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Windows 8.1 Update released to counter the issues raised with Windows 8

Microsoft has released the Windows 8.1 update to all Windows 8 users globally, including for Malaysia.

windows-8-1-released

More than 100 million copies of Windows 8 have been sold since launch said Sunny Ooi, Director of Consumer Group, Microsoft Malaysia. “With Windows 8, we introduced an era of highly mobile, touch-enabled, and always-connected computing,”.

windows-8-1-desktop-mode

The key changes in Windows 8.1 include:

  • Start button - tapping once on this brings up the tiled interface and a long press opens up system controls
  • Desktop mode - lets people avoid the tiled interface entirely
  • Keyboard shortcuts - removes the need to toggle between different on-screen keyboards when typing numbers and letters
  • Gesture control - some applications, such as those for cooking, can now be paged through without touching a screen
  • Tile sizing - the blocks on the touchscreen interface can be in one of four sizes
  • Web browsing - Windows 8 machines will now display separate web pages side by side
  • Better support for multi-tasking and improved links to Microsoft’s Xbox game console
  • The new Bing Smart Search provides the easiest way to find what’s needed on the device or on the Web in one beautiful and easy consolidated view

Global shipments of PCs hit a five-year low in early October, according to figures from market research firm Gartner. Sales of PCs had now fallen for six quarters in a row, the research firm noted. The downward trend in sales statistics were confirmed by IDC, which added that the decline would probably continue into 2014.

The shrinking sales affects Microsoft because traditionally the bulk of its revenue comes from consumers and companies buying laptops and desktops and office software to run on them. In July, Microsoft wrote off $900m (estimated RM2.9 billion) following poor sales of its own Surface touchscreen devices.

“We listened to your feedback and are delivering many of the improvements you asked for” said Brandon LeBlanc, Senior Marketing Communications Manager at Microsoft in a company blog post.

The download seeks to address some of the criticisms levelled at the original version of Windows 8. In particular, the update restores the start button and allows a computer to boot up with a traditional desktop interface.

Microsoft’s decision to kill the Start menu in Windows 8, has been met with protest from both consumer and enterprise users. However, despite the Start button is back in Windows 8.1, the Start menu isn’t.

“Okay, yes, there is a menu that can be opened from Start, but let’s be real; it’s not the Start Menu you’re looking for. All it amounts to is a context menu with a few important functions” commented Matt Smith of Digital Trends, a technology site.

windows8.1start-button-menu

TheTechInsider noted that the Start Menu in the “desktop mode” is the same as the one found in the Metro interface, nothing similar to the one found in Windows 7. Screenshot above.

“Apps view is a great idea and looks beautiful, but it doesn’t work well. Internet Explorer remains woefully behind the alternatives. And the Store still contains far too much junk. Microsoft is still a long way from producing a version of Windows 8 that users will want to own.” concluded Digital Trends. Read the full comment here.

In order to promote the new update, 6 members of the Windows 8.1 development team hosted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit to chat with users and answer a few questions.

“It all turned to be nothing more than a fiasco, as the MSFT_Jason, MSFT_katie, MSFT_Ian, MSFT_Rob, MSFT_Galileo and Windowsonreddit handles only posted 15 messages (yes, we’ve counted them), even though users who joined the AMA published more than 2100 comments.” said Softpedia.

“Microsoft has thus failed not only to answer the highest rated question, but also to post some totally uninteresting and generic comments, saying the same things over and over again and providing rather vague information for the things we already knew about Windows 8.1″. Full story here.

On the bright side, Microsoft is listening to consumers.

The new Windows system also offers more efficient web browsing, easier keyboard shortcuts and improved multi-tasking that allows users to view up to four apps at a time. Windows 8.1 now has a more “deep and improved cloud integration” with its online storage service SkyDrive. There is also a new SkyDrive smart files that users can manage and access at anytime online or offline.

The 8.1 update, which Microsoft is keen on positioning as a “new” version of Windows, also comes with advanced search, device management and boot-to-desktop features, among other improvements.

Current Malaysian Windows 8 users will enjoy Windows 8.1 as a free upgrade. At the same time, Malaysian consumers who are not currently on Windows 8 will still be able to buy Windows 8.1, either as a download from the online Windows Store or at the local store as a retail packaged DVD product.

The pricing and editions for Windows 8.1 are similar to Windows 8.  The estimated retail pricing for the electronic download starts at RM376.00 (US$119.99) for Windows 8.1 and RM628 (US$199.99) for Windows 8.1 Pro, while the retail packaged DVD products start at RM530 (US$169.00) for Windows 8.1 and RM907 (US$289.99) for Windows 8.1 Pro.

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