This was another week in which Microsoft managed to steal the show, this time with the public release of Windows 8.1. Here at BetaNews we were fully prepared for the upgrade and showed off what's new. While we're generally impressed with the update, there's still a little room for improvement. Of course the Start menu (or lack thereof) is still a sticking point, but you can get this back. The operating system update was preceded by a raft of updates to Window's built in apps.
Windows 8.1 may be where it's at right now, but there are still plenty of people running Windows XP. Google announced that Chrome users on XP would be supported for a year after the OS is retired.
So Windows 8.1 is finally here and although it is a massive improvement over its predecessor (I recently had to install Windows 8 on a laptop and couldn’t believe how bad it is in comparison), Microsoft’s new Start button really isn’t what a lot of people were hoping for.
If you want to enjoy the benefits of the new operating system without being bothered by the Modern UI there are lots of alternative third-party options available. And when I say lots, I mean it. Some cost money, others are free. I’ll list my favorite three and then suggest some others to try if those don’t appeal.
There is no denying that Windows 8.1 dwarfs Windows 8 in every single way that matters. The new operating system is more feature-rich, more suited for tablet use, more suited for PC use and far closer to what a modern OS should be like. The warm feelings towards it are reflective of how Windows 8 was like at first -- let's just say that the standards were low to begin with.
But for some strange reason, Microsoft still does not prioritize having a notifications panel in any of its consumer operating systems. This is an oversight that I thought the software giant would address in Windows 8.1, seeing as it has been a major known problem since Windows 8 arrived. However, once again Microsoft has decided to not include it. And, to be frank, it is one of the worst decisions that the company made this year. I bet not many will miss Steve Ballmer. I sure won't.
Today, Microsoft officially launches Windows 8.1 to the public, after almost two months since its new operating system reached the RTM status. The latest release is packed with many new features and improvements over its controversial predecessor, Windows 8, including the revival of the Start button and the much-awaited option to boot straight to the Desktop and avoid the Modern UI.
Just like Windows 8, Windows 8.1 is available to consumers in just two editions: base and Pro. The former is aimed at home users while the latter also includes features such as BitLocker encryption and hosting Remote Desktop Connections that are suitable for business use. There are also pricing differences between the two.
Before you recoil, a brief disclaimer. I love Windows 8.1. In its own right, it is a great operating system, and a massive jump forward from Windows 8. There have been lots of little changes and additions -- and some not so small -- that have collectively transformed Windows 8 into something that can be taken seriously. But it's not perfect. Microsoft has taken steps to address the concerns of users moving from Windows 7 and earlier, but there is still room for improvement.
A gripe of mine -- and one shared by many people -- is the existence of the Modern UI. While it may make sense on dedicated tablets, for desktop users, it creates an odd, disjointed experience. Microsoft has seen fit to make it possible to boot straight to the desktop so you would think that if you were not a fan of the Modern UI, it would be possible to avoid this side of things completely. But no.
Facebook fans running Microsoft's tiled OS need no longer turn to third party solutions -- the official Facebook app is now available in the Windows Store.
It has been a very long time coming, but the social network finally has its own official app, arriving just in time for the release of Windows 8.1. The app has the look and feel of Modern UI apps and includes a live tile that is used to display updates.
With Windows 8.1 Microsoft has attempted to fix a lot of the things that were wrong with Windows 8, and make the operating system more appealing by throwing a bunch of additional features into the mix. It won’t appeal to everyone, but it is a massive improvement over its predecessor.
If you’re planning on updating your computer to the new OS, or are still on the fence and need a little nudge to join the tiled side, let me take you on a guided tour of what’s new.
It has served us well, but Windows XP is now considerably into old age; it's time to be put out to pasture. Microsoft is retiring the game-changing operating system on 8 April 2014 but this does not mean that people will not try to hang onto their beloved operating system for as long as possible.
