The Windows 8.1 Update brought some welcome improvements to Microsoft's OS, including a Windows Store shortcut on the taskbar and the ability to pin downloaded apps to it. But no one is going to take advantage of those perks if great apps are hard to find. A new update to the Windows Store addresses user complaints and makes discovery a heck of a lot easier with a new design.
Microsoft has made significant strides in surfacing more information on the new Windows Store, which will cut down on needless scrolling and backing up to previous menus. For example, there's now a persistent navigation bar at the top of the screen that provides quick access to Top Charts, Categories and Collections. Previously, Windows Store shoppers needed to swipe their finger or right-click to navigate the Store.
Another welcome change is the addition of Collections to the Windows Store's landing page, making it simple for first-time Windows 8 users to download the most compelling apps in a given category. Themes include Getting Started, Music Lovers and Red Stripe Deals. The latter category refers to apps that are discounted by at least 50 percent.
One of the ways Microsoft is hoping to stand out with Windows 8.1 versus OS X/iOS and Chrome OS is the ability to download the desktop/tablet and phone version of the app for a single price. In other words, if you download an app from a participating developer on your Windows 8 PC, you won't have to pay again when you fire up your Windows Phone.
A new icon will make these 2-for-1 specials more visible to shoppers. Plus, any in-app purchases you make will apply across all Windows devices.
While not as huge as adding back the Start menu, the Windows Store updates go a long way towards making Windows 8 more user friendly. And that's exactly what Microsoft needs to keep shoppers from fleeing its ecosystem.