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Windows 8.1 and the Evolution of PC Computing

Windows 8.1 and the Evolution of PC Computing

Back in December 2011, we wrote about Microsoft Windows 8 and the Tablet Market. At that time, Windows 8 was just around the corner, hardware manufacturers were experimenting with new types of devices, and we were unsure how it was all going to come together. Windows 8 was the first major – and very ambitious – change to the Windows user interface (UI) since Windows 95 almost two decades earlier and was met with mixed reviews because it significantly changed the way we interact with our PCs. Traditional PC users complained – quite vocally – that Microsoft was forcing a mobile-first experience that they did not want and disrupting their ability to use their PCs. However, one thing was and is sure – Microsoft is fully committed to merging mobile and traditional PC computing, and Windows 8 was the first leap forward in that revolution.

Microsoft released Windows 8.1 on October 17, 2013. Microsoft is committed to more rapid updates to Windows instead of major upgrades every three years, and Windows 8.1 is the first proof that they are serious about that, with Windows 8.1 coming only about a year after the release of Windows 8.


Don’t expect any undoing of the major UI changes unveiled in Windows 8. Instead, Windows 8.1 represents a more refined version of Microsoft vision to marry mobile and traditional PCs; mobile devices take center stage instead of traditional PCs, and apps backed by cloud services take the focus away from heavy desktop applications with local storage. Microsoft hasn’t taken away a user’s ability to use a Windows 8.x PC just like a Windows 7 PC, but the foundation is there to allow users to use their PCs in the new-generation cloud-backed computing world, behind the firewall on a business network with local or server-based storage, or even both.

Again, make no mistake – Microsoft is fully and firmly committed to the future direction they started in with Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 makes few compromises. Instead, it adds a lot of refinement that should please both those ready to embrace mobile-first computing and those wanting to have a more traditional PC experience. Some of the changes in Windows 8.1 include

  • The Start button is on the desktop! This is not the Start Menu we all know and love from Windows 95 through Windows 7. Rather, this button will take you to the Windows 8.1 Start screen where you can select apps to launch. To further ease the transition, you can set the Start button to show the Apps view instead of the Start screen when you click, and even list traditional desktop apps first.


  • You can boot directly to the desktop instead of the Start screen, addressing one of the biggest complaints from traditional PC users, especially in business environments.

  • The Start screen now has more customization options, with multiple tiles sizes, more graphical personalization options, and less error-prone layout changes.

  • More Control Panel features are available in the Metro-based UI, allowing mobile users to avoid using the traditional Control Panel to make changes.

  • Search has been expanded into Smart Search, which combines local PC search with Bing-based web search results.

  • SkyDrive cloud storage is more integrated than ever, with a much-improved sync engine built directly into Windows 8.1. Sync loads icons and the minimum information necessary to identify a file, then downloads the full file on-the-fly when you open it. You can set individual files and folders to always be available offline, or even set your full SkyDrive instance to be offline. Your settings and apps are also on SkyDrive, allowing you to move from Windows 8.1 PC to Windows 8.1 PC seamlessly.

  • All of the built-in apps (Mail, Calendar, People, etc.) have received updates to

These are just a few highlights of the changes in Windows 8.1. Best of all, Windows 8.1 is a free update for Windows 8 users. Just go to the Windows Store and download it online.

Hardware makers are rapidly innovating as well, announcing new PC and tablet form factors and hybrids to take advantage of the hybrid nature of Windows 8.x. Microsoft refined their own Surface Pro with the Surface Pro 2. Sony and Dell are competing directly with the Surface Pro with the Sony VAIO Tap 11 Tablet PC and Dell Venue 11 Pro. Lenovo is really throwing out the PC/tablet/hybrid design rulebook with offerings like the Yoga Pro 2 and IdeaPad Yoga 11S.

If you use a Windows 8 PC, the upgrade to 8.1 is highly recommended. If you’re using an older version of Windows and are put off by the UI changes in Windows 8.x, it’s fair to say that your opinion is unlikely to change with Windows 8.1. That said, Microsoft is working to make the transitions less abrupt and jarring when switching between Modern and traditional UI, so you’re likely to find Windows 8.1 an easier transition.

If you’re looking to replace old Windows XP PCs (remember that support for Windows XP ends on April 8, 2014), or if you have business needs that lend themselves to a mobile solution, consider Windows 8.1. Let Colden Company help you decide if Windows 8.1 or any of the modern PC designs are a good fit for your business needs. If you’d like to know more, call us at (888) 600-4560, email us at, see us on Facebook , or follow us on Twitter.



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