When Microsoft first unveiled their successor to Windows 7 to the public most people were a little taken aback. There were those who were totally for it, sure, but the majority of us couldn't fathom why an OS which seemed optimised for the mobile space was finding its way onto our desktops. That was just over 7 months ago now for the general release and things have changed a fair bit since then. Third party mods have been released to amend the big differences, but for the most part people just seemed to move on and adapt to their new tiled workspace.
Some of the biggest challenges new customers had to face was the lack of the previously ever-present Start button. This was instead replaced with a hot-point on the bottom left hand corner of the screen to drag your cursor, which would then bring up the new Metro start screen. The Metro interface was a whole other bag of worms, with the new tile-based system not conforming to what everyone liked. The tiles were there to provide shortcuts to apps, to show information such as weather reports and calendar appointments, and they were highly optimised for touch screen interfaces. This touch screen optimisation is what left many to feel as if Windows 8 in a desktop environment, where the mouse and keyboard are still the most used peripherals for control, just wasn't well suited.
Roll on today and we see the release of the Windows 8.1 Preview - Microsoft's answer to our questions. At present the only way to download the preview is via Microsoft's Windows Store, but an ISO file should soon be made available for download too. The completed version won't be released until later this year but the preview should allow users to gain an insight into what's to come.
The new Metro interface shows off greater customisation of tile sizes.
First thing's first - the Start Button returns!! Just not in the way most people wanted. The bottom left hand corner of your screen shall once more be blessed with the Start Button's presence, but it's not the same button we all grew to love. It's said that the new iteration is simply a guise for the same shortcut to bring up the Metro start screen. Oh dear. Not quite what we had in mind. Rubbing salt into our wounds we see that the Metro interface has received an update instead, with further options given for tile sizes. This should enable greater personalisation of your start screen while utilising space in a more efficient way.
Take a look at what Microsoft have to say to their developers:
From a developer standpoint this looks to be a huge improvement. Greater flexibility all round and the automatic updates allow bug fixes to arrive far more quickly than before. By promising up to 80% of the total revenue made by an app, 10% more than Apple or Google, it's clear that Microsoft are doing their best to lure more software developers to work with their platform.
An unlikely addition to the OS is native 3D Printing capabilities. Got yourself a fancy 3D Printer and you're worried about the 3rd party apps needed to run it? Fear no more, Microsoft have you covered. This added support gives hope to 3D Printing becoming more mainstream in the not too distant future as more and more systems cater for their needs.
So, for those of you using Windows 8 already, what are you waiting for? Get updated and tell us what you think on the OC3D Forums!
For more information about the release please visit Microsoft's website, here.