Microsoft officially announced today Windows 8.1 Update 1, an important refresh of the operating system for laptops, tablets, and other PCs. The software maker confirmed Spring 2014 as the time-frame for the release and intention of the Update to “make the UI more familiar and more convenient for users with mouse/keyboard”.
The most of the steps leading toward mouse/keyboard friendliness of Windows 8.1 were known prior to the official announcement. The list of these steps contains addition of a “Close” button to Metro-style apps, pinning Metro-style apps to the classic Desktop Task Bar, old-style Context menus in the Metro UI, and Shutdown and Search buttons on the top right of the Metro Start screen. We can now include addition of so called Jumplists to Metro-style desktop apps when they are pinned to Desktop’s Task Bar, as well as accessibility to the Task Bar from anywhere within OS. Just like with regular Windows desktop apps, the Jumplists will show additional items specific to a Metro app, such as open a recent document, or perform a function. Also, media-centric Metro apps will get pop-up playback controls when the app is pinned to the Task Bar. The Task Bar itself will be accessible even in the Metro environment and Metro apps by moving your mouse pointer to the bottom of the screen.
Besides optimizations aimed at the traditional mouse/keyboard use, Microsoft will lower hardware requirements of 8.1. It’ll be possible to install OS on devices with only 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. This, alongside expected price reduction for Windows licences to OEMs, will definitely make very cheap Windows tablets and laptops possible. We assume prices of these low-end devices will probably be around $200, because today you can find Windows tablets with 2GB RAM and 32GB storage at discounted prices of about $250.