Microsoft has unveiled the first upgrade to Windows 8, adding comprehensive integration for Bing, bringing back the Start button and even including 3D printing support.
Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft chief executive, claimed the new software was a “refined blend” of the Windows that was launched last year for tablets, desktops and laptops, but has failed to boost the flagging PC market.
"We pushed boldly in Windows 8," he claimed. "And yet what we found is that we got a lot of feedback from users. If I were put it in coffee terms, they said, 'Why don't you refine the blend here?'" He admitted early adopters had suggested Microsoft go back and “re-mix the desktop experience and the modern interface”.
Microsoft announced the changes at its Build conference, and said on its blog that in the keynote speech the company had “outlined the reach, design and economic opportunities for developers to build differentiated, touch-based apps for the Windows platform”.
Antoine Leblond wrote that “We built Windows 8 for a world where touch is a first class interaction model, the same as mouse and keyboard; and where there’s a proliferation of innovative and diverse devices that are highly mobile, always on the go and always connected. Windows 8 was built on the reality that the lines between our work and personal lives have blurred. The response to Windows 8 has been substantial…Windows 8.1 will advance the bold vision set forward, but it will add new features and functionality that advance the touch experience and mobile computing’s potential. Windows 8.1 will deliver improvements and enhancements in key areas like personalization, search, the built-in apps, Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity.”
Mr Ballmer was joined on stage at Build by Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president of Windows, and other company executives to demo the Windows 8.1 Preview, focusing on what Microsoft also called “key areas of personalisation, search powered by Bing, increased functionality for businesses and new in-the-box apps”.
Microsoft also emphasized that Windows is an attractive platform for programmers, saying developers keep 80 percent of the revenue for the lifetime of an app once it crosses the $25,000 revenue threshold. A new Windows Store will encourage more users to buy apps, while Microsoft said it was adding support for more sizes of device and in more territories. It is also encouraging the more comprehensive integration of its search engine Bing and Windows Phone.
The Windows 8.1 Preview is available for download beginning today. More information is available at http://www.preview.windows.com. A final version will be released later this year as a free update.