Microsoft the world's largest operation system maker for traditional PCs is feeling the pressure after slow sales of Windows 8 and its late-2013 update, Windows 8.1, missed and Microsoft faced loss of marketshare to mobile devices (e.g. tablets) and market newcomers (like Google) Linux-based Chrome OS).
I. Confirmed: Windows 8.1 Update 1 Will Bring Mouse and Keyboard Repairs
Today at the 2014 Mobile World Convention (2014 MWC) Microsoft teased at an unnamed upcoming update which is likely due out sometime in April. Microsofts announcement basically confirm that the leaked build we saw early in February was real.
Like Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Update 1 (the rumored name of the upcoming release) is aimed at fixing some of Windows 8's flaws.
Where as Windows 8.1 addressed the disconnect between the desktop and Modern UI (Metro), whilst tossing power users some minor concessions (e.g. a Start Button (sort of) and boot-to-desktop), the new release is primarily target a specific group -- users who are interacting with their computer via a mouse or non-touchscreen pointing device.
This group compises the majority of Microsoft's users, but inexplicably Microsoft decided to produce an operating system (with Windows 8) that performed very poorly for this majority, in order to try to significantly improve the hardware support for its minority touchscreen userbase.
With Windows 8.1 Update 1, Microsoft will add hideable Windows Frames that will allow users to quickly arrange or close Modern UI (Metro) apps. In other words, Microsoft is adding windows back to Windows' new UI.
There's also a search button and power button that will hover above the Modern UI Start Menu (Metro), making it much faster to get to these vital functions.
The updates are also expected to include an improved settings menu in the Start Menu UI, the ability to right click to interact with Modern UI (Metro) apps, and the ability to mouse over taskbar items in Desktop Mode and get previews.
II. Microsoft on Keyboard Support: We Dun Goofed
Joe Belfiore, a Microsoft manager whose responsibilities recently expanded from Windows Phone to alll Windows devices -- including tablets and PCs -- talked around the issue in his blog writing:
With Windows 8, there’s no doubt that we made a big bet and took a first step toward that future. We bet on touch and on mobility in a big way, and included a fresh take on what a touch-based interface could be for customers. We believe deeply in this direction and the future will continue to build on Windows 8.
We are committed to making Windows the best place for our partners to build great devices. Today that means different screen sizes, input methods, connectivity needs, and usage scenarios. Above all, we want that experience to feel natural for our customers. We want it to be familiar and tailored to the device. We want your stuff to be there no matter where you are, ready for whatever you need, and we want it to run beautifully on hardware made by partners around the world.
With Windows 8, there's no doubt that we made a big bet and took a first step toward that future. We bet on touch and on mobility in a big way, and included a fresh take on what a touch-based interface could be for customers. We believe deeply in this direction and the future will continue to build on Windows 8.
We shipped Windows 8.1 in under a year in response to customer and partner feedback, and we’ll continue to refine and improve Windows to deliver a productive and delightful experience for all users on all devices. And, you’ll see us continue on a more rapid release cadence where we deliver ongoing value to all your Windows devices.
Over the next few months, we’ll continue to deliver innovation and progression with an update to Windows 8.1, coming this spring1. We’re especially excited about several things I want to preview with you here.
We are making improvements to the user interface that will naturally bridge touch and desktop, especially for our mouse and keyboard users. We have a number of targeted UI improvements that keep our highly satisfying touch experience intact, but that make the UI more familiar and more convenient for users with mouse/keyboard1. Don’t worry, we still LOVE and BELIEVE IN touch… but you’ll like how much more smooth and convenient these changes make mouse and keyboard use!At his keynote at MWC he was more direct, effectively admitting his company erred in snubbing the mouse+keyboard using majority. He comments:
Some of those touch affordances weren’t really tuned as well as we could do for those mouse and keyboard users. We found people weren’t aware of where they should look in the UI. Those are the things we’ve really started to improve for this update coming this spring.
Full details of the update will be announced at Microsoft's April 2-4 2014 BUILD conference.
Microsoft also announced some upcoming Windows OEM changes, including lower licensing prices and relaxed hardware spec requirements. Likely realizing it might lose low-end users with the termination of Windows XP sales in April, Microsoft has announced it will now only require 1 GB of DRAM and 16 GB of hard drive or NAND storage to install Windows 8.1 on 64-bit chips.
Currently 20 GB of storage space and 2 GB of DRAM are required for a 64-bit Windows 8.1 install, while the the spec for Windows 8.1 32-bit edition are 16 GB and 1 GB. In order to support devices with only 16 GB of total storage, Microsoft likely would need to slimi the size of its install to at most 10-12 GB.
To do this Microsoft will likely need to seriously prune the recovery part of the installation. Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center currently occupies around 20 GB, meaning it wouldn't even fit on a a device with 16 GB of storage. Some have suggested Microsoft needs to do quite the opposite -- raise its spec.
Microsoft also announced details of its upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release, including nine new Windows Phonemakers.