Microsoft is hoping to quiet the critics by resurrecting an omnipresent Windows logo anchored in the lower left corner. Users also will be able to ensure their favorite applications, including Word and Excel, appear in a horizontal tool bar next to the Windows logo. Accessing apps outside the toolbar still will require using the tiles or calling them up in a more comprehensive search engine included in the Windows 8.1 updates.
Microsoft Corp. announced its plans for Windows 8.1 in early May, but it didn’t offer details about what it will include until May 30. The Redmond, Wash., company will provide a more extensive tour of Windows 8.1 and several new applications built into the upgrade at a conference for programmers in San Francisco, scheduled to begin June 26.
Antoine Leblond, a Microsoft executive who helps oversee the operating system’s program management, said the ability to start PCs in the more familiar format is meant to ease the “cognitive dissonance” caused by Windows 8.
Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi predicted the desktop option will spur more sales of Windows 8 computers.
“Some people were getting fixated” on the desktop issue, Milanesi said. “This may cause more people who felt uncomfortable with Windows 8 to take a second look.”
Microsoft made the dramatic overhaul to Windows in an attempt to expand the operating system’s franchise beyond personal computers that rely on keyboards and mice to smart phones and tablet computers controlled by a touch or swipe of the finger. But Windows 8 has been widely panned as a disappointment, even though Microsoft says it has licensed more than 100 million copies so far.
Microsoft views Windows 8.1 as more than just a fix-it job. From its perspective, the tune-up underscores Microsoft’s evolution into a more nimble company capable of moving quickly to respond to customer feedback while also rolling out more innovations for a myriad of Windows devices—smart phones, tablets, or PCs.
“Windows 8 has been out long enough for us to take stock of where things are going and what we need to do to move it forward,” Leblond said in an interview with The Associated Press.
It’s crucial that Microsoft sets things right with Windows 8.1, because the outlook for the PC market keeps getting gloomier. IDC now expects PC shipments to fall by nearly 8 percent this year, worse than its previous forecast of a 1-percent dip. IDC also anticipates tablets will outsell laptop computers for the first time this year.
The growing popularity of tablets is now being driven largely by less expensive devices with 7- and 8-inch display screens. Microsoft built Windows 8 primarily to run on tablets with 10-inch to 12-inch screens, an oversight that Leblond said the company is addressing by ensuring Windows 8.1 works well on smaller devices.
Windows 8.1 also will lean heavily on Microsoft’s Bing search technology to simplify things.