Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Windows 8.1 – out now – re-starts the Microsoft OS

After Windows 8 flummoxed some customers with its tablet/PC hybrid design, Microsoft answered with Windows 8.1, an update that addressed customer complaints while keeping an eye to the multi-tasking ability of tablets.

By Contributor / October 17, 2013

Microsoft previewed Windows 8.1, an update to its flagship operating system, at the Build developers conference this week. Here, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer addresses the crowd at the conference.

Jeff Chiu/AP


When Windows 8 was born just last year, Microsoft hoped it would bridge the gap between desktop and tablet software by creating one system that could run on both. However, many people think the software failed to cater fully to either the PC's or the tablet’s needs.

Skip to next paragraph

On Thursday, Microsoft responded to customers by releasing Windows 8.1. This time around, Microsoft addressed some key complaints and further pushed its dual-purpose software. But will it be enough to convert the skeptics?

Windows 8.1 still stays true to its original goal as software for PCs and tablets (and the increasingly gray space in between) noted by its dual home screens: a tile-based, touch-screen-enabled option for tablet users, and traditional desktop screen enabled for a keyboard and mouse.  The desktop screen also includes the return of the iconic “Start” button, which was noticeably missing from Windows 8. Though when you press it now, it launches the tile screen where you can toggle to different apps and functions, rather than a pop-up menu.

This Windows update also offers the option for a desktop boot-up, meaning if a company does not have touch-screen devices, the computer will automatically begin at the traditional desktop screen – another complaint many had about Windows 8.

The package comes loaded with new features that make it easier to multi-task between apps. Users can now have up to four apps open at a time on large screen devices (two on tablets) and users can change the size of apps by sliding the edges back and forth. Certain apps, such as Skype, can also be accessed even in lock screen mode, and all apps auto-update, which means there are no more frequent notifications from the Windows store. Users can also have unlimited tabs open and can have two websites open side-by-side.

In addition, Microsoft is experimenting with gesture-controlled apps, like a virtual cookbook that lets you turn the page by waving your hand in front of the front-facing camera – a welcome addition for those who don’t want their touch-screens getting sticky.

A few complaints remain. Not all apps have been configured to the size-changing feature on Windows 8.1, and the dual home-screen option takes some getting used to. But easier multi-tasking and innovative app manipulation could give Microsoft a needed boost in the growing tablet world.

Windows 8.1 is available on Thursday as a free update for anyone with Windows 8. Devices outfitted with 8.1 go on sale Friday.


  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer


Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!