So the embargo has lifted on Windows 8.1 previews and all of the big tech sites have previews up on their respective outlets today. Now, I know a lot of you come to 30lives to read about the down n’ dirty side of tech news, so we’ll cut through the BS and give you the real skinny on Microsoft’s next big step for the fledgling operating system.
From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Windows 8.1 will be a good bridge between the holdouts that still have Windows 7 on their systems (myself included) and Microsoft’s new cloud-based M.O. Contrary to what rumors have suggested, the Start Menu won’t make a comeback, but the Start Screen will act as more of an “overlay,” to make the transition between the desktop and start menu less jarring. I suppose if that’s still an annoyance, one can pony up the $4.99 and install Start8, a piece of software that unobtrusively adds a more traditional Windows 7-style Start Menu among other tweaks, including booting direct to the desktop (something Windows 8.1 actually fixes).
More welcome tweaks to the Start Screen include making “All Apps” the default view instead of the live tiles, which is a good compromise for power users. Other welcome tweaks for power users include disabling “hot corners,” which was a personal annoyance as I would always overshoot the corner window to hit the “close” button on apps. Users with multi-monitor setups can also elect to keep the start screen open on one screen while doing work on the other, which is a feature exactly zero people asked for, according to recent surveys.
More importantly, it looks like Microsoft is going for Dropbox’ jugular by including 100GB of SkyDrive support out of the box, fully integrated with the OS, with full thumbnail search capabilities. From what Microsoft has shown off so far, it’s pretty seamless: files on the cloud can be used by local applications as it “streams” direct to your machine per use. Of course, with the pathetic internet speeds we all have in the Philippines, this usefulness does come into question, but it’s still a neat feature for those with fat broadband pipes.
Windows 8.1 will debut at the BUILD conference next month. As the first in a series of incremental, OS X-style yearly updates, lots of speculation has been posited about how Microsoft will price this update. Could be free, could also be a low-cost, $30 update for existing users. We’ll have to see this June!