All this hoopla about the changes in Windows 8.1 Update 1 made me think. We can thank our stars the Internet was in its very infancy back in 1995. Or the Start Menu could have found itself in a rather perilous predicament.

Undoubtedly, one of Microsoft’s greatest innovations was providing PC users control over their destiny with the original Start Menu in Windows 95. But it was still a radical change to what previous versions of the OS offered, and one can imagine some users taking their time to come to grips with it.

Over the next few iterations of Windows, this handy little tool was refined and polished, ultimately leading it to become indispensable for power and novice users alike.

Microsoft tried to pull off the same stroke of genius, ingenuity and innovation with the Start Screen in Window 8. Apps were a necessity in Redmond’s modern platform, what with the competitors putting up a direct assault.

And in many ways the Start Screen, too, was an obligation.

Problems only arose after the company made some autocratic changes by removing the Start Button (and with it the Start Menu) in Windows 8. But the increased emphasis on Modern UI — some would say at the expense of the desktop — was what gave way to the public criticism of the new operating system.

No point in going over them again, but now there are talks of the company putting the focus back on the desktop, or at least the taskbar (if nothing else) in the upcoming Windows 8.1 Update.

And this begs the question whether this is a change of heart, or an obligatory maneuver.

It’s A Bird!

These past few days (and weeks, in fact) have provided us with enough ammunition to fire of the first shorts on what this upcoming refresh of the OS will bring. It is a bona fide refresh, make no mistake, similar to the game that is being played on the smartphone front.

Instead of service packs and GDR releases, Microsoft now deals in Updates. Windows Phone 8 recently got its new version rollout by the name of Update 3, and this is the case with Windows 8.1 Update 1 too.

What this means is that this is a major update to the platform, by all accounts.

And as the recent flow of information in the form of screenshots, leaks, rumors, and opinions has shown us, Microsoft seems keen to increase its focus on the UI this time around, instead of adding new features — features like boot to desktop by default, new options for Metro apps, among others.

But as this new report reveals, there is a bit of a merger of two worlds here.

It is either Metro apps running in full screen on the desktop, or desktop features (like the taskbar) added to these Modern UI applications. In any case, some big changes are surely on their way.

It’s A Plane!

Through it all one thing is certain — the Modern UI is here to stay. It will stay on desktop, as it will drive tablet and touch devices. Microsoft has come too far now to go back. The Metro apps, Windows Store, Modern UI, Live Tiles, the whole enchilada will be a part of future versions of Windows.

It is the way of the future, true, but then again, one meets the future with weapons of reason.

Redmond has had more than enough time to gather ample feedback to see what is working and what is not. Many expected the fusion of the two environments only in Windows 9, with this upcoming update just adding some cosmetic fixes and usability optimizations.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that Windows 8.1 Update 1 either brings these rumored (and requested) features, or lays the groundwork for their implementation in Windows 9 final.

It’s A Return To Senses!

As the saying goes, second thoughts are usually the best. For Microsoft, the next logical step is not just further refinement of its two environments, but also making Metro apps more accessible to desktop users — users that jump back and forth between Metro apps and traditional programs.

A streamlined approach of using modern applications on the desktop, and providing power options (available to desktop users) for Metro apps is the only way forward.

The transition of modern apps into a windowed environment also shows that the company is not only listening and taking consumer feedback into account, but is also actively looking to make the necessary changes. It is a return to senses, of what Windows 8 should have been from the start.

This modern flavor of Windows may not be there yet, but with each step it is getting there.

After all, Rome wasn’t optimized in a day.

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