Home opinion-and-analysis Fuzzy Logic Top 10 feature demands for 2013 Windows 8.1 update

Top 10 feature demands for 2013 Windows 8.1 update

No longer can Microsoft afford to wait three years until the next version of Windows, challenged as it is by Apple and Google’s much more frequent OS updates and upgrades, both major and minor, and with Microsoft itself saying faster updates for Windows 8 are on the cards, here’s what we’d like to see.

I don’t know exactly when Microsoft has its successor to Windows 8 planned for delivery, nor whether it will be called Windows 8.1, Windows 9, Windows Open, Windows Closed or Windows X, whether pronounced as 10 or as the letter X, but we all know one is planned.

For now, Windows 8 is what's on the shelves, and pre-loaded onto brand new PCs, all-in-ones, notebooks, laptops, tablets and hybrids, with my highly commented upon article from two days ago, "Stop Whining: WIndows 8's a gr8 Win, D'oh!" worth reading to see why I think Windows 8 is a great advance, and why the D'Oh!'s that people have been experiencing are easily fixed, with Windows 8's new Modern UI trivially simple to learn, as I explain. 

Microsoft's "secret" and free Windows 8 tutorials, complete with excellent short videos, is also available here to view - why Microsoft didn't include this as a prominent icon on the Modern UI Start screen and the Windows desktop is beyond me.

Nevertheless, if Microsoft is heading for a yearly OS update schedule, along with all the patches, updates, security fixes, reliability and performance updates, new feature additions and more, then a major update to Windows 8 and RT, available to all Windows 8 and RT users, is likely coming sooner rather than later when it comes to new Windows OS timeframes - and we may as well start talking about it now, epsecially given that Microsoft's presumably already building it and has been since before Windows 8's release.

So, I’d expect a major OS update to arrive in approximately 11 months to coincide with the anniversary of the release of Windows 8, because it makes the most sense from a yearly update point of view.

There will obviously be updates in between, with some naturally having already arrived, but with plenty of time between now and guesstimate of a new yearly time scale, here’s what we’d like to see.

Number 1 is to put the desktop Start Button back on Windows 8, or give users the option to put it back, take it away, or if seen on the desktop, to access the Modern UI Start from a Modern UI button on the desktop Start Button.

Yes, there are a range of paid and free alternatives, including the free Classic Shell Start button replacement that offers a range of previous Start Menu styles, and even lets you turn the Windows 8 desktop ‘Start button corner’ off, or even turn all the corners off for the closest Windows 7 experience on a Windows 8 computer it is possible to get, while still retaining full control of the ability to bring up the Modern UI Start, the Charms, multitasking and more through standard Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts.

But if it turns out that users really do overwhelmingly want the Start Button back, then Microsoft, give the people what they want!

Number 2 is to let people skin the desktop and menus in any Windows 8.1 update to look and work like previous versions of Windows, and specifically, Windows XP. I know people who love love love their Windows XP, and it’s all because they’re so used to the look and feel.

Well, if that’s what people want, give it to them, Microsoft! It’s just a skin. Let people switch on new additions like the updated “copy” dialog complete with nifty graph, or let people see Windows 8 as though it truly were Windows XP on the desktop – while letting them use any Modern UI app and be fully Windows 8.1 underneath.

It’s just graphics, and it could just be a clickable option in the Windows 8.1 system settings. XP, Vista, 7… it’s not difficult and you shouldn’t have to buy Stardock or some other product to do it!

I have only praise for the Stardock people (who also offer an excellent paid Start Menu button replacement called Start8 for Windows 8), but these are Microsoft’s interfaces, and if they really wanted to let people see the world through an older pane, while having the updated grunt under the hood, Microsoft could and should let them!

Number 3 is to open a Windows Store for Desktop Apps, not just for Modern UI apps. These are apps which run on the Windows 8 desktop, and also desktop apps that can run on Windows RT desktops (something Microsoft currently prohibits), so long as the performance of those apps is acceptable, and so long as devs want to write for that platform. Open it up and let’s find out, Microsoft!

Oops - I just noticed, doing a search for "*" on the Windows Store (to show me how many apps are in the Australian Windows Store), I can see that several apps are listed as a "Desktop App", with the instructions being to click a link that takes you to the manufacturer's website to download, or for more information. Microsoft should then make it much more obvious that Desktop Apps are a category that is being advertised within the Windows Store, and enable those who wish to download those Desktop Apps from the Windows Store an opportunity to do so - doing whatever deal necessary with the software maker to make it happen. 

Please read on to page two for the next seven Top Ten feature demands for the next major update to WIndows 8!

Number 4 is to have voice recognition, voice transcription, voice command and voice interaction built into the OS as standard. Microsoft has been doing this on smartphones, such as Apple has with Siri and Google with is Voice Search and Google Now initiative. Just as Apple is supposedly going to slip Siri into the next version of OS X, so too should Microsoft offer something “sirimilar”.

Number 5 is to allow anyone to boot a copy of Windows from any portable device – USB stick, memory card, USB hard drive, DVD or other portable media, no matter the edition, not just the Enterprise edition as is the case today with Windows To Go.

Number 6 is a further streamlining of the Start screen experience. Maybe someone wants the Start screens to be on a 4-sided cube. Or on all six sides. Or on unlimited sides. If people want to stay with sliding, let them slide. It’s easy to offer multiple Start screen interface views while still remaining consistent – and customisable. In any case, visible improvements to the Start screen, whatever they may be.

Number 7 is the renaming of the Windows 7 File Recovery option in the desktop Control Panel either back to “Backup and Restore”, or Windows 8.1 File Recovery. While Microsoft’s at it, the “File Restore” function should be merged into this “Backup and Restore” capability, as Windows 8 now has it split into two separate entities, both with confusing names.

Number 8 is to do whatever possible to ensure people have nothing to complain about when it comes to multi-monitor support. I personally haven’t had any issues as yet, but people have reported issues. This article at PC World has some excellent Windows 8 tips and tricks for multi-monitor support, so if you’re someone that has been having issues, please check out this article and see if it helps.

Number 9 is to include technology of the calibre of Diskeeper in the next new Windows so that physical hard drives (which will still be in use despite SSD prices slowly lowering in price while still remaining much more expensive) are proactively prevented from fragmentation, thus ensuring your system runs at top performance all the time – not simply because you’ve purchased a copy of Diskeeper which the vast majority of people have no idea about.

Number 10 is to arrive at an even better price of US and AUD $19.99, or half the current $39.99 price it costs, “for a limited time” which amazingly expires in early 2013, to go to Windows 8 currently.

Bonus Number 11 is to let Modern UI apps run in "half/half" size, so two apps run in half the screen each, in addition to the current 1/3rd and 2/3rds layout, which is easily switchable to a 2/3rd and 1/3rd layout.

Bonus Number 12 is to simply include the Windows Media Center as a standard app witthin the successors to Windosw 8 and RT, rather than as a separately downloadable app. There's plenty of IPTV out there, and with Windows Media Center giving you the ability to record at least some content, it could be a fantastically great media playner and media center app - if Microsoft lets it become one by actively growing the app, rather than relegating it to a paid bolt-on.

What other improvements would you like to see from Microsoft for the next version of Windows 8, possibly 8.1 or 8.5, theoretically due in less than a year from now?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

And for more on why I think those fervently against Windows 8 should "Stop Whining", because Windows 8's a gr8 Win, D'oh!, then please click here!


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.