2014: Windows 8.1, a tale of slow improvements and app store growth

Sean Cameron

