It's hard to believe that Windows 8, a product that has sold over 100 million copies over its short 7-month lifespan, can be considered a disappointment. However, for a company that has literally hundreds of millions of computers and tablets at their disposal, that seems to be the case.
Microsoft's response to the slow sales is to re-launch the software in the form of Windows 8.1, ironing out some of the major kinks and criticisms that users faced. Through a YouTube video starring Jensen Harris, Microsoft's director of program management for the Windows User Experience, we finally get a sneak peak of the update.
Several of the improvements have to do with tile organization. Instead of being restricted to just two different sizes, Microsoft is releasing two new options - a giant square and a tiny square. These additions might seem inconsequential, but they should actually make the Start screen more user-friendly. For example, it will now be easier to differentiate between more important applications and those that are hardly used at all.
A secondary feature is the ability to transfer tiles from the All Apps screen to the Start screen with a single touch. The creation and naming of app groups has also been simplified, allowing users to drag several apps into a new collection, simultaneously.
One of the biggest complaints was regarding the lack of a Start button - a feature that was first launched almost 20 years ago on Windows 95. In order to appease the traditionalist community, Microsoft has decided to bring this back under the name "Start tip", but only partially. Instead of showing the old Start menu, clicking on the new Start button will take users to the tiled home screen, where they can then select which program they wish to run.
Furthermore, Windows 8.1 will reportedly allow users to customize their lock screen. Not only can you set any picture as a backdrop, but you can even create your own slideshow that will cycle through any pictures located on SkyDrive. Microsoft plans to release several more backgrounds and color combinations for the Start screen, some of which will even be animated. PC Mag covers some more changes coming with 8.1 here.
Windows 8.1 will be released to the public later this year as a free update for Windows 8 users, with a preview version slated to launch on June 26 at the company's Build developer conference.