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Mark Wilson

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Windows 8’s First Year in Review

Tuesday December 31, 2013

Help and TipsWindows 8 was released at the end of last year to mixed reviews. It offered users a lot of enhancements and new features, but also included a bunch of unpopular features and UI tweak that users would rather have removed. Understandably, it had a pretty sluggish adoption rate at first reported often as being accepted even slower than the much maligned Vista.

Though it still has a relatively small chunk of the desktop market share, Windows 8 has made strides. Windows 8 has finally overtaken Apple having a larger share than all versions of Mac OS X combined and it's user base continues to grow.

There are a few reasons why Windows 8's popularity has grown. Chief among those reasons is the release of a major feature update with Windows 8.1. In one fell swoop Microsoft added many new features, tweaked user interface issues and addressed a lot of user complaints.

Though Windows 8.1 isn't perfect, it is a major improvement. The addition of a Start button makes navigating between the Start screen a desktop much more intuitive. Microsoft also included a bunch of desktop features allowing users to boot directly to the desktop and disable hot corners at will. On top of that 8.1 also bundled a few useful apps that add a bit of value.

On the app front Windows 8 has also made a bunch of improvements. The operating system is designed largely to integrate mobile apps, but the Windows Store was slow to offer a lot of the big titles that users were itching for. Now that Twitter, Facebook and a number of other high big names have thrown an app into the Store Windows 8's modern apps seem a lot more valuable than they did at the beginning of the year.

Windows 8 still has a long way to go to catch up to its predecessors. Though it's gaining momentum, it's measly 8% share pales in comparison to XP's 30% and Windows 7's 47%. Windows XP's end of life may push a few users towards Windows 8, but it may just as easily buff Windows 7 which is shaping up to be the next XP.

Image above courtesy of Microsoft.

The Windows Store is Improving but it has a Long Way to Go

Saturday November 30, 2013
The Windows Store has been improved significantly.

 

A simple fact that has kept a lot of new users from jumping on board the Windows 8 mobile app platform is that there are a lot of apps missing from the Windows Store. Sure, there are over 1,000 apps to choose from, but a lot of the big names people are looking for have been absent. Heck, just a few short months ago there wasn't even an official Facebook app in the Windows Store.

Microsoft has been seeking to improve public opinion of their Store and seems to be making headway. With the release of Windows 8.1, users were treated to a beautifully overhauled Store. It's now easier to navigate, easier to find apps that suit your interests and, best of all, it's got that Facebook app everyone was clambering for. Coupling that with the fact that users can now sync modern apps between their user accounts, Microsoft seems to have recaptured come of their consumers wondering interest.

Since then a few more big names have jumped into the pool including Foursquare, Rhapsody, Twitter and Flipboard. Another major boon came when the popular Unity game engine announced support for the Windows platform. In just the past couple of months over 1,000 Unity apps have been added to the Store buffing the games section considerable.

Though things are certainly looking up for Microsoft's app market, it still has a long way to go. You'll notice there remains a conspicuous lack of Google apps in the store, LinkedIn has yet to provide an app for Windows 8 users and you may also notice Minecraft and Pandora missing. Though we can assume that these apps will come eventually there are certainly plenty of knock-offs to hold you over until you do.

The total number of Windows 8 apps also pales in comparison to competing markets. While the Windows Store sits around 130,000 the Google Play store and Apple App Market both boast over 1,000,000. We can hope the recent slew of new titles brings in significant new interest. You can be sure that increased interest is the only thing that will bring in those missing developers.

How do you feel the Windows Store stands up? Are there any apps you wish were around but aren't? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or connect with me on Facebook.

Image above used courtesy of Microsoft.

With So Many Options, How do you Install Windows 8.1

Thursday October 31, 2013

The Windows 8.1 update link in the Windows Store.

