Microsoft Windows 8.1: The verdict

Microsoft 8.1 picTech giant Microsoft has launched a new version of Windows 8 in a bid to make life easier for desk top users while still keeping tablet fans happy.

Windows 8 was only released last October in a controversial move designed to make Microsoft’s operating system appeal to the tablet generation.

But, already, Microsoft has officially released an updated version – Windows 8.1 – during a keynote speech at its annual developers’ conference in San Francisco.

There’s a free test version available to download now and Windows 8 users will be able to download a full version later in the year.

The update will include the reinstatement of the Start button after Microsoft users complained when it was removed from Windows 8 last year.

Announcing the new development, the firm’s CEO Steve Ballmer said: “Let’s make it easier to start applications in the way we are used to. We will bring back the start button, and you can boot straight to the desktop if you want to. We have refined the blend of our desktop experience and our modern app experience.”

Microsoft came in for criticism when Windows 8 was first launched, with users confused by the series of tiles on the start screen instead of a traditional-style desktop PC menu with the usual Start button.

But Ballmer says Microsoft will not be abandoning its start menu completely, simply offering another option to users.

Microsoft 8.1 all apps desktopHe added that Windows 8 was proving increasingly popular with app developers with Microsoft expected to hit the 100,000 app market in the Windows store by the end of the month.

A big draw to Windows 8.1 is sure to be the better search function, which allows users to more easily find documents, apps or web pages through the use of just one search bar.

Users will also have the option to customise their start screen more easily, changing icon sizes or which apps appear, meaning it should be more straightforward for users to log in, and onto, what they want.

Already, Windows 8.1 has won rave reviews from users who had been fairly unimpressed with Windows 8.

Tim Anderson of the Guardian said: “Windows 8.1 is a significant improvement. After just a short spell with the preview, I do not want to go back. The experience for desktop users (which is most users most of the time) is smoother and there are many small enhancements which combine make a big difference.”

And Mary Branscombe from TechRadar said: “Performance feels generally faster, even for simply things like zipping up files.” But she added: “The interface changes won’t please everyone, especially if you liked the Windows 8 Start Screen and don’t feel the need for yet another Windows key on screen – or if you were hoping for the Windows 7 Start menu back.”.

So, it seems that old adage is certainly true for Windows 8.1 – you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But Microsoft will simply be hoping it has done enough to please most of the people most of the time.

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