Windows 8.1: Microsoft Puts Start Button Back But Problems Remain

By Paul Riegler on 17 October 2013
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Microsoft introduced its Windows 8 operating system one year ago and trumpeted its many features, including the fact that it didn’t have or need the start button that had been ubiquitous in earlier versions. On Thursday, the Seattle-based software company retreated from its previous position and put the missing button back.

At its launch, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer optimistically said that “Windows 8 brings together the best of the PC and the tablet.”  The problem was that this statement simply wasn’t true.  Microsoft erred by trying to address both tablets and PCs with the same operating system and, as a result, ended up not supporting either particularly well.

Instead of a single, integrated interface, users had to switch between the traditional desktop view and the new, tile-centric UI to perform tasks.  This added multiple steps and complications to what used to be simple to accomplish in Windows and, of course, the Start button disappeared altogether.  Without a touchscreen PC, which the majority of users did not have, Windows 8 was simply bewildering at best.

Indeed, it appears that Windows 8 actually hurt the PC industry instead of saving it as had touted.  PC shipments are down 10% and sales have declined for six consecutive quarters.  Windows is barely making a dent in the tablet market as well. Some analysts estimate that its market share is as little as 5%.

Windows 8.1 is an incremental upgrade but it’s what Windows 8 should have been 12 months ago, as well as a monumental step backwards in many respects.   In addition to putting the start button back where it belonged in the first place, the update now allows a user to boot up to the old-style desktop.

Windows 8 also allows the user to personalize the start screen to a greater extent than previously possible, promises better search (“Bing Smart Search”), more apps and services, and improved cloud integration with SkyDrive.

Microsoft envisioned Windows 8 as a revolution in computing. Instead, the company’s users revolted and the operating system is back to letting a PC be a PC.

(Image: Accura Media Group)

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