Windows 8.1 has been unleashed on the world and it brings with it an arsenal of great new features and tweaks. Anyone with Windows 8, and a good many users of older versions of Windows, will likely want to get their hands on it. Though the installation is necessarily difficult, it can be hard to figure out the right way to go about it. There are three ways to install Windows 8.1 and the option you choose will depend on the version of Windows you're running.

The first option is to simply download Windows 8.1 through the Windows Store. This option is the easiest installation method, takes the least time and, obviously, is the best option if you are eligible. Most users running Windows 8 (including trial and preview versions) with a Microsoft account will be able to use the Store to download 8.1. The only exceptions are users of Windows 8 Enterprise and users running a version of Windows 8 Professional with a bulk license or installed by a TechNet or MSDN ISO. This option is free to anyone who can use it.

The next best option is to perform an upgrade installation. Any Windows 8 users who aren't eligible for a Store upgrade as well as Windows 7 users will want to go this route. If you're upgrading from a version of Windows 8, you'll be given the option to preserve your personal data, account settings and even your Windows Store apps. Upgrading from Windows 7 allows you to preserve your data. Either option will lose you your desktop applications. This update will be free to Windows 8 users but Windows 7 users will have to pay.

The final option, which also happens to be the longest and most complex method, is a clean installation. Users of older versions of Windows, including Vista and XP, will need to take this route to upgrade to Windows 8.1. Though you aren't given the option to preserve anything, if you don't delete and recreate your hard disk's partitions, your personal data will be recoverable from a Windows.old folder on your C: drive after the installation. Users looking to perform a clean installation will have to purchase their copy of Windows 8.1.

Though there are a number of installation options, once you know which option is right for you, the job shouldn't be a problem. If you have any trouble with it, feel free to comment here or connect with me on Facebook. I'm happy to help.

Image above is used courtesy of Microsoft.

Why You May Not Find the Windows 8.1 Update in the Store

Tuesday October 29, 2013

The Windows 8.1 update link in the Windows Store.

As you're likely already aware, Windows 8.1 is officially complete and released to the public. Though users looking to upgrade from earlier versions of Windows will obviously have to pay for it, Windows 8.1 is free of charge to existing users of its predecessor Windows 8. Such users should be able to simply download the update via the Windows Store and install it without any fuss at all, but that isn't working out for a lot of users.

If you're currently running Windows 8 and you can't seem to find 8.1 in the Store, don't panic. Don't even run for the ISO downloads and install that way. All you need is a quick update for the Store and you'll be ready to go. For most users, the update should install automatically, but if you aren't configured for automatic updating, you'll need to get it yourself.

To trigger an update you'll need to click "Change PC Settings" from the Settings charm. Select "Windows Update" from the left pane of app that opens up and click "Check for updates now." When you get results back stating that there are indeed updates available, click "We'll install ## updates automatically."

You'll now see a list of updates available for installation. You can simply click "Install" to download and install them all, but if you're behind, that could take a while. For a faster fix, click "Choose which important updates you want to install to be taken to the Control Panel. Once there, click "## important updates are available. Deselect all but KB2871389 and click "Install." This update is less than 10 MB and should only take a minute or so. Once done, restart your computer and try the Store again. You should find a link to Windows 8.1 waiting for you.

If you know of anyone experiencing this issue, make sure to share this with them.

Image above courtesy of Microsoft.

Windows 8.1 Released Next Month

Monday September 30, 2013

Windows 8.1 will be released to the general public next month on the 17th. Microsoft already released the finished version to TechNet members and business partners, despite their original intentions so the final build is out and about. I, for one, am pretty excited about it.

You've likely heard about the high-profile changes to the Start screen and desktop, but there's a lot more going on. One great feature is that you'll be able to disable annoying interface elements rather than trying to work around them. Desktop users should appreciate this quite a bit.

I'm also looking forward to the expanded PC settings. In Windows 8 many of the settings are split up; some in the modern PC settings section, others in the old timey Control Panel. Obviously, this means you'll be able to find settings easier as they'll be compiled in one place, but this also means that more of your settings will be synched with your Microsoft account. That way, when you set up a new computer, or refresh your existing computer, you won't have to reenter all of your settings.

