Home Business IT Technology Windows no longer BLUE – now 8.1 and it will be a free upgrade
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Microsoft has announced that its update for Windows 8 will officially be called Windows 8.1 rather than Windows Blue. The update will be free for all users through the Windows Store.

Windows 8 was revolutionary – perhaps too much so and Microsoft now tacitly admits it made a tactical error in forcing it on consumers. Fortunately freeware like Classic Shell bought back the Start button and the desktop and we were all happy again.

All Microsoft got wrong was that it prematurely overestimated the appeal of touch. The vast majority of Windows users have a desktop PC and touch at arm’s length is not productive – a keyboard and mouse is.

In its defence it got the touch football rolling and was very right about touch on tablets, smartphones and hybrid/notebooks. The good old Windows XP/7 interface could not cope and was being eclipsed by iOS and in danger of losing ground to Android when Key Lime Pie version 5 encroaches on the desktop space.

Windows 8 was also the catalyst needed to bring apps to Windows – there are now more than 70,000 (47,000 free) in the Windows 8 Store.

But what is a Windows 8 app really about? In the good old days we may have called these freeware or shareware but in reality an app, is a very different beast using lighter weight Silverlight, JavaScript and even HTML5 to more tightly integrate it with the touch OS and the Internet Cloud via the Windows Metro Tiled interface. So apps are purely about making them touch enabled and better for use on mobile devices – you can still run any x86 program on Windows 8 Desktop and that is where the current strength and appeal lies.

Windows critics say that the PC is dead – no it is not but the desktop is morphing into something else entirely. The first generation of change is All-in-one that will replace the beige and black box but I suspect that this will soon become more a docking device to hook up your ‘personal’ computer to.

I am impressed with some of the new innovative designs that Windows 8 (and Intel) has spawned – Asus Taichi is a very impressive dual screen hybrid, HP ElitePad 900 is a great outside the box tablet design, Dell XPS flip-able, Lenovo Yoga, Sony Vaio, Acer W5/7 and more are taking advantage of touch. When Windows 8.1 is combined with the next generation Intel Haswell chips that will open up even more design freedom.

So back to the next version of Windows codenamed Blue. It will be called 8.1 which is significant in that it denotes an upgrade to the OS rather than an all new one. While it remains focused on touch and enabling new computing form factors it will have the old interface as well.

In future you won’t so much buy Windows but subscribe and that is important as it means the majority of devices running Windows will be all on the same OS. It is a real pain to have to support the 40% of Windows PC’s still on XP that was launched in 2001 (but not for much longer – support finishes 8 April 2014)

Windows 8.1 update will be available free to Windows 8 users via the Windows store in Q4, 2013.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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