Feeds

Microsoft parades Windows 8.1, the version you may actually want

Outlook, Office, Start button

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Computex 2013 Microsoft today demonstrated Windows 8.1 for the first time in public and showed off at least 60 compatible devices - including Haswell-powered gadgets.

Windows vice-president Antoine Leblond took the Computex crowd through a whistlestop tour of all the major new functionality in the OS formerly known as Windows Blue.

Key among these, first unveiled last week, are the return of the Start icon; improvements to the touchscreen keyboard; optimisation for cheaper tablets smaller than the 10 and 11-inchers Windows 8 was built for; and the ability to view multiple apps on the same screen to create a “rich productivity experience”.

“With Windows 8.1 we bring new management capabilities and great advancements in security and mobility. It [has been] made better through customer feedback,” said Windows chief finance and marketing officer Tami Reller. The free upgrade is due to arrive later this year.

In a bid to help Microsoft own a bigger share of the mobile computing space, email app Outlook and the Office suite will now ship "in-box" on Windows RT notebooks and tablets. Support for Intel Bay Trail, Qualcomm 8974 and Nvidia T40 processors was also announced.

Nick Parker, Redmond’s vice-president for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), also demonstrated Windows on a range of devices, from all-in-ones to small tablets, as part of Microsoft's ongoing attempt to prove its new OS can appeal outside of the corporate sphere.

Sony’s newly announced flagship 11in ultrabook, the Haswell-based Vaio Pro 11, was probably the pick, weighing in at a feather-light 900g, but there was also mention of Acer’s new Iconia W3 7 inch tablet and Lenovo’s Lynx 8 incher.

The message from Parker and his Redmond colleagues on stage was one of Windows 8.1 combining with innovative hardware to “advance the vision” – a notably conciliatory tone considering the recent sniping by certain Taiwanese OEMs following Microsoft’s Surface launch.

That furore seems to have died down now, thanks in part to poor Surface sales, according to analysts.

“But they do still feel bitten by the fact Microsoft took the steps it did to create its own hardware in the first place, so it's still not yet a fully healthy relationship between Microsoft and its OEMs,” Forrester principal analyst David Johnson told El Reg.

“That's going to take more time to flush out, but I do think Microsoft needs to have better control over the total user experience than it has in the past, so Surface, more than anything, is a warning sign for the OEMs to do their part.”

As for how successful Windows 8.1 will be for the firm, it’s going to be tough to displace Android and iOS in the tablet space and attract corporate customers - many of whom are preoccupied with migrating from XP to Windows 7 before the April 2014 deadline, according to Ovum analyst Richard Edwards.

“The new security and connectivity features of Windows 8.1 announced this week will be of interest to enterprise IT professionals, but they are unlikely to boost demand from the workforce or sales within the consumer market,” he told El Reg.

“Microsoft has the resources to ‘fix’ Windows 8, but it should realize that its days of almost total domination are now over. Diversity is now a fact-of-life within in the world of end user computing, with BYOD and BYOA redefining the corporate IT landscape.”

IDC veep Bob O’Donnell had a similar message for Microsoft, arguing that the new Windows release would not be enough on its own to rejuvenate PC sales.

“I think Microsoft and Intel need to come together and focus on the core productivity benefits of PCs and not let them get distracted with trying to be all things to everyone,” he added.

“PCs are still better at many things than tablets and smartphones, but I think that message has been lost and needs to be revived in order to get people focused on the benefits that PCs offer.” ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Cloudy CoreOS Linux distro declares itself production-ready
Lightweight, container-happy Linux gets first Stable release
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.