Windows 8.1: Have they finally got it right?

Steve Ballmer revealed at Microsoft Build yesterday a preview of the forthcoming Windows 8.1, not quite a new OS nor 'just another software update.' On the contrary, there are plenty of glitches fixed, along with added extras that the user can truly benefit from. We've chosen a few that you might like.

Ballmer described the new version as "refining the blend" between desktop and modern UI interfaces. He sure likes his caffeine references, doesn't he? Though a corny description it may be, he hits the nail on the head with this one, as the interface appears more consistent and easier for the user to learn. Let's break down some of the new features:

1. The Return of the Start Button

Yes, we were a little dumbfounded at first at the omission of the Start button with the initial version of Windows 8. It was a brave move, as most would attest that this was Windows' jewel on the crown, and by getting rid of it forced the user into learning new navigation patterns.  However, as it was rumored to return anyway, it is now official, the Start button has returned.

2. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Enhancements

Following a pattern that exists among many offices around the world, Windows 8.1 is now more efficient for companies that apply a BYOD policy. Among some of these enhancements are: Workplace Join, Work Folders, and MDM (Mobile Device Management). Workplace Join allows middle ground between all or nothing access, allowing a user to work on the device of their choice and still have access to corporate resources. If a user registers a device, IT can grant some access while still enforcing some governance parameters on the device. Work Folders allows users to sync data to their device from their user folder located in the corporation's data center. Previously, W8 devices needed to be domain joined (or required domain credentials) for access to file shares. Finally MDM gives the user access the company portal, which provides a more consistent experience for access to their applications, data and management of their own devices. As well as this, it gives the user a deeper management experience with existing tools such as Windows Intune [Source: TechNet Microsoft].

3. Improved UX

The OS has become even more user-oriented, with custom backgrounds and improved, personalized screen savers for the lock screen. The most improved area we found to be was the App Store, which has made it easier now to find apps, as well as automatically update them without appearing as a notification. There is definitely more integration with the desktop, as most people expected, and what's more, searching has been one of the biggest improvements in User Experience, as users can search for apps straight from the desktop, rather than like before going through the Windows App Store.

Download a preview of the software here.


The Captain