Last week Microsoft released a preview version of Windows 8.1, the first meaningful update to Windows 8 and the company's initial attempt to smooth things over. The software is available now for anyone to try, but keep in mind that a preview is just that, a preview. Indeed, Microsoft cautions that there are risks to downloading 8.1 at this stage. It is also premature to do a formal review of Windows 8.1, so consider this column a preview as well.
What I can say after a few days with a Surface Pro loaner tablet is that Microsoft has added a number of pleasing touches. Whether they will be enough to lure the reluctant masses remains to be seen.
Maybe the biggest change you'll notice is the return of a familiar Start button, located in "Desktop" mode in its customary location at the bottom left corner of the taskbar. Those who had lamented the missing Start button shouldn't go gaga -- clicking or tapping on the new Start button returns you to the default Windows 8 Start environment, known as the Modern UI. That's where you'll find the colorful rectangular and square tiles, some with live data (weather, stocks, e-mail, etc.) that have come to define the fresher Windows interface on computers and smartphones.
New to 8.1 is the ability to boot up in the more traditional-looking Desktop environment, if you prefer.
Seems to me Microsoft doesn't...