Scorecard: Windows 8.1 Update 1 fails the Windows Red test

In the battle of Windows 8 fixes, Microsoft falls far short of InfoWorld's expectations in its latest OS update

It's hard to watch Microsoft's pathetic response to the firestorm of criticism that's rained down on Windows 8 in big part because it's been so, well, pathetic.

InfoWorld didn't want to just cross our fingers and hope Windows 8.1 ("Windows Blue") would fix what was wrong -- it was pretty clear it wouldn't. Instead, we drafted our own plan to fix Windows 8: Windows Red.

We're now waiting on the release of the second update to Windows 8 -- aka Windows 8.1 Update 1 -- and from everything we've heard, it's no better than the last one. All of the most urgent problems with Windows 8 remain, a strong hint that we'll have to wait until at least Windows 9 comes along to see any of them addressed in a significant manner.

To demonstrate the full extent of Microsoft's apparent tone deafness, here's a rundown of all the major changes suggested for Windows Red -- changes designed to directly address the major complaints people have had with Windows 8 -- and whether or not Windows 8.1 Update 1 includes it, or in what form.

Suggested Windows Red feature Does Windows 8.1 Update 1 have it?
Discrete editions of Windows for PC and mobile No
Windowed Metro apps on the Desktop No
Boot to Desktop Yes
Restoration of the classic Start menu No
Use Metro live tiles on Desktop No
Windows Phone's People app No
Charms bar removed No, but Power and Search buttons appear to be relocated for easier access
Embedded Share widget in apps No
Consistent Control Panel redesign No
Revamped Snap View for Metro Sort of; you can control splits and minimize Metro apps

This isn't even about replicating the feature set of Windows Red in Windows. It's about how there's no discernible work being done to address most of the major, chronic problems freely admitted to be afflicting Windows of late.

Some of these requests were, admittedly, too pie-in-the-sky to be included in a minor revision for Windows. For example, we likely won't see separate SKUs so that Windows is marketed in discrete mobile, tablet, and desktop editions except in a full point release. But the other feature changes hardly seem like items you'd need to wait for the next product cycle to enjoy.

About the only smart move Microsoft has made with Windows 8.1 Update 1 is to include the ability to boot straight to the Windows Desktop -- by some reports, making that the default behavior. Another addition which wasn't even on our list is better support for high-DPI devices. It's a nice tip of the hat to people using 4K displays. However, does that really constitute more of a hotly demanded feature than, say, a sane approach to the handling of Metro apps or the return of the classic, unobtrusive Start menu? (You'll still need to install third-party software to get those features.)

You know Windows 8 is in trouble when even one of its most stalwart defenders, Paul Thurrott, pulls an about-face and declares Windows 8 "a disaster in every sense of the word," a "design by committee" product. "It's time to double-down on the people who actually use your products," he wrote, "not some mythical group of consumers who will never stop using their simpler Android and iOS devices just because you wish they would."

Windows Red was put together with the notion that Windows could indeed satisfy its desktop, notebook, and tablet users without compromise. Unless Microsoft is simply saving all of its ammunition for the next revision to the left of the decimal point -- I'm really hoping that's the case -- the evidence that the company believes anything like that, too, is still scant.

This article, "Scorecard: Windows 8.1 Update 1 fails the Windows Red test," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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