Microsoft's controversial new operating system faces a do-or-die moment
as the company rolls out a major update aimed at placating users who have been
turned off by the significant learning curve that Windows 8 forced on them.
Windows 8.1 became available yesterday in a draft -- or beta -- form to a select few users.
But the upgrade doesn't go far enough to placate those consumers who felt the new platform was too big a change.
Casual users who got used to the familiar Windows desktop -- a global PC standard for nearly two decades -- still won't love this new version. But the return of the iconic "start" button is a good back-to-the-future move that makes the experience seem more familiar. There is also a new ability to disable menus that pop up at the edges of the screen, eliminating a major headache for people without touchscreens.
The fact is that Microsoft erred big time in loading its Windows 8 platform onto computers that lack touch capabilities. The tiled interface is beyond confusing when you're operating with a mouse and keyboard. If you bought a Windows 8 laptop or desktop without touch, you have my condolences.
The company's challenge now is simple enough: to hold onto those throngs of on-the-fence users. But the fate of companies who rely on Microsoft software -- such as Lenovo and Asus -- may hang in the balance as well.
The new Windows is excellent on the Microsoft Surface or any number of the convertible laptops that feature a touchscreen. But there's a reason Apple still hasn't felt compelled to release a version of iTunes compatible with the new interface, and it's because they believe they still have the upper hand. And they just may be right.
Microsoft should have tried a transition version of the new platform that was more familiar. The changes the company did make, along with the updates, show it listened to consumers to an extent. But this is still a tablet interface in a PC world.
(c)2013 the Boston Herald
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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