VARs: New Windows 8.1 Features Will Help


Windows 8 users will have greater personalization options, more search options and the ability to access PC settings without having to go to the control panel, according to a blog post Thursday from Microsoft.

The new details might help win Microsoft gain more acceptance in the market for its latest operating system, but there's still much work to do before corporate customers will completely embrace it, said several solution providers.

Michael Goldstein, president of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based VAR, said the new features are evidence that Microsoft is listening to customers.

Related: Microsoft: Windows 8 Touch Devices Gaining Momentum (Video)

"Some of the enhancements will make it easier to use and are really going to make a big difference," Goldstein said. "The keyboard and mouse movements are really big. We have a couple Windows 8 tablets and they didn't move as well as iOS."

On the other hand, Derek Davis, principal and managing partner at Intelli-NET, a Greenville, S.C.-based solution provider, thinks Microsoft needs to go further.

"In terms of corporate acceptance of Windows 8, I don't necessarily think the 'tile look' of Windows 8 is helpful ... but changing the habit of pressing a 'Start' button is hard to do," Davis said. "It would also be nice if we could turn 'off' the Tiles interface for non-touch appliances -- like desktops."

Michael Gavaghen, vice president of sales at SLPowers, a West Palm Beach, Fla.-based solution provider, notes that Microsoft has been forced to make changes to accommodate a more mobile environment.

"My reaction, not having played with [Windows 8.1] yet, is to make note of the Microsoft comment, 'the reality that the lines between our work and personal lives have blurred,'" Gavaghen said. "Now that we work around the clock from wherever we are, it's all about making the omnipresent workspace more palatable. The announcement doesn't pay much attention to business applications or outcomes. But if 8.1 makes work feel more like the rest of our online experience, maybe we'll do more of it. I guess that's a business outcome in itself."

Microsoft will offer more Windows 8.1 details next week at its TechEd North American conference in New Orleans, wrote Microsoft's Antoine Leblond in the blog.

"Not only will Windows 8.1 respond to customer feedback, but it will add new features and functionality that advance the touch experience and mobile computing's potential," Leblond wrote. "Windows 8.1 will deliver improvements and enhancements in key areas like personalization, search, the built-in apps, Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity. Windows 8.1 will also include big bets for business in areas such as management and security"

Two weeks ago, Microsoft officially announced Windows 8.1, previously codenamed Windows Blue, as a free update to customers expected later this year.

Microsoft has sold more than 100 million Windows 8 licenses, including an unknown number that haven't been deployed yet, but VARs have been challenged selling it into the corporate space.

In the blog, Microsoft's Leblond seemed to acknowledge that Windows 8 is a work in progress.

"We've learned from customers on how they are using the product and have received a lot of feedback. We've delivered hundreds of updates to the product and to apps. We're just getting started, and the potential ahead is tremendous," Leblond wrote.

PUBLISH MAY 30, 2013