A year after the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft today is releasing the major Windows 8.1 update.
This is the update that addresses some of the major complaints from users who found Windows 8 jarring to use. 8.1 brings back a Start button — kinda — and allows users to boot directly to desktop, among a host of other features.
The update can be downloaded free from the Windows Store for Windows 8 device users.
New devices running Windows 8.1, along with the packaged DVD of the operating-system update, will start appearing on store shelves Friday, though some devices may take a while before hitting store shelves. Some of the new devices that have been announced include the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga, Acer Aspire R7, Asus Zenbook UX301 and UX 302, and 8-inchers such as the Dell Venue 8 Pro, Lenovo Miix 2, and Acer Iconia W4.
(Finally — and in the time for the update — Facebook has also released its native app for the Windows Store. You’ll need Windows 8.1 to run it.)
My story in The Seattle Times today looks at Windows 8.1 as the manifestation of a changing Microsoft that’s now eager to pronounce how it’s responding to complaints and criticisms. I also talked to several analysts about the challenges that still remain for Microsoft as it pushes 8.1 as both a PC and a tablet operating system.
Here’s some of what the analysts said:
Microsoft’s messages — that it’s listening to customers, that it’s trying to not just be a great tablet operating system but a system that combines the features and functionalities of both traditional PCs and tablets — will take a while to hit home, said IDC analyst Al Gillen.
Windows 8.1 is “a good all-around PC platform, and it can be used as a tablet ” said Gartner analyst Michael Silver. But “for folks looking for just a tablet, it’s a little less clear that they’ll understand” where the value lies. “Will people accept this as a tablet OS? It’s not clear Microsoft has made this the cool thing to have yet.”
So, for those of you who’ve had a chance to try Windows 8.1 (either downloaded or preview versions): What do you think? Has Microsoft done a good job addressing the biggest complaints users had about Windows 8? Or are you still wary of Microsoft’s new tile-based operating system?