Microsoft releases 'refined' Windows, revs up developers

Wed Jun 26, 2013 5:28pm EDT
 
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By Malathi Nayak and Bill Rigby

SAN FRANCISCO/SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp released a test version of its Windows 8.1 software on Wednesday, bringing back the "start" button and adding a host of features it hopes will appeal to users, while spurring developers into writing more applications for it.

The updated Windows, which was signaled at the end of May, is aimed chiefly at soothing traditional computer users, many of whom were unsettled by Microsoft's shift towards a new "tile"-based interface that works best on touch-enabled devices, but left fans of the old-style desktop confused.

"Since we announced and shipped Windows 8, suffice it to say, we pushed boldly and yet what we found was we got a lot of feedback from users of those millions of desktop applications," said Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, opening the company's annual developer conference in San Francisco.

"If I was to put it in coffee terms, 'Why don't you go and refine the blend here?' Let's remix the desktop and your modern application experience. Let's balance them better," said Ballmer, summing up user feedback.

The result is the reinstatement of the 'start' button, and easier ways to find and access applications, along with a highly improved search function, some of which was announced last month.

Microsoft shares closed up 2 percent at $34.35 on Nasdaq, outpacing generally higher markets.

Ballmer also promised a "rapid release cycle" for Windows in future, abandoning its previous policy of making new versions of Windows every three years, in an effort to match Apple Inc and Google Inc.

THUMBS-UP FROM WINDOWS FANS   Continued...

 
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer displays Windows phones during his keynote address at the Microsoft "Build" conference in San Francisco, California June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith