Microsoft is preparing the way to release its second update for the Windows 8 operating system next month, but thanks to both contacts within the industry and a foul-up by Microsoft which made the Windows 8.1 Update 1 packages available on Windows Update for anyone wanting to grab them, I've had the chance to take this latest update for a spin.
On installing the update it's clear that Update 1 is an evolutionary step for the Windows 8 species as opposed to a radical revamp. It seems the Redmond giant still believes that the overall user interface and user experience debuted in Windows 8 is the way forward, and that the whining will eventually die off and people will take their Modern/Metro medicine.
I'd like nothing more than for Microsoft to take what it has learnt with Window 8 and Windows 8.1 and combine that with Windows 7 to give us Windows 7.5 – in other words, a better version of Windows 7 – but that's just not going to happen.
I'm not going to cover specific changes rolled out in Windows 8.1 Update 1. For that you can check out the changes here, but little has changed since the leaked build I looked at back in the beginning of February. The bottom line is that if you liked Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, and you spent time getting to grips with the user interface and adapting your old workflows to suit the new system, Update 1 is going to mean tweaking that workflow a bit, but on the whole you're still going to like the platform.
If, on the other hand, you're like me and you found Windows 8/Windows 8.1 to be a productivity-sucking black hole that forces you to limp along using a touch-first user interface on a desktop or notebook system – which remain the primary platform for Windows, and that’s not going to change for a long time – then Update 1 does little or nothing to change that.
Which is why I give Windows 8.1 Update 1 a "meh, it'll have to do I suppose."
It's sort of strange that the people who have got the most of lose in terms of productivity and facing yet another learning curve are those who took the time to use Windows 8 in the way Microsoft wanted them to use it.
Microsoft is still letting the tail wag the rest of the dog by putting the touch interface ahead of the keyboard and mouse. While this is a gamble with could pay off in the future, the interface, when combined with a perception of the platform that is skewed towards the negative, doesn't bode well.
Throw on top of that lackluster PC sales and Windows 8.x could be facing a long uphill battle. But with Windows 9 allegedly about a year out, maybe it's a battle that Windows 8.x is destined to lose.