Is Windows 8.1 A Positive Catalyst For Shares?

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Chris Lau, Kapitall: Microsoft (MSFT) was prompted to update its Windows 8 operating system after weak sales for the platform. Dubbed simply as Windows 8.1, the preview was made live on the Windows Store. Is the refresh going to help sales in Windows software?

[Read more from Chris Lau: NVIDIA Licensing Is Good News for Investors]

Start button returns

Windows 8.1 brings back the much needed Start button. The inclusion helps user navigate more seamlessly between the Start screen and the desktop.

Click here for a video of the Windows 8.1 preview. 

Apps may now be custom organized

In Windows 8, the master list of apps was presented in alphabetical order. Microsoft now gives users the option of viewing apps by category, by date installed, or by most-used.

SkyDrive deeply integrated

SkyDrive, which lets users save and access files to the cloud, is more deeply integrated in Windows 8.1. This gives Microsoft’s ecosystem more stickiness with users, since devices and computers running SkyDrive will be available from one device to another. Files uploaded to the drive are available within seconds on other devices, without the need for users to take additional action. Cloud storage is a rapidly growing service. Dropbox, a competitor to SkyDrive, is thought to have doubled late last year, to 100 million users. Users save a billion files every 24 hours.

App Store updated

Apps will become a source of revenue for the Windows 8 platform. Apps were made popular by Apple Inc. (AAPL), so Microsoft has lots of work to do to catch up. Microsoft made the “top paid” category more prominent on the main screen. A recommendation engine was also added. The two updates should help drive app sales.

Analysis and conclusions

Sometimes change is good, but when key interface features are altered – adding to the confusion - users will not accept the change. Microsoft did well to recognize the need to boot to desktop, returning to a familiar screen with a “Start” option. Despite the attempt, Microsoft may not have gone far enough to improve the interface. An external “Classic Shell’ is already available for users who want a Start-like interface.