Windows 8 RTM one year ago today; we take a look back

This new Start screen infuriated some most users.

It’s been exactly one year since Windows 8 was released to manufacturing by Microsoft. The new OS was supposed to be Microsoft’s bid for relevancy in a “post PC” world, combining the Desktop with the Modern mobile world of tablets.

Windows 8 was an operating system with a lot to prove. It was following in the footsteps of Windows 7, the best selling OS in history, and the OS that most of Microsoft’s customers had fallen in love with. Not only that, but Windows 8 was also bringing massive changes to the desktop, this move also reflected the changes that were happening inside Microsoft itself. So now that we’re one year further, let’s see how Windows 8 has fared.

Despite heavy criticisms from the start, and a slew of analysts, market watchers and even tech journalists yelling that the new OS was doomed to fail, and that Microsoft was falling into irrelevancy, Windows 8 started gaining ground from the moment it was launched.

The radical UI changes, the new app distribution model, the dichotomy and infuriating double personality of Windows 8 all seemed to fade away as users started adopting Microsoft’s latest creation. Adoption rate has been steadily increasing with Windows 8 overtaking Vista a couple of months ago and now accounting for 5.4% of the desktop market. Of course compared to Windows 7 this isn't impressive at all - yet, but for an OS that was supposedly doomed, it’s pretty good.

Windows 8 also heralded the age of the hybrid devices. Microsoft had tried, and partly succeeded in driving its OEM partners to innovate and create new form-factors, designed to take advantage of the dual nature of Windows 8.

Some OEMs have seen success with their new line of devices, while others have faltered, but one thing’s for sure: convertible devices with touch screens are here to stay and that’s mainly because of Windows 8. While this first wave was seen as disappointing by many, advances in both hardware and software are sure to lead to higher quality, better selling devices in the near future.

Microsoft’s newest OS also envisioned a new way for developers to create and distribute apps by launching the Windows Store. This is a whole new way for devs to ensure compatibility and control over all the devices that the apps get installed on, not to mention an easier way to monetize. Even though the Windows Store has recently passed the 100.000 apps mark, the lack of quality and desirable apps is showing that Microsoft still has a lot of work to do before this becomes a success.

So one year later, Windows 8 has changed many things in the desktop market and has ruffled a lot of feathers. It has brought Microsoft’s vision for the future to its users but its dual nature and lack of polish has left many people confused. The new UI was never properly explained and some users have stayed away due to fear of new things. While adoption rates are slowly moving up, the OS has failed to meet Microsoft’s expectations and the first wave of convertible devices have left most people unimpressed.

Windows 8.1 comes with a lot of tweaks, including different tile sizes and gestures.

The good news is that Microsoft is keenly aware of all these issues and is working on fixing them. Windows 8.1, dubbed Blue, is just around the corner being expected to RTM very soon. The update to the OS brings some much needed polish, improved UI, better controls on the Modern side of the OS and it also brings some features that Microsoft’s customers have been asking for such as boot to desktop.

Will Windows 8.1 reinvigorate the PC market and bring it back to its glory days? Of course not, and whoever expected that doesn't understand how the market works or what people want. However 8.1 will bring polish and improvements and it will finally let the OS shine the way it was meant to from the start.

Images via Net Applications and Lenovo

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