These are just a couple of small features I'm excited about, there's a lot more to look forward to including better SkyDrive integration, enhanced searching and new interface elements to help new users through the transition to the new interface. It should improve over Windows 8 quite a bit.

If you're jazzed about it and can't wait for the official release, you can always download the ISO from Microsoft and install the Windows 8.1 preview. A word of caution: if you install the preview, you'll lose your programs and settings. Depending on the options you choose, you'll either lose them when you install it or when you upgrade to the full version on the 17th. With that in mind, it would be wise to install it on a virtual machine instead of your primary computer.

Are you interested in the changes coming in Windows 8.1? Do you think it will improve Windows 8 overall? I'd be interested to read your comments below.

 

Windows.about.com has Gone Social

Friday September 20, 2013

About.com Windows has a Facebook page.Do you enjoy the content I post here on Windows.about.com? Do you ever wish you could get better access to new content or connect with me to ask questions or make comments? If you answered yes, you should know you have plenty of ways to do that.

I've created a Facebook page where readers can go to connect with me. I have links up to all my newest content and I'll stop in regularly to answer comments and questions. Like the page for regular updates when I post new content. If Facebook isn't your thing, you can add me to your circles on Google+ and follow me on Twitter as well. These are my personal social networking pages so you'll get a chance to interact with me in a more personal way and get linked to other content I write around the web.

If you want updates on Windows news and content sent right to your inbox, feel free to subscribe to my About.com newsletter. Each Tuesday I send out an email with links to new articles and blog posts you can stop in to check out.

If you'd like a chance to connect with other readers and discuss the many faces of Windows, stop by the forum. That's also a great place to go for advice if you're ever having trouble getting your computer to obey your will. Also, feel free to make suggestions or requests for articles you'd like to see in the future. I want to write what you want to read, so speak out and you may just see your request granted.

I hope you'll all take the opportunity to connect and engage. I'm very interested to hear what you all have to say.

 

Windows 8.1 is Complete and Released to Manufacturers

Saturday August 31, 2013

The Windows 8.1 Preview offers a glimpse a features to come.It's official, Windows 8.1 is ready to go. The final build has been released to manufacturers but don't expect to get your hands on it early. Microsoft has no plans to release the update to the public early, not even through their soon-to-be-retired TechNet community.

The official release date for this much anticipated feature pack is October 18th and I, for one, am excited. Like many other Windows 8 users I got a taste of the enhancements to come with the 8.1 preview and I'm looking forward to the finished product.

There are plenty of tweaks and features coming that most users will find useful. Windows 8.1 does a much better job of blending the modern Start screen interface with the legacy desktop environment. Users have the option to boot straight to the desktop and even disable the hot corners with a few simple settings tweaks. You can't hate that.

While there is a lot to like, the major selling point for many consumers will be the Start button. However, this is likely to disappoint. Rather than a new menu as many users may expect, we're just getting a button to access the Start screen. Not to worry though, there are plenty of Start menu replacement apps that will suit fine.

If you can't wait for October to get these features for your installation of Windows 8, you may have a few options. Of course you can always download the 8.1 preview and install it, but there are a few troublesome side-effects to that option. If you're comfortable making edits to the registry there are a few tweaks and hacks you can employ to bend Windows 8 to your will a bit. That might be enough to hold you over.

Do you plan to install Windows 8.1 when it's release? What features are you most interested in?

Image above courtesy of Microsoft.

Microsoft Surface Pro Tablets Get a Permanent Discount

Saturday August 31, 2013

If you've been thinking about trying out a Windows 8 tablet, I've got news for you. Microsoft has recently slashed prices on the Surface Pro and Surface RT bundles. The best part, you don't have to hurry; Neowin.com reports that these prices aren't a promotion. They're here to stay.

