Windows 8.1 update due in spring with concessions to mouse and keyboard users

Changes to the user interface will make it easier to hold onto your input devices.

Belfiore, right, is Microsoft's corporate vice president and manager for Windows Phone Program Management.
Belfiore, right, is Microsoft's corporate vice president and manager for Windows Phone Program Management.

At a Sunday press event prior to Mobile World Congress, Microsoft vice president Joe Belfiore led with bright news about Windows 8: Microsoft has sold 200 million licenses (more than all of OS X's user base, he noted); users have downloaded 4 million apps from the Windows Store; and 40 percent of Windows 8 machines are touch-enabled.

But for the 60 percent of Windows 8 machines still not touch-enabled, Belfiore conceded, users' "satisfaction level is lower." So when the Microsoft executive confirmed rumors of a Windows 8.1 update this spring (autumn in Australia), he also detailed three major improvements that would come with it. First and foremost will be features to give mouse-and-keyboard diehards a break.

Specific user interface changes will include what Belfiore called "discoverable Search, Power, and Settings," meaning these three features would be visible on the Start screen. There will also be a new mouse UI for right-clicking to start and close apps, and you'll be able to launch and switch apps from the taskbar.

Belfiore also made a pointed reference to the rumors that Microsoft might dial back some of Windows 8's more finger-friendly aspects. "We love touch," he proclaimed, and "we have no intent to degrade the touch experience." But he clearly wanted to placate legacy mouse-and-keyboard users: "Our measure is, Did we make things better for people without touchscreens?"

Windows 8 is also being re-tuned to allow for somewhat more lenient hardware specs — and therefore, lower prices for end users. Belfiore said hardware partners would be able to build machines with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of hardware storage. While Belfiore didn't provide any detail about actual products, those baseline specs would seem to provide room for lower-cost Windows tablets.

"This is work we have in progress now," Belfiore said in closing, offering no further details. However, in the Q&A that followed, he emphasized that Windows RT very firmly remained part of Microsoft's picture.

Belfiore's statements were echoed in a blog post that also appeared this morning.

Windows 8 tablet reviews

Toshiba Encore
Dell Venue 8

Windows 8 tablet tips

How do I escape a full-screen video on a Windows 8 tablet?
How do I connect a TV to my tablet?
How to take a screen shot on a Windows 8 tablet without a keyboard

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Windows 8MicrosoftWindowsmwc 2014softwareoperating systems

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Melissa Riofrio

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?