When Microsoft released Windows 8, it became clear quickly that the company wanted to create an operating system that could be installed on any type of device, well, apart from smartphones that is.
What Microsoft missed at that time was that the majority of its user base was not using touch-based devices, or tablets, but desktop PCs.
The company neglected the needs of its core audience and even made decisions that would make it more difficult for users to work with the operating system.
The forced boot to the start screen, the missing start menu, and the search that always opened the start screen were three issues that the company was heavily criticized for.
Ever since that release, Microsoft has been at work to improve the usability of the operating system for desktop users. Windows 8.1 was a small step in that direction, as a boot to desktop option was implemented natively into the system.
Previously, you had to use third-party software to do so.
It appears that Windows 8.1 Update 1 will move further in that direction.
One of the most avid leakers of information about private Windows 8.1 builds Wzor claimed recently that the operating system did boot directly to the desktop after installation. This was later questioned by Mary Jo Foley who did not get a positive response from here Microsoft sources in this regard.
The feature set for Windows 8.1 Update 1 is believed to be locked-in at this point, according to one of my contacts. While there's no reason Microsoft couldn't opt to make boot-to-desktop a universal default -- or even just the default on non-touch devices/machines -- my contacts don't believe this is currently the plan.
It would make sense in my opinion to boot directly to desktop on desktop PCs, and to the start screen for tablet and touch users. Microsoft should be able to make that distinction, and as long as tutorials or guides are made to highlight the Store and start screen area to desktop users, it should not really have such a negative effect on overall use of the new interface.
Another change that is rumored to come with the update is the ability to pin apps to the taskbar. This looks like another small change, but would make sense in light of the new boot to desktop rumor.
Microsoft might pin some apps -- the store for example -- to the desktop so that non-touch users get exposed to it as well. It also means that you won't have to switch to the start screen first anymore to launch apps that you use regularly.
Another change that comes with Windows 8.1 Update 1 is the context menu that you get when you are on the Start Screen interface. A right-click displays a toolbar at the bottom or top currently only, which will change when the update gets released.
Now, you get options in a context menu that you can use directly at the position of the mouse cursor without having to move the mouse in a long arc to the top or bottom menus.
That may not be all however. A screenshot leaked by Wzor today shows the Bing Finance app and the desktop taskbar underneath it.
According to him, the taskbar becomes only available on mouse over. What's interesting here is that the taskbar is displayed when you run apps, so that you can quickly use it to switch to desktop programs, the start menu, or other taskbar features.
It is likely however that the feature won't make it into Update 1 of Windows 8.1, as it is already feature complete according to Mary Jo Foley.
It is clear that Microsoft tries to improve the attractiveness and usability of Windows 8 for desktop users, and while Update 1 is definitely a step in the right direction, provided that some of the features mentioned in this article will be implemented, it is likely that it won't convince critics of the operating system yet to make the switch.