Windows 8.1 Moment of Truth: How Many Will Update April 8?

Windows 8

When Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) released Windows 8, it was the target of scathing criticisms. Microsoft took a dangerous leap away from what Windows had traditionally been in order to create an interface that fit more appropriately on tablets. Since many Windows users weren’t on tablets, the Metro interface could be a pain in the neck — not to mention the general lack of willingness to embrace a change as drastic as that between Windows 7 and Windows 8.

The inclusion of the Metro interface might not have been a horrible thing for Microsoft to do — it at least gave users the opportunity to have the new, stylish interface — but the removal of the start bar made a lot of people really sore, and upped the learning curve for the new OS more than many people wanted to deal with.

Microsoft addressed these problems with the release of Windows 8.1, which came out for free and reintroduced the start bar. The changes made it a bit easier for Windows users to feel at home again, but left the Metro interface intact for those people who had touchscreens included in their devices.

The update to Windows 8.1 may have helped drive some converts from Windows XP and Windows 7, and help appease other earlier converts, but there were clearly plenty of people not ready to make the shift. Data from StatCounter reported by TechCrunch showed that almost 55 percent of desktop computer were running Windows 7 as of March and another 18.6 percent still have Windows XP. Windows 8 and 8.1 sits back as No. 4 and 5 for computer operating systems with a little less than 14 percent — enough to top Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Mac OSX together, but neither top it individually.

In a recent attempt to get more people to upgrade, Microsoft announced that it would no longer be offering support the old Windows XP operating system on April 8. The move is clearly aiming to boost Windows 8.1, as Microsoft is also issuing an update for Windows 8.1 on that same day.

According to CNET, the update is meant to make life a bit easier for Windows users that don’t have touchscreens, since an operating system that is optimized for touch devices hasn’t proved fantastic for regular mouse and keyboard operation.

Microsoft is playing it cool by offering the update for free to any Windows 8.1 users. Of course, Windows 8 users should be able to get up to the latest update for free as well, as Microsoft has been offering the 8 to 8.1 upgrade for free. For users looking to get up to 8.1 from Windows 7 or below, it will cost upwards of $100.

Among the update’s features, PCMag reports that users will have the option to boot their computers straight to the familiar home screen of past Windows versions, the search and power-down functions will be much easier to spot with buttons added to the Metro screen, and the side menus will not get in the way as often when users move their mouse to the side of the screen for normal tasks within a full-size window.

The moment of truth is upon Microsoft, as the lack of support for Windows XP will likely start forcing the many users of the world’s No. 2 computer operating system to decide where they want to go next, whether it be Windows 8.1 or perhaps Windows’ closest competitor, Mac.

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