Microsoft announces Windows 8.1 upgrade

Update sees a return for the Start button along with a much improved search function

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gestures as he delivers his keynote address at the Microsoft “Build” conference in San Francisco, California, yesterday. Photograph: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gestures as he delivers his keynote address at the Microsoft “Build” conference in San Francisco, California, yesterday. Photograph: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

Thu, Jun 27, 2013, 15:24

Microsoft has released a test version of its Windows 8 operating system, restoring some old Windows features in a move designed to reignite interest in its flagship operating system.

The update includes a return for the traditional Windows Start button but also adds new features including greater personalisation and an option for users to boot directly to the desktop.

Some customers had complained about the software’s usability without the presence of the familiar start button located at the bottom left corner of the desktop.

The usability of the Windows 8 tiled interface, originally released 8 months ago, was designed to appeal to tablet and mobile users but rapidly became the subject of criticism by some traditional PC users.

“Since we announced and shipped Windows 8, suffice it to say, we pushed boldly and yet what we found was we got a lot of feedback from users of those millions of desktop applications,” Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer said at the opening the company’s annual developer conference in San Francisco yesterday.

Windows 8.1, previously known by the code name “Blue”, will be available for free to all Windows 8 users in the Autumn. The update includes an improved search facility which should make it easier for users to search for files.

In a move the software-maker hopes will gain traction with tablet customers, it was also announced that Facebook is building an application for the operating system, adding one of the most popular programs missing from Windows 8.

Microsoft is courting developers and adding features to Windows 8 to gain share in a tablet market already dominated by Apple and Samsung. A steady decline in traditional PC sales has prompted the company to focus on the mobile and tablet markets.

Microsoft commanded just 3.7 per cent of the tablet market in the first quarter as a lack of some high-profile features, including the Facebook app, limited the appeal of Windows 8 and the software maker’s Surface tablet which was released in Ireland in May.

Twitter’s app for Windows 8 was released in March. Download preview here.

Additional reporting: Agencies

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