Tom Warren, The Verge:

This approach of recognizing where Windows 8 needs improvement really underlines Windows 8.1. It's not so much an update with some stand out features and big name changes, but more of a refinement of the existing operating system. All of these minor changes add up to big improvements in the way you can use Windows 8.1 across touch and keyboard / mouse. Microsoft has had time to sit back and witness the reaction to Windows 8 and see exactly how people are using the product. With Windows 8.1 we're seeing very real changes based on that.
"We really have a great sense of where we got the details of these bets right and where we actually maybe missed a little bit," admits Microsoft's Antoine Leblond, who oversees Windows Web Services. The good thing is that Microsoft is correcting some misses after just months on the market, and it's coming as a free update for existing Windows 8 users. If Microsoft can keep this rapid pace of improvement for Windows then it has a real chance of challenging others in the tablet market, providing even more touch-friendly apps are made available. The PC is in decline and tablets are taking over consumer spending, so Microsoft and its OEMs have to ensure tablet offerings are solid.

For those who were reading OneThirtySeven last year, you'll remember a lengthy period during which I was outrageously excited for Windows 8. Although I joined a great many with decrying the ill-advised "no compromises" mantra, I still held a great deal of optimism for the revival of an otherwise uninspired piece of software.

Today, I feel virtually no enthusiasm whatsoever.

Of course the design is interesting and I'll pay close attention to the Surface's second iteration, but, otherwise, I simply have no reason to care.

The core problem is that Windows 8 promised to be an audacious and disruptive entity in the marketplace. And yet, for virtually every facet of thoughtful experimentation, it was obvious that a businessman had offset the value of a disruptive idealist.

When Apple first introduced OS X, it was riddled with problems. The design was new, software was unstable, and it lacked developer support. But Apple held true to its guns. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be strangled by the tension between volatile idealists and dull pragmatists.

Several days ago, John Moltz shared a thought regarding Windows 8:

This could be a transitional phase. We Mac users didn’t immediately stop using all Classic applications when we switched to OS X, either. I wonder, though, based on current reports of Microsoft retooling Windows 8.1 to make it less “Modern” (which is apparently the new name for “Metro”), if they have the stomach to see it through.

This is precisely why I can no longer muster sincere excitement for the operating system. Touting the return of the Start Button and watching comments threads ignite with enthusiasm is outrageously discouraging.

Microsoft was bidding for something grand and different, but it hamstrung itself with a lack of confidence.

Google Glass, albeit in alpha form, has not shied away from its identity as an agent of controversy. The reason is because controversy is a characteristic of a disruptive technology. No one should feel immediately warm and fuzzy about a piece of technology destined to change the way we interact with the world.

Google and Apple have both owned their controversial and revolutionary promise as elements of their marketing. Microsoft, however, is clearly torn. They have bold, colorful advertising touting a revolutionary new technology, but they betray the technology with a lack of character strength.

Perhaps Microsoft can right the ship. This update certainly promises to — in Warren's words — "right Windows 8's wrongs." In doing so, perhaps it can even regain some users it may've alienated with Windows 8. Those are certainly not bad things in a traditional sense. But without the fortitude to contribute something truly new and useful for its customers, then how could I possibly consider myself a serious proponent?

The narrative of Windows 8 and its successors is not supposed to be about re-introducing removed features and tweaking minor nuisances. It's supposed to be about re-defining the way we engage with our personal devices. And with the tweaks and regressions of 8.1, I just simply cannot see how they intend to tell that story any longer. It's disingenuous.

And, more importantly, it's a shame.