Microsoft hopes to fix Windows 8 with update

With the release of Windows 8 seven months With the release of Windows 8 seven months ago, Microsoft introduced a startup screen displaying applications in a mosaic of interactive tiles instead of static icons. Above, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer last year. (Oct. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Bloomberg

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Microsoft is trying to fix what it got wrong with its radical makeover of Windows. It's making the operating system easier to navigate and enabling users to set up the software so it starts in a more familiar format designed for personal computers.

The revisions to Windows 8 will be released later this year. The free update, called Windows 8.1, represents Microsoft's concessions to longtime customers taken aback by the dramatic changes to an operating system that had become a staple in households and offices around the world during the past 20 years.

Research group IDC has blamed Windows 8 for accelerating a decline in PC sales.

With the release of Windows 8 seven months ago, Microsoft introduced a startup screen displaying applications in a mosaic of interactive tiles instead of static icons. The shift agitated many users who wanted the option to launch the operating system in a mode that resembled the old setup. That choice will be provided in Windows 8.1.

However, Microsoft isn't bringing back the start menu on the lower left corner of the screen. Windows has offered the button for accessing all programs and settings on every previous version of the operating system since 1995. Microsoft believes the startup screen replaces the need for a button, but its omission has ranked among the biggest gripes about Windows 8.

Microsoft is hoping to quiet the critics by resurrecting an omnipresent Windows logo anchored in the lower left corner. Users will also be able to ensure their favorite applications, including Word and Excel, appear in a horizontal tool bar next to the Windows logo. Accessing apps outside the toolbar will still require using the tiles or calling them up in a more comprehensive search engine included in the Windows 8.1 updates.

Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., announced its plans for Windows 8.1 in early May, but it didn't offer details about what it will include until Thursday.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi predicted the desktop option will spur more sales of Windows 8 computers.

"Some people were getting fixated" on the desktop issue, Milanesi said. "This may cause more people who felt uncomfortable with Windows 8 to take a second look."

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