years. And it's still at play. The reason Apple is doing so well now is that we were able to sidestep the Windows behemoth and create new markets like iPod and iOS.

  • Reply 11 of 118


    more dub-step..... yawn

  • Reply 12 of 118
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zroger73 View Post



    "It [the Samsung Ultrabook] blows away a MacBook Retina", huh? In what respect - the number of pixels on a spec sheet? 99% of the population can't distinguish individual pixels in a Retina display as it is - let alone an even higher resolution. Seems like a waste of processing power to me. Marketing gimmick.


     


    Also, if it's a Samsung device, it's probably using a pen-tile display, and thus the pixel count is basically just a lie.  

  • Reply 13 of 118
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,670member


    Well, that will really sell Windows to the masses. Now its oh, so clear.

  • Reply 14 of 118
    ddawson100ddawson100 Posts: 479member


    This is Microsoft's game to lose. They do have a compelling ecosystem, have great support, and develop good programs to train armies of support techs/engineers. They stumble but recover. Their migration to Office 365 and Azure are widely praised. 


     


    Few individuals have to buy Windows directly and most will just use what comes on their new PCs or what the IT department gives them. (Even if they bring their own they're likely logging onto a Windows network or connecting to a Microsoft mail server). Microsoft is going to be able to recover from the really poor migration to Windows 8 with revenue intact.


     


    Anyway, Windows 8.1 isn't going to correct all the mistakes of Windows 8 but IMO they really don't have to. They really, really should but they don't have to.


     


    Edit: grammar

  • Reply 15 of 118
    gustavgustav Posts: 826member
    An ultrabook with higher resolution than a retina MBP, and more battery life? How thick is this thing? Because if it's thin, has a high res screen, and has all day battery life, then they're lying or made an incredible breakthrough that they've been keeping secret from the rest of the industry.
  • Reply 16 of 118
    geekdadgeekdad Posts: 1,131member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ronbo View Post


     


     


    He's right, though. It's partly the strength of that ecosystem that kept Macs from being able to make significant market share gains for years. And it's still at play. The reason Apple is doing so well now is that we were able to sidestep the Windows behemoth and create new markets like iPod and iOS.



    Exactly....the Intel Macs...then the iPhone......

  • Reply 17 of 118
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member
    Just installed it, looks pretty damn good. The update site said that my Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet II wasn't supported yet but I threw caution to the wind and did it anyway. I like to live on the edge. So far everything seems to work so not sure what they meant by it. The best feature is the control panel, I no longer have to go to the desktop to change advanced settings, everything I need seems to be on the Metro side. The new Start button is pretty useless, it just takes you to the Metro interface, stupid. Love the new side by side multitasking, I can now have 50/50, 60/40, whatever floats my boat apps on the screen, much better then the 80/20. The Store is a huge improvement and is finally fast. There are a bunch of new bundled apps but I haven't gone threw them yet, will report back when I get a chance to review them. The overall system got a pretty big speed boost, especially for the Atom CPU's, a lot of lag I was having before with apps like Chrome are now all but gone.

    So far I really like this update, in fact I think it might be worth while for some of you Windows 8 haters to revisit it. Looks better, behaves better, has a lot more functionality and is turning out to be a pretty nice OS if you have a tablet to run it on.
  • Reply 18 of 118
    lennylenny Posts: 85member
    Windows 8 is THE ugliest OS I have ever seen!
    PS Sorry, just couldn't help myself
  • Reply 19 of 118
    bullheadbullhead Posts: 493member


    still a fugly, unusable, abomination of a UI.  OSX Mavericks owns Windows 8.whatever so bad it hurts.

  • Reply 20 of 118
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member
    bullhead wrote: »
    still a fugly, unusable, abomination of a UI.  OSX Mavericks owns Windows 8.whatever so bad it hurts.

    Well until I can have a tablet with OSX on it to run desktop apps I'll settle with Windows 8.1.
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