Windows 8 “Blue” update will actually be Windows 8.1 – a free update

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Microsoft is preparing an update to Windows 8 for release later this year to address complaints and confusion with the new operating system.

Not charging extra for Windows 8.1, previously code named “Windows Blue”, is consistent with the company’s practice of offering “decimal point” updates to operating systems for free. But when Microsoft announced the update last week, it didn’t say that it would be free.

Tami Reller, the marketing and financial chief for Microsoft’s Windows business, said the company wants to assure customers that they can buy Windows 8 now and still get the benefits of Windows 8.1 later.

“Windows 8.1 will be delivered as a free update to Windows 8 and to Windows RT and it will be easy to get right from the Windows start screen through the app store,” said Reller.

Windows 8 is the most radical overhaul of Microsoft’s operating system since Windows 95 came out nearly two decades ago. It was revamped to embrace the types of touch-screen controls popular on smartphones and tablet computers, devices that are siphoning sales from the desktop and laptop PCs that have been Microsoft’s traditional stronghold. Windows 8 was released with much fanfare in October, but got a lukewarm reception from consumers.

Part of the problem is that Windows 8 tries to be all things to all people. It’s designed to respond to touch-screen controls, but it also works with traditional mouse and keyboard commands. It offers a new layout that resembles tablet computers, but it also has a desktop mode that looks like previous versions of Windows. What results is confusion.

In addition, many of the controls to launch programs and change settings have been tucked away. That gives Windows 8 a cleaner look, but it also requires people to do more work finding all the controls. Gone is the familiar start button that gave people quick access to programs and settings. To change settings, people must pull out a drawer of icons from the side, using different maneuvers depending on whether the control is through touch or a mouse. Windows 8 may have offered a new start screen filled with tiles that link to frequently used programs, but some programs work only in a desktop mode that resemble older versions of Windows – but without the start button. Windows 8 doesn’t let people automatically start in that desktop mode.

Let’s hope the ne new updates will bring back a glimpse of the old Windows.

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