In June, Microsoft finally unveiled the much anticipated Windows Blue update, which turned out to be Windows 8.1. The software giant showcased a number of new or returning features on Windows 8.1, such as the return of the Start button, the Start Screen and Lock screen customization, Bing search integration, and other little trinkets for both the tablet and desktop versions.
As with everything, before it gets finally released, some areas are improved, some things removed, and other features added.
Windows 8.1 X 64 Pro Build 9471, a test version of the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) build, showed off some improvements and disappointments.
First-time user friendly
There’s a new Metro Help & Tips app that features six tiled guides: Start and apps, Get around, Basic actions, Your account and files, Settings, and What’s new. All six categories aim to help first-time users get around Windows 8.1. Presumably, this would allow users to better utilize all the awesome features of Windows 8.1. It has video tutorials plus you can search topics if you can’t find what you are looking for. But since it’s still not the final version, this app is still buggy and those that have tried it stated that queries came back with unrelated results. Let’s hope the app gets ironed out before the final release.
SkyDrive all the way
This may be the worst part of Windows 8.1, as Microsoft chose to designate the SkyDrive Documents folder as the default save location for everything in the Documents Library. Which means if you save or drag files to your Documents, it will automatically be saved on SkyDrive, which ultimately spells money for Microsoft since the cloud storage service has a fee.
As to why Microsoft decided to ditch the local library feature, it’s a simple matter of monetization. Microsoft doesn’t make anything when people store documents in their libraries, so why not make them pay for a service to store their files? Let’s just hope Microsoft chucks this to the side and let consumers be the one to decide whether they want a SkyDrive account or not.
Scrolling wallpapers and alarms
During the reveal back in June, Microsoft showed off active wallpapers such as the ‘Fire Dragon’ that changes as you move along. This is available in Build 9471 as well as various other moving wallpapers, including a robot. Aside from that, there are numerous Alarm sounds to choose from which means you can assign different sounds to different notifications or tasks if you wish to.
No love for Facebook or Flickr
In the preview version, Microsoft showed off photo integration with Facebook and Flickr, but the latest build showed no signs of this. Microsoft instead chose to fully integrate SkyDrive to its Photos app.
We’ve already discussed how Bing is being integrated in Windows 8.1. Besides being the main search engine, Bing will become the search tool for you to search through your files on SkyDrive, in your library and even for stuff on the internet. Microsoft has dubbed this as ‘Smart Search’. The idea is good as it makes searching faster. Unfortunately, some users have been irked by the fact that it is turned on by default, which means all your queries, local or online, are collected by Bing. And we all know Microsoft’s ties with the NSA’s spying right? So this can’t be good for consumers.
There are many messaging tools available to choose from these days, and so Microsoft isn’t taking any chances. The software giant has pre-installed Skype in Windows 8.1 so people don’t have to look at other messaging services.
There is more to Windows 8.1 than meets the eye; with new apps such as Health & Fitness and Food & Drink, which come bundled with the release. The question now is, will these added features help booster Windows 8.1’s market share or will this cause people to revert back to older versions of Windows? We’ll soon find out…
Windows 8.1 is expected to come to OEMs later this month, while its general availability is expected by mid-October.