In July Microsoft started the price slashing party with a $150 price cut for all Surface RT models. In early August they kept it going offering Surface Pros at a $100 discount. Originally it was supposed to be a limited time offer to end on August 29th, but a Microsoft spokesman informed PCMag that Microsoft has changed that:

The customer response to recent Surface pricing and keyboard-cover promotions has been exciting to see, and we are proud to begin rollout of Surface Pro, Touch Cover and Surface RT bundles at even more affordable prices starting 29 August.

The following price cuts are now permanent:

  • $100 discount to Surface Pro
  • $40 discount on Touch Covers
  • $50 discount on Surface RT bundles

The Surface tablet was intended to be the flagship product for Windows RT, but its reception has been nothing short of lackluster with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer quoted as saying, "We built a few more [Surface RT] devices than we could sell."

The slow sales of the Surface have reflected poorly on Windows 8. Lack of enthusiasm for the new interface has caused a major backlash in tech media. However, this discount program has apparently been successful in boosting sales hinting that perhaps the problem with Surface sales may have been at least partially related to the price point.

Do you think the Surface is closer to the mark at its new lower price? I'd be curious to read your insights in the comments.

 

Windows 8 is Getting a Real Start Menu...from Lenovo?

Saturday August 31, 2013

Pokki Windows 8 Start Menu replacer

Windows 8 consumers have been clamoring for the return of their beloved Start menu since the operating system's release. While Microsoft has included a Start button in its upcoming Windows 8.1 update, vocal users do not appear impressed.

In an effort to boost sales of Windows 8 devices, Lenovo has taken this issue into their own hands. In a collaboration with SweetLabs, the hardware giant will begin bundling the Pokki Start menu replacement on all of its Windows 8 hardware offerings.

Pokki not only adds a Start menu to the Windows 8 desktop, but gives users access to the Pokki app store where they can download free mini apps. While the store is tiny at this point, there are a number of great apps including Pandora, Gmail, Google Calendar and others.

It remains to be seen how this will affect hardware sales, but I think its a smart move. Ask any unhappy Windows 8 user what their primary gripe is about Microsoft's latest offering and you're likely to get an ear-full about the Start menu. By resolving this problem for themselves, Lenovo stands to attract customers that may have otherwise gone with another operating system or manufacturer.

It's a shame that the lack of a Start menu has turned off so many users. Windows 8 has a lot of great features to offer including major overhauls to core tools like the File Explorer and Task Manager, increased security, better access to admin tools and more.

While the Start menu will go a long way to resolving issues, many users will want more. For those users, there are plenty of tweaks and hacks that would allow them to resolve the annoyances without having to give up the improvements.

Would you buy Windows 8 better if it came bundled with a Start menu or are there other issues you'd need to see resolved?

Image above courtesy of SweetLabs, Inc.

Windows 7 Users Get a Shot at Internet Explorer 11

Wednesday July 31, 2013

It's an exciting time for Microsoft at the moment. As they're gearing up to roll out Windows 8.1, they're also releasing a new version of Internet Explorer. Windows 8 users have already had a chance to get their hands on this new version via the 8.1 trial, but Windows 7 users have been left in the dark...until now.

Microsoft has released a developer's preview of IE 11 for its most popular operating system giving the bulk of their consumers a shot at trying it out before its official release. Though it's labeled a Developer's preview, it's freely available to anyone who wants to try it out.

This new version will boast a few interesting new features worth testing. These include swipe navigation, WebGL which will offer better graphics performance for web pages, the ability to pin websites to your Start screen and better overall browsing performance.

Before you rush out to install it however, you should know that it may not be for everyone at this point. It's still in testing and is not likely feature complete as of yet. Installing it replaces your current version of IE with an unfinished version that could be buggy. If you're OK with the occasional hiccup however, go for it.

Though it does replace your current version of IE, it isn't a permanent install. You can easily remove it as you would any other program which will roll you back to your previously installed version of the browser.

Is anyone out there interested enough to give this a shot? Let us know what you think.

 

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