Microsoft Corp released a test version of Windows 8.1 on Wednesday. Many computer users were left confused and unsure of the new tile-based interface that was launched with Windows 8. The interface, which works best with touch-screen devices, left fans of the traditional desktop PC longing for the old-style “start” button.
So Microsoft have listened to the feedback and have brought the “start” button back as well as other features, which they hope will win back support for the operating system.
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Balmer opened the company’s annual developer conference and said “Since we announced and shipped Windows 8, suffice it to say, we pushed boldly and yet what we found was we got a lot of feedback from users of those millions of desktop applications.”
To sum up the feedback they received he said, “If I was to put it in coffee terms, ‘Why don’t you go and refine the blend here?’ Let’s remix the desktop and your modern application experience. Let’s balance them better.”
Microsoft have made it easier to find and access applications and improved the search function. Ballmer has also promised a “rapid release cycle”, so new new versions of Windows will no longer be every three years.
The response from most of the developers present at the conference was largely positive, which is good news for Microsoft because they have been lagging behind other companies such as Apple and Google.
The struggle has been for them to persuade developers to create apps for Windows 8 because the vast majority of people use devices that run on either Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android systems.
Microsoft said on Wedneday that Facebook have agreed to design an app especially for Windows. It is hoped that this will attract more people to use Window-based devices.
“I feel like Microsoft can actually seriously compete in the mobile ecosystem now,” said Manav Mishra, director of engineering at the Barnes & Noble Inc unit that makes apps for its Nook e-reader. “Windows 8.1 finishes the journey Windows 8 started and I think it evens the playing field for Microsoft quite a bit, which wasn’t the case before.”
Microsoft still has a way to go though in attracting more users. Ballmer said on Wednesday that the Windows Store has nearly 100,000 apps but compare that with Apple who have almost 1 million and Android who are just behind them, and you see why most developers prefer to design apps for the more popular iPhones, iPads and Android devices.
It will be interesting to see the response to Windows 8.1, will it finally win people over? Or will those using desktop PCs just stick to Windows 7?