In the seven months since Windows 8 was introduced, it's seen its share of criticism, leaving many craving an update to Microsoft's first touch-based desktop OS. Now the company has officially responded to many concerns with the announcement of Windows 8.1, the first major point update to Windows 8. A preview version will be available towards the end of this month, and Microsoft's Jensen Harris showed off some of the new Windows 8.1 features in the video embedded below.
None of the new features and tweaks on display here are particularly revolutionary, and there's no mention of bringing back the "Start" button that so many Windows 8 users miss from Windows 7 and earlier versions.
Instead, Harris runs us through a number of iterative changes like a new lock screen that displays some of your photos, revamped start screen with new tile sizes and easier access to the "all apps" screen.
There's also some new eye candy in Windows 8.1, with the introduction of "motion accents," which are basically animated backgrounds on the start screen that respond to screen touches and scrolling.
Perhaps the most compelling and useful new Windows 8.1 features shown here are improvements in multitasking, like being able to view and edit a photo right alongside Outlook, and a completely redesigned search feature.
The new Windows search presents results curated from multiple sources, both local and in the cloud, such as apps, files, images, actions and web results. It's a highly visual experience that highlights selected "hero" results, but we only see search results for queries on "Atlanta" and "Marilyn Monroe" in the video, leaving me to wonder if the experience would be nearly as pretty for more esoteric searches.
You can see all the Windows 8.1 features I've mentioned in action below. The Windows 8.1 preview is scheduled to become available on June 26.