We've seen quite a few leaked screenshots of the upcoming Update 1 for Windows 8.1. In these leaked screenshots, it was revealed that the update will bring quick access to the power options right on the Start screen, a Search button on the Start screen, an application bar at the top of each app that allows you to easily close apps or snap them to the left or right, the ability to pin apps to the taskbar, and much more.
Other small tweaks to the operating system include the ability to resize and uninstall Live Tiles via a context menu and the unconfirmed rumor that users will be able to boot directly to the desktop, rather than the Start screen, by default.
Another change is the new DPI settings. Leaked screenshots have revealed new 250% and 500% DPI settings which will make text and UI elements on the desktop even bigger. Obviously this will be a good thing for larger devices with higher resolutions.
As Microsoft looks to further blend the line between the Metro/Modern interface of the Start screen and the old-school desktop, critics are looking at these changes in a different light. In fact, critics believe these changes are a step backwards for the operating system. Are they right or are they wrong?
"This as a milestone in the proof that the strategy didn't work. But for anyone following this closely, they would have expected it. It's for business, plain and simple. Business put up a brick-wall front and told Microsoft, 'If you don't fix this, we're not going to buy Windows 8,'" writes Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.
"Microsoft really dug a big hole for themselves. They have to dig themselves out of that hole, including making some fundamental changes to Windows 8. They need to accelerate that and come up with another path [for Windows]," writes David Smith, analyst at Gartner.
Really? I have to disagree. Windows 8.1 Update 1 is actually a great step in the right direction. Not only does Windows 8.1 Update 1 further blend the new modern Start screen interface with the desktop, but several familiar and useful features have made a return. Microsoft is looking to not only make their product better but also appeal to those who frown upon drastic changes. Who doesn't like familiarity and convenience?
Not that long ago, I wrote a piece on why I believed Windows 8 was simply the first step towards Microsoft's new vision of Windows. Microsoft took a bold step in designing and releasing Windows 8 back in 2012 – along with a Windows Store to create new revenue opportunities for developers.
Microsoft listened to feedback from consumers and rolled out Windows 8.1 in an attempt to blur the line between the drastic changes and the familiar features of Windows. Now, with Update 1, Microsoft will take the next step in meshing the old and the new, making the experience even better for tablet and desktop users.
Windows 9, on the other hand, is rumored to feature the return of the Start menu, but not as we know it. Perhaps it will be a blend between the Start screen and the old Start menu we have come to love. Either way, this will be yet another step in the right direction.
So why the hate? It seems to me that consumers are quick to bash the operating system because of the drastic change. Yes, Windows 8 is not perfect. Windows 8 took us to a whole new direction in touch computing, but as I keep mentioning, it was just the first step - there were bound to be issues when taking a radical new approach.
"We're principled in the direction we're heading, but we're not stubborn. We're not going to spite you," said Microsoft's Julie Larson-Green back in May of 2013. Microsoft is focused on its Start screen and the ability to showcase apps front and center - allowing developers to create apps and earn money too. With all the changes that are set to arrive with Update 1, Microsoft is simply looking to make the experience just a tad bit better.
So, we can sit here and argue that these changes are taking us backwards rather than forwards. I won't agree with that and I am sure there are some of you who feel the same way. Bring on the Start screen, Start menu, and all the familiar features we have used throughout the years. Just refine it and make it work.
Will PC sales increase after these features are added? Will the market share climb? Who knows. Windows 8.1's market share has slowly been climbing, according to recent data. But that is besides the point. The point I am making is that Update 1 is a step towards the right direction, despite what the critics think. This update, and all the features that come with it, simply shows that Microsoft is listening to its consumers and is working to blend the new and the old into something that everyone can love. Perhaps this change will improve sales and market share - that is something we will have to wait and see.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 is expected in April of this year, during the BUILD 2014 Developer Conference. Microsoft is also expected to talk about its plans for Windows 9 during the event.
Do you agree or disagree with the above? Sound off in the comments below.