Microsoft has unveiled some of the changes it is set to make to Windows 8, insisting that it has been watching and listening to feedback on the OS.
At the end of June, to coincide with its developer conference Build, the vendor will release Windows 8.1 in preview mode to consumers and businesses alike in a move to give users what it claims are the latest advancements in the technology.
In the latest update, Microsoft only hinted at some of the changes, and claims more details will be revealed in the coming months. The update, which will be available "later this year" can be downloaded free to existing consumers through the Windows Store.
The update will include "big bets for business" in areas such as management and security, according to Microsoft, which declined to unveil any further details specific to businesses.
Overall enhancements will revolve around personalisation of the home screen, enhanced search tools and heavier cloud integration.
In a blog post outlining the details, Microsoft explained its cloud updates will make data more accessible.
It claimed: "In Windows 8.1 your files can be saved directly to SkyDrive, so you can always have your files with you. The new SkyDrive app gives you access to your files that are on your device or in the cloud, and files are accessible even when offline."
Windows 8 has taken a battering from some analysts since its launch last autumn, with some blaming it for failing to reignite the ailing PC market. In April, IDC claimed the market had its worst quarter (Q1) since records began, and specifically pinpointed the lack of the familiar Start button as putting users off the new OS.
In today's Windows 8.1 announcement, Microsoft did not comment on the removal of the button, or whether it would be making a comeback, but did hint at a new Start "tip" which appears when you move the mouse to the bottom-left hand corner.
Last month, Microsoft hit out at a Sunday Times report which claimed – after a pre-briefing on the update – that it was "one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola's New Coke fiasco". The vendor claimed the newspaper report did not "accurately represent the content or the context of [the] conversation".
Reseller NCI Technologies' managing director Andy Trish said his SMB customer base is not interested in Windows 8, and that the latest update of the OS is unlikely to reinvigorate their interest.
But Software One's managing director Zak Virdi (pictured) said the removal of the Start button was merely superficial and that response to the OS at his firm has been fairly positive.
In its blog post, Microsoft claimed Windows 8 uptake so far has been "substantial".
It said: "Windows 8 has been a bold, necessary move towards mobility for the PC industry – pushing ourselves and our industry ahead with a touch-first approach that is redefining the PC as we know it, while offering the best of all worlds across any device at any time.
"Our commitment to that vision – and to always improving – remains the same as we stay the course of the evolution of Windows with Windows 8.1. We have been watching, we've been listening."
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