Microsoft tries to win back customers
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is stuck in a Vista-like mire of depressed personal computer (PC) sales. It can blame part of that on the shift towards mobile devices, but at the end of the day it is at least partially culpable.
With Windows 8, the company made a bold bidto reinvent its aging operating system (OS) franchise, adding in improved touch technology support and other long hoped for features. But the result felt clunky at times with a mouse and keyboard, and especially alienated enthusiasts, who compared it to Vista or — even worse — Windows ME. This less than enthusiastic reception seemed to color the views of everyday users as well, some of which didn’t enjoy the new look.
The resultant sales woes were a black spot on an otherwise admirable earnings report for Microsoft. Microsoft is in the midst of a leadership change, hunting for a new CEO.
Microsoft’s first major bid to win customers back arrived with the launch of Windows 8.1 last October, a major free update that added back the ability to boot to desktop and the Start Button (albeit in Modern UI form).
Now it appears Microsoft is looking to make more revisions to its troubled creation, with a Windows 8.1 Service Pack, due out in March 2014. The biggest addition is an apology of sorts to Mouse users — the restoration of the title bar.
The Control Panel link in the Modern UI settings (bottom left) and Title Bar (top) are seen here.
[Image Source: The Verge]
For those who don’t know what that is, the title bar is the bar found at the top of running app windows in Windows 7 and earlier. The bar includes an ‘X’ button to close the app, a button to minimize, and stacked button to enter or exit maximized mode.
With Windows 8, the title bar was seen on apps running in legacy (Desktop) mode, but was gone inModern UI apps (aka, Metro apps). While most power users use keyboard shortcuts in place of the slow Title bar buttons, for casual-to-mid level users who relied on the mouse-driven interface, its disappearance was a major headache.
Now it’s returning in an attempt to make life easier on the mouse-using masses. A build of the upcoming Service Pack which leaked this week shows a minimize and close button on the right-hand corner of the bar and a gear icon on the left-hand corner. The gear opens a menu that allows you to control the app paneling with a click in Modern UI/Metro, versus having to use gestures or keyboard shortcuts previously.
The Windows 8.1 Metro homescreen now includes search and shutdown buttons, similar to the old Start Menu, which it essentially is an unwrapped version of. [Image Source: The Verge]
There’s other “duh” worthy inclusion, such as Microsoft including search and power buttons that hover over the Modern UI menu, and allow right clicks on Modern UI app icons to bring up a set of options, including UI customization options (resizing tiles, etc.). The date and time is still painfully absent in the modern UI, but these changes look likely to make the new user interface feel a bit more useful and familiar.
Right click in Metro will soon allow you to do stuff… yay. [Image Source: The Verge]
There’s also an option in Metro/Modern UI under “PC Settings”, which allows you to access the full Control Panel (in Desktop Mode) by clicking a link. Lastly, in Desktop mode, you can now see Modern UI apps in the taskbar and preview them.
Previews of Metro apps in Desktop mode — whoa. [Image Source: The Verge]
The released build, compiled on Jan. 14, is rumored to have some minor bugs.
The final build of the Service Pack is expected to roll off the presses at Microsoft on March 11,according to ZDNet‘s sources. That places it just ahead of Microsoft’s annual BUILD conference, which runs April 2-4.