Windows 8.1: from grating to great?

Changes to the Windows 8  start screen are largely cosmetic

Changes to the Windows 8 start screen are largely cosmetic

Microsoft took a critical caning over Windows 8. And sales weren’t so hot either. Windows 8.1 attempts to solve both problems, does it deliver?

Speaking at Microsoft’s developers conference, CEO Steve Ballmer described the updated version of Windows as a “refined blend” of the traditional desktop and tablet operating system.

He said the company “pushed boldly in Windows 8″. That’s an understatement. Windows 8 is a great operating system on a touch screen computer, but on a standard desktop many aspects grate.

Windows 8 cognitive dissonance

In essence users move between two distinct worlds. That means cognitive dissonance, which means users feel uncomfortable. Worse, the disruption gets in the way of productivity.

Fixing that needs more than just restoring the start button – as if that was what really bothered people.

Many of the changes in Windows 8.1 amount to recognition that Microsoft didn’t cater to its core market – people running conventional desktop and laptop screens without touch screens, The OS can now boot straight to the desktop.

Windows search updated

Search, which was my pet hate in Windows 8 has been upgraded. There’s a nasty, pointless addition that gives you images and publicity if you search for a celebrity name. I’m sure that will improve everyone’s productivity.

Snap views have been tidied and you can now run four apps on one screen simultaneously. Many apps are updated. And the Windows Store had a make-over.

Better Windows? Yes. Better enough? Hmmm…

Microsoft moved too quickly, too boldly towards a touch world. In the past it could frogmarch users into upgrading hardware, that’s no longer the case.

With 8.1 Microsoft has taken some of the rough edges off the transition between the two worlds in WIndows 8, the cognitive dissonance is still there.

Windows 8 remains unpopular with business users, nothing in 8.1 fixes that, It does little to appease those who have held-off moving to the new OS. Most of the changes will make those already rocking Windows 8 feel better about their decision.

 

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