Windows 8.1 update: Good, but no XP killer

The Windows 8.1 update does a nice job of trying to force its dueling touch-oriented and desktop interfaces to get along. It's no coincidence, though, that the update was released on the same day that Microsoft ended support for Windows XP. If the update's purpose was get people to move off Windows XP and take up Windows 8.1, it failed.

I'll have a full review of the Windows 8.1 update later. But in my first look at it, I found that a number of useful new features help bridge the gap between the touch-oriented Start screen and Metro apps, and the mouse-and-keyboard-oriented desktop. Metro apps can now appear in the taskbar, and can be pinned to the taskbar, for example. And the taskbar can also be made to show up on the Start screen.

These and other changes make Windows 8.1 a better interface for those who use keyboards and mice than it was in the past. But that's not going to tempt Windows XP users to upgrade to it. First of all, many XP users clearly don't embrace change, given how long they've stayed with the aging operating system. And even though the Windows 8.1 update makes its separate interfaces seem somewhat more integrated, it's still vastly different than Windows 8.1, particularly the Start screen and Metro apps.

Secondly, it's not clear that people with XP machines have hardware capable of running Windows 8.1. In tech terms, many XP PCs are many generations removed from today's PCs.

And then there are all the many reasons people have chosen not to leave XP, even though support is at an end. The main reason, above all, though, is that it delivers exactly what they need to get their work done. There's nothing in the Windows 8.1 update that gives them anything they need beyond that. So they won't make the move.

So yes, Microsoft deserves congratulations on a nicely done Windows 8.1 update. But it won't make Windows XP users even blink an eye.

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