Introducing the completely pointless Windows 8.1 Update 1

update1-leak3-heroMicrosoft is all set to release its first update to Windows 8.1 this April, and a number of leaks have appeared in recent days that show numerous small tweaks to the much-derided operating system that will do little to change the minds of its critics.

To get an idea of how pointless Windows 8.1 Update 1 really is, we need look no further than the opinion of long-time Windows 8 proponent Paul Thurrot, who admitted that “it’s a mess” in his own review of the software.

In previous articles I’ve actually defended Windows 8, simply because I believe that in desktop mode it’s not really that different from its predecessor, and after a few days getting to grips with it most people should get on just dandy. But in spite of this it’s clear enough that the OS is not well-liked, and can be very confusing for those who’re less computer literate than myself.

Unfortunately with Windows 8.1, Microsoft seems to be digging itself even deeper into a hole it has no clue how to get out of. Here’s a quick look at some of the changes we can expect to see, according to ZDNet:

  • On the start screen (Metro mode) the Power Down and Search tiles have been shifted to the top right, next to your user name. Microsoft’s also added right-click context menus that let you pin Metro apps to the taskbar in desktop, and Metro apps can now be sorted “by name”.
  • The Metro apps will display new icons at the top of the screen that allow you to snap, minimize or close each app. The desktop toolbar can also be accessed from each app you’re using, simply by hovering the mouse over the bottom of the screen. Metro apps that are running also appear in this taskbar, which means they can be accessed from desktop with a simple click, rather than a ‘swipe’ as before.
  • IE 11 now offers an “Enterprise Mode” that’s been designed to help those using apps built for IE 8.
  • “Boot to desktop” will be enabled on all non-touchscreen machines.
  • “SkyDrive” has had its name changed to “OneDrive”.

In other words, Windows 8.1 Update 1 will be every bit as confusing as its two predecessors, and guaranteed not to change the opinion of its numerous critics.

As Thurrot rightly points out, the “Windows 8.1 Update 1 again proves that design by committee never works, and that by not strictly adhering to a singular product vision, the solution that is extruded out to customers on the other side is messy, convoluted, and compromised.”

That’s been the problem of Windows 8 since the beginning. As Apple’s Tim Cook said before, Windows 8 is a fridge and a toaster, and nothing from any of these updates has changed that. It remains two separate operating systems, mobile and desktop, and as much as Microsoft tries to persuade people that this is a natural evolution of the desktop experience, it really isn’t what most people want.

All we can do is hope that the rumors about Windows 9, codenamed “Threshold”, turn out to be true. It’s been reported elsewhere that Microsoft is planning to devolve Windows into three separate products for traditional consumers, Metro consumers and business users – and if that’s the case Microsoft has a chance of winning people back over to its side.

The only problem is that Windows 9 probably won’t show up until spring of 2015, by which time Microsoft will almost certainly lose more of its market share to Mac OS X, Android, Chrome OS and Linux. And even if Windows 9 does vastly improve on its predecessor, by the time we get to see it, it could well be too late to regain the users it’s lost.