There is an old IT belief that you should avoid upgrading your Windows till the first Service Pack. It’s been true for almost every version of Windows — excepting perhaps utter failures like Windows ME that should just be forgotten — including Windows 8, which has been poorly received over all. Well, it’s been almost a year since Windows 8 rolled out (Oct 26th, 2012 will be its 1 year) and Friday the 18th of October will not be seeing a Service pack at all. Instead we will see an upgrade to a new version, the much anticipated Windows 8.1.
How is this different the a Service Pack?
At the core of it, it’s really not. Traditionally Microsoft offers a collection of fixes as an add-on package called a Service Pack. It usually patches some bugs that became clear in roll-out, reduces the drain on system resources or fixes an exploit some hacker discovered. However, Microsoft has opted to take a page from Apple and rather then create a Service Pack, it’s upgrading the Version Number. Practically speaking, what this means is Windows 8.1 will be replacing Windows 8. What ships as of this Friday will be 8.1 and that’s what will be available both in the retail space and as the default OS on new Windows-based machines looking forward. At the same time, they will be encouraging users to upgrade, for free of course.
Okay, so what’s new?
Windows 8 was built for a world of touch screens, in a world where touchscreens are not quite the norm… yet. 8.1 seeks to create an environment that straddles the line more effectively, while fixing a couple of bugs. Here are a couple examples:
Boot to Desktop
Something that has frustrated users of Windows 8 — in particular those users who have used any version of previous Windows and are not on a tablet or touchscreen — was the inability to boot right to the Desktop. Fortunately this is remedied in 8.1, though the option is a little buried.
On the desktop is a barren spot in Windows 8 where the Start Bar used to live. It makes a triumphant (albeit slightly altered in appearance) return with 8.1.
Windows 8 had a “Sink or Swim” mentality when it came to help, but Windows 8.1 seeks to toss new users a life preserver. Large, clear and helpful directions and highlighted sections are now the norm.
It’s Internet Explorer 11. It’s an improvement, but honestly it’s probably not going to bring anyone back from Chrome or Firefox.
If you like using multiple apps side by side, the new app snapping will be an improvement you’ll appreciate. It allows for more apps to run side by side, while letting you have more flexibility in their sizing.
If you use Skydrive, you know the search functionality was in need of improvement. It has been improved as well as integrated into the search patterns of Windows by default.
There is now a broader range of App customization and colorization. This is pretty cosmetic, but its nice if you want say… the perfect shade of Orange.
Load speeds and app switching has been sped up. Not much more to say about that.
The MS Life
8.1 takes windows closer and closer to a MS brand driven experience. 8.1 is integrated with IE11, SkyDrive, Mediaplayer, Outlook and other Microsoft products almost seamlessly, and even more so then Windows 8.
There have been some other minor tweaks as well.
How does this affect Logic Supply customers?
As a Microsoft Partner, PC Manufactuer, and systems integrator, we took a good hard look at Windows 8.1. For those still on the fence about it, Logic Supply Support Engineers say it is, “The Windows 8 we should have gotten in the first place.” As a result, we are rolling out new systems with the 8.1 release. We are still offering Windows 7, however Microsoft has announced the an end of mainstream support (updates) date of January 13, 2015. If you have a machine with Windows 8, the upgrade will be free, and pretty easy. Keep an eye out on the windows site and I will update this post with the direct link when it becomes available.