Microsoft Corporation's Windows 8.1 Update: What Users Need to Know

Microsoft's latest Windows OS update makes it easier for keyboard and mouse fans to use the system.

Apr 3, 2014 at 10:20AM


Source: Microsoft.

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows operating system has had a bit of an identity crisis lately. And who can blame it? The operating system is nearly 30 years old, and it's transitioned -- quite well, mind you -- through a lot of tech trends.

But the mobile world, with its fancy touch screens, threw Windows for a loop the past couple of years. Microsoft tried to bridge the gap between touch and traditional PCs with Windows 8, which hasn't gone as smoothly as the company had hoped. Luckily, with the recently announced Window 8.1 update, Microsoft is taking a few steps to bring its beloved and beleaguered Windows back on track.

If it ain't broke
Microsoft's big changes for Windows 8.1 are geared at making its desktop and laptop users a little happier -- or at least confusing them less. Many of the changes bring back functionality that traditional PC users will find familiar.


The taskbar update now includes a pinned version of the Windows Store. Source: Microsoft.

Here are a few changes Microsoft is making in the new Windows 8.1 update:

  • Ability to pin new Windows apps to the desktop taskbar
  • An app search bar on the desktop homepage
  • PCs and laptops automatically boot to the desktop screen
  • Windows Store apps can now be minimized and closed from a title bar at the top of the screen
  • The taskbar can be viewed from any screen
  • Right clicking a live tile can change its size, uninstall the app, or change other settings

Users can now minimize and close Windows Store apps from the title bar. Source: Microsoft.

Why Microsoft needs these changes
The company needs to give its Windows users every incentive possible to switch to Windows 8, and 8.1. According to Net Applications, Windows 7 makes up 48.7% of all Windows OS market share, and Windows XP makes up 27.7%. Meanwhile Windows 8 and 8.1 take up a combined 11%. 

Obviously Microsoft wants users to be on its latest software, but the drastic difference between Windows 7 and Windows 8 have kept many from moving to the latest version, or encouraged the upgrade from XP to 7. By tweaking Windows 8.1, Microsoft hopes to lure back its desktop and laptop users who've been frustrated with Windows 8's original focus on touch screens.

Foolish final thoughts
Microsoft needs users to be happy with the latest software, because it makes up a big portion of its revenue. For the company's quarter ending in December, Microsoft's Devices and Consumer segment -- which includes Windows OEM sales, Xbox, Bing, and Surface tablets -- made $11.9 billion. 

Windows OEM revenue declined 3% year over year, while Windows OEM Pro revenue grew by 12%. But PC sales are on a downward trend in the midst of mobile's growth, and Microsoft said in its latest earnings release that there's "continued softness in the consumer PC market." 

I think the Windows 8.1 update addresses a lot concerns desktop and laptop users had with the latest OS, but it'll still take some time to convince people to upgrade. For businesses that saw Windows 8 as a really drastic change from XP and 7, it may take years before they switch, even with the latest changes.

Microsoft was late to mobile, but it can't afford to miss this
While Microsoft is retooling Windows to appeal more to mouse and keyboard users, it's also in the midst of playing a game of catch-up in mobile, with its Windows Phone OS and Surface tablet. But there's another wave of tech the company needs to get ready for -- wearables. While Microsoft may not be ready for it yet, investors don't have to miss out. Click here to get the full story in this new report.

Fool contributor Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers