Microsoft's Windows 8.1 Spring Update Is Now Official
Microsoft has officially acknowledged a new update for Windows 8.1, slated to arrive during the spring, after several leaks alerted industry watchers to its existence.
After boasting of increased adoption of Windows Phone throughout 2013 and announcing new hardware partners at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft's Windows mobility chief Joe Belfiore addressed upcoming changes to Microsoft's flagship OS. In a blog post, Belfiore admitted that the company is indeed planning a spring update.
Pledging that Microsoft will "continue on a more rapid release cadence where we deliver ongoing value to all your Windows devices," Belfiore said that the company will "continue to deliver innovation and progression with an update to Windows 8.1, coming this spring."
As revealed by previous leaks, the Windows 8.1 spring update will contain enhancements aimed at desktop traditionalists. "We have a number of targeted UI improvements that keep our highly satisfying touch experience intact, but that make the UI more familiar and more convenient for users with mouse/keyboard," he said.
While surveying a leaked build of Windows 8.1 Update 1, PC World's Ian Paul noticed that "Metro apps now have a title bar when you move your mouse up to the top of the screen including options to close, minimize, and snap the app left or right." Right-clicking on modern UI apps (formerly Metro) will sprout context-sensitive menus. Users will also gain the ability to pin modern UI apps to the taskbar in the desktop view.
The move is a reversal of sorts for Microsoft. Last year, an early Windows 8.1 build hinted at a more touch-dominated future for the OS. Paul Thurrott of Supersite for Windows noted that all of "the action in this build is in PC settings, and if you were looking for any further proof the desktop being eased out going forward, look no further than this."
A comprehensive Control Panel, once buried in desktop view, had been brought to the surface for users that prefer touch. "As noted in the previous report, there are a ton of new settings in there now, including many items that were previously only available in the desktop-based Control Panel Interface," said Thurrott. "This is clearly an indication of how we get from here (Windows 8) to there (Windows 9, with potentially no desktop)."
Belfiore made it clear that the company is not abandoning its efforts to push Windows into a touch-enabled, tablet-friendly direction. "Don’t worry, we still LOVE and BELIEVE IN touch … but you'll like how much more smooth and convenient these changes make mouse and keyboard use," he said.
Internet Explorer (IE) under the Windows 8.1 will work better with enterprise Web apps, added Belfiore. IE 11 will include "features that greatly improve IE8 compatibility in Internet Explorer 11, which is especially critical for Web-based line-of-business applications." He also teased expanded mobile-device management (MDM) capabilities to ease the deployment of Windows-based tablets.