Microsoft: Return of the Start button

A trio of Microsoft executives demonstrated Windows 8.1 at Computex today and sure enough, enterprises can have their start button back.

Nick Parker, corporate VP in charge of OEM sales; Tami Reller, CFO of Windows 8.1; and Antoine Leblond, corporate VP of Windows strutted their stuff in Old Taipei.

The company said it had made over 900 improvements to Windows 8.1 following “feedback” from its customers. You can still have the tiles, optimised for touch, but you can create a large screen complete with start button and make it sticky if you want to.

“Enterprises can deploy Windows 8 more broadly,” said Parker. “With 8.1 [our] focus is on business features.”

Although the free preview version becomes available at the end of this month, the update will ship towards the end of this year. “We’ve listened and we’ve responded based on customer feedback,” Parker said.

Microsoft has changed the tile interface in Windows so you can have different sizes of tiles, small and large. It’s now easier to add applications to the start screen, Leblond said.

Redmond has also drawn together different search functions into one search system, which its marchitecture department dubs the “Search Hero”. You’ve got to search for the hero inside yourself.

Cloud service Skydrive is now built into the platform. Settings have been brought over to 8.1. On big screens, serveral more windows are available so you can see what you’re up to.

And, to get back to that pesky start button, you can fix the system so the desktop background can persist at boot up.

Microsoft claims it has made the predictive facilities on the soft keyboard for tablet systems better, with a claimed accuracy of 93 percent or so. It has also added a reading list which gives you a timeline of bookmarked web pages so you can go back and read all those pages you’ve noticed during the day.

And if you’re a cook, Microsoft has introduced a hands free mode, using the front facing camera so you don’t get paella all over your tablet. There’s also a recipe function and a shopping function for ingredients.

Microsoft will overhaul its app store and support for the app store within Windows 8.1.