In a nutshell -- and at the heart of the changes -- the Start button is returning to the user interface on the lower-left corner of the screen. When you left-click that icon it pulls up the Start screen, though, rather than the pop-menu Windows used in previous versions. A right-click calls up a menu including the Task Manager, Control Panel, search and other tools.
Other changes include the ability to boot into the desktop interface, saving a few clicks. There are also new personalization features, a new search paradigm and Xbox Music has been redesigned with what Microsoft hopes users will find to be an easier-to-use interface.
For analysis on the potential impact of the upgraded Windows 8, we turned to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. He told us Windows 8.1 seems to answer most of the issues and concerns in the marketplace, particularly among enterprise customers.
"The initial launch of Windows 8 obviously has to be considered one of the more colossal screw ups in the company's history," King quipped, "but I do think they've done a pretty good job in redressing that."
Will it help drive more sales? That depends. King said it's critical for Redmond to get buy-in from enterprise customers.
"Going back to Start menu and making the tile interface an option on the task bar is probably what the company should have done in the first place," King said. "It makes the Windows 8 environment much friendlier for businesses and a lot less disruptive than the original version."
Windows 8 may get an additional boost later this year. That's because although the operating system works well on Intel Ivy Bridge-processor PCs, laptops and tablets,...