Windows 8.1 Preview: The return of the Start button

Microsoft officially announced the Windows 8.1 beta on Friday, which includes 3D printing, a more refined search interface, a smarter Skydive function and many more updates to its flagship OS. The announcement was made at the Microsoft ‘build’ conference in San Fransisco, California.

In many ways, 8.1 includes the updates and amendments that should have been included in the original 8.0. On listening to their customers – a common theme for Microsoft at the moment, following their Xbox One climb down – they have delivered on what their users want.

Read: Microsofts $700M plan to kill the PS4

Therefore the start-up button, ubiquitous that it is to Windows, makes a welcome return. 8.1 will also boot right into your desktop, which again follows common criticism of the first release.

Posting on the companies official blog, in relation to the keynote at the Build conference, Microsoft stated that they have “outlined the reach, design and
economic opportunities for developers to build differentiated, touch-based
apps for the Windows platform”.

The company also now accepts that the three-year development window and updates that were the backbone of Windows, are no longer applicable in the new software world. To reiterate, the company pointed out that they have made over 700 incremental updates to Windows 8 since its launch, and that the new 8.1 features a raft of more advanced updates.

Windows 8.1 preview: Touch led interface

“We built Windows 8 for a world where touch is a first class
interaction model, the same as mouse and keyboard; and where there’s a
proliferation of innovative and diverse devices that are highly mobile,
always on the go and always connected. Windows 8 was built on the reality
that the lines between our work and personal lives have blurred. The
response to Windows 8 has been substantial…Windows 8.1 will advance the bold
vision set forward, but it will add new features and functionality that
advance the touch experience and mobile computing’s potential. Windows 8.1
will deliver improvements and enhancements in key areas like
personalization, search, the built-in apps, Windows Store experience, and
cloud connectivity.”

Windows 8 was purposed with presenting an interface which works across all leading devices, with a particular focus on really nailing mobile and tablet. With PC sales hitting a new low, the World becomes ever more mobile focussed, with the smart phone now even beginning to hurt tablet sale for the first time.

For many, the re-inclusion of the start button will be the big sell. Whilst the start button makes its welcome return, it will not lead to the old style start menu, instead it will link through to an app based screen. This is again intended to work smoother across all devices, rather than being very PC focussed.

Windows 8.1 preview: a new focus on Apps and developers

Mr Ballmer’s keynote focussed on what Microsoft called “key areas of
personalisation, search powered by Bing, increased functionality for
businesses and new in-the-box apps”.

The big push though is to make the Windows platform more attractive to developers, who Apple have consistently shown are the lifeblood of the mobile operating system. To achieve this, Microsoft are selling the developers on revenue opportunities, with the most notable been an 80% developer revenue share once sales pass $25,000.

A new Windows Store will be released to help developers hit this revenue milestone. This will help and encourage users to buy more apps, and it will also support a wider range of smartphones and ‘phablets’. This will be joined by a more wholesale approach to pushing Bing as well as promoting the Windows Phone.

The Windows 8.1 Preview is available for download right now. More
information is available at A final version
will be released later this year as a free update.