As predicted, Windows 8 is neither setting the world on fire nor getting much sympathy from the critics. Microsoft must now make a bold move: Release a version 8.1 as soon as possible.
Back before Windows 95, the company released a lot of "point step" incremental upgrade versions of both Windows and DOS. There was a Windows 3 and a Windows 3.1, for example. In fact, there was even a 3.11 and 3.2. This was done to tweak the offering as Windows was still being fine-tuned to meet user demands and needs.
This sort of tinkering was even more common during the DOS era. It became difficult with XP and Vista because there was no numbering scheme. By the end of the Vista era, people ended up forgetting the point step upgrades and instead used endless weekly patches.
With the introduction of Windows 7 and a return to the numerical system, we could easily have had 7.1 or 7.2, but of course that never happened. Now it has been nearly 20 years since the incremental changes were commonplace and I have to think that the young'uns who populate the Microsoft executive suite are clueless about and probably scared of the concept. They do not realise that it was this technique that made Microsoft what it is today, and that it could restore the company to its former glory.
After all, why use numbering if you aren't going to implement point step changes? From a psychological perspective, users see point step changes as proactive. It looks like the company is busy working on new ideas and actively recompiling. Patch Tuesday and service packs make it look like the company is trying to repair a leaky boat. There's a huge difference in connotation. If you want to know why Microsoft stock has not moved in over a decade, this is the reason.
So what should 8.1 actually be?
The way I see it, 8.1 should have a software toggle that eliminates the clunky touch-focused interface altogether. Boom! Gone! The 40 or 50 people who buy touchscreens for their desktop machine can toggle it on if they want it. This would immediately eliminate the stupidity of full screen apps that cannot be scaled down or windowed.
I've already written about this problem, but to summarise, people do not go out and buy a 27in monitor (or two of them) to run any application full screen. Why would they? And why would anyone want to run any application full screen ever? The only time you do it is perhaps to watch a movie on the computer. This incorrect notion obviously came from people who do not actually use computers. And this in itself is weird. Bill Gates is still the chairman of the company, so did he approve this nonsense at a board meeting or is he totally checked out from the company, preferring to hobnob with the elites in Africa?
Windows 8.1 could also incorporate all the patches thus far into a new build. I don't know about you, but I think the whole idea of having hundreds of patches in any OS is unnerving. I'd rather get a new build every so often. It's okay to have patches for a while, but then get rid of them with a new compilation and a numerical step.
Google is a pro at this, using the very old-fashioned "double point" upgrade, like Android 3.2.1 or some such thing.
I know for a fact that Microsoft was at least thinking about a yearly upgrade as far back as 1995. It couldn't pull it off and ended up with Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows 2000. Finally it gave up on the idea. Then the company came up with the "XP" and "Vista" monikers with patches galore and weird rebuilds called service packs. None of this worked as well as the more manageable point step system. The first service pack for Windows 7 should actually be Windows 7.1 and distributed as such, recompiled.
With Windows 8, Microsoft has the opportunity to return to this sensible and established concept by releasing Windows 8.1. It should do so now.