I have it on good authority that Windows 8.1 Update doesn’t suck…
About 18 months ago, I wrote a column for InformationWeek’s BYTE on the state of Windows 8 and its UI at the time. Unfortunately, BYTE is no more. You can’t even find any REAL reference to the project on InformationWeek at this point, though if you know the right search criteria, you can still find many of the articles from most, if not all of its contributors (see the example above…); and in many cases, they may still be relevant today.
Recently, my good friend and former BYTE Editorial Director, Larry Seltzer wrote a piece on how Windows 8.1 doesn’t suck, and it was recently published on ZDNet. He made a couple big points in the article. You can read it if you want to, (it’s a good read and well worth the time) but I’ve summarized them here and added some of my own commentary.
1. Windows 8.1 with Update, is now usable
I’ve got a lot of experience with Windows 8. I’ve been using it since it’s very early days in 2011 when the Developer Preview came out. I had it installed on a touch netbook at the time; and it was a damned mess with both interfaces conflicting with one another, making use of your Windows 8.x device very difficult. It got better with 8.1. It’s gotten better still with Windows 8.1 Update. In fact, you can now use Windows 8.1 on a desktop machine without wanting to rip your hair out. The experience is nearly tolerable. By the time Threshold gets here (Windows 8.2, Windows 9, or whatever they brand it as), it should be just as desktop friendly as Windows 7, in my opinion. (Which I think is the best version of Windows ever, but that’s a discussion for another day).
2. Start Menu Replacements have a limited shelf life with Threshold on the way
This is where Larry and I [may] disagree. I say may, because there’s still one huge wild card left to be played – Windows Threshold. No one knows what it’s going to look like. No one knows exactly when it’s supposed to be released. Microsoft is playing with its release schedule, and while we know there’s supposed to be a release in Q1/Early Q2 of calendar 2015, we don’t know if that’s going to be Threshold or just another “incremental” update. The full Start Menu is supposed to appear in Windows Threshold; and until it’s revealed, it’s impossible to say if it will be positively or negatively reviewed.
Start button/menu apps like Start8 offer as true a Windows 7-like experience as you can get on Windows 8. It’s more about the Start Menu than the button with Start8; and while Windows 8.x may now allow for a more desktop friendly (or Windows 7-like) experience, depending on how the new/revived Start Menu in the NEXT version of Windows is implemented, some users may still want apps like Start8. So I don’t agree with him when he says that Start Menu/button apps are living on borrowed time.
While I think they may not be as popular as they were before Threshold, some users may still prefer them (or at least the one they’ve been using). It all depends on the great unknown – the next version of Windows. Currently, no one knows what that looks like…
3. Windows 8.x is a branding Nightmare
Larry is dead on here. I think just about everyone in the Windows community, outside of Microsoft, that is, will agree. Windows 8.x branding is a worse leper than Windows Vista was. Microsoft needs to get themselves off of Windows 8.x as soon as they can and get to the next version of Windows.
If Microsoft wants to keep the MetroUI/ModernUI look and feel, they will need to draw the line in the sand and make Mobile Windows only for Windows Phone and for their tablets (don’t’ you really want to say Windows Tablet..? I know I do). That will leave MetroUI/ModernUI for the Windows RT/ Windows Surface/2, non-legacy-desktop capable tablets, and leave Windows #.x for their compatible tablets/ultrabooks, laptops and desktops (which, quite honestly, is what they should have done in the first place…)
Anyway you cut it, Microsoft needs to leave the Windows 8.x brand in the past and move on to something – nearly anything – else. If they don’t, they’re going to continue to have sales and revenue issues, going forward.
So, all things being equal at this point, it’s true – Windows 8.1 Update really doesn’t suck. I got it the first day that it was made available to everyone and I’ve been very pleased with what it’s been able to provide.
It seems that Microsoft is listening to the feedback of its customers. It seems as though, under its new leadership from Satya Nadella, Microsoft is getting its act together and is beginning to find its way back to the beaten path. Though many will say that “taking the road less travelled” provides you with a more robust journey, I think that journey has proved to be nothing more than a “bust” for Microsoft up to this point. Getting themselves back to a more traditional version of Windows for their legacy desktop users now insures that their enterprise business is no longer in as risky a position as it used to be.
What do you think? Do you use Windows 8? Have you upgraded to Windows 8.1? Have you upgraded to Microsoft Windows 8.1 Update? Do you use a Start Menu replacement app on top of Windows 8? Is Microsoft getting back on track with its recent releases? Are you more satisfied with Windows 8.1 Update than with previous versions of Windows?
The comments section is just below, and I really would appreciate your thoughts. I know that others would appreciate them as well, as there’s a great deal of opinion on this; and I’d really like to know what you have to say on the whole subject. Please join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think.