One issue that XP diehards are going to face is support for apps. This is an old operating system, and it's not really reasonable to expect software manufacturers to keep pumping out new releases and updates. But just how long can you expect to receive updates and support? Google has nailed its colors to the mast in announcing that Chrome for XP will be supported for at least a year after Windows XP is retired.
Small tablets are very popular lately; the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini are two great examples of that. However, even though Windows 8 is designed for touch, a quality small (8-inch and below) tablet has eluded consumers. My experience with the Acer Iconia W3 was epically bad -- the screen and overall build quality were poor. Sadly, this device may have harmed consumer confidence in small Windows tablets.
Today, Lenovo aims to greatly improve the perception of reduced-size Windows devices as the company announces the Miix2 8-inch tablet. By combining the computer manufacturer's well-known build quality with the much improved Windows 8.1 operating system, the company should have a winner on its hands.
Security specialist BullGuard has launched what it's calling its most advanced Internet Security suite yet. It's designed to offer industry leading protection regardless of the user's ability and to run quietly and efficiently in the background.
Aside from dropping the year from the product's name, highlights of the latest version include an enhanced behavioral detection engine to guard against zero day threats, a revised user interface offering easier one-click access to functions, free 24/7 support and free upgrades to newer versions.
It’s nearly a year since Microsoft released the divisive Windows 8, and this week sees the launch of Windows 8.1 -- an update to the tiled operating system that aims to fix many of the perceived wrongs of the first version, while introducing some very welcome new features.
If you’re a Windows 8 or RT user you’ll be able to download the update for free starting at 4AM PDT (that’s 12pm in the UK) on 17 October. You’ll be able to get it directly through the Windows Store.
In another busy week, Microsoft continued to promote Internet Explorer 11 by showing off some of the new features that will be available to Windows 8 users. At the same time, the company released a tool that lets Windows 7 users block the update. Microsoft also announced that it would speed up the approval process for apps submitted to the Windows Store, so initial certification can be complete within five days.
Moving away from the desktop, champagne corks were popping as it was revealed that Raspberry Pi has sold 1.75 million units. After the launch of Mavericks, Mihaita was taken with his MacBook Air, and I was quite impressed with the Tesco Hudl -- although it's not going to be replacing my Nexus 7 any time soon.
It is three years ago today that Windows Phone first saw the light of day. Microsoft's mobile operating system has now been with us for a full 36 months, when Windows Phone 7 took the baton from Windows Mobile. There isn’t much in the way of celebration from Microsoft, and the anniversary was quietly ushered in by the company's Joe Belfiore in a tweet:
Happy Bday, "MetroUI"! 3 yrs ago today WP7 launched. In just a few countries on just one chip with only a handful of apps...
When Windows 8 advertisements first started airing on TV, Fresh Paint was often shown as a way to highlight the touch capabilities. Not only is the app a good demo, it is also fun and functional. From amateurs to professionals, anyone can easily use the app to create art and use their imaginations. However, Microsoft is not resting on its laurels and announces a new version is coming this month.
"Today I'm excited to announce that the new Fresh Paint will launch in tandem with Windows 8.1 on October 18 and that we'll also have new features coming to the Windows Phone version on October 14. Best of all, Fresh Paint will continue to be free, and everyone who updates to Windows 8.1 will get the improved experience", says Brandon LeBlanc of Microsoft.
In his "5 reasons Surface tablets blow away iPads for a mobile business workforce" piece, my colleague Derrick Wlodarz explained why Remote Desktop on Windows RT (and, by implication, Windows 8) is better compared to third-party clients on Android and iOS. Derrick says that the former offers a richer feature set, a smoother experience, improved stability, less compatibility issues and comes with no initial cost (because it is free, as a built-in feature). As you can tell, the lack of official Remote Desktop apps on Android and iOS tips the scale in Microsoft's favor.
That is about to change, as Microsoft has announced that it will release Remote Desktop apps on "a variety of devices and platforms", which include Windows, Windows RT, OS X, Android and iOS. The software giant says the offerings will be introduced with Windows Server 2012 R2, which launches later this month, on October 18, alongside Windows 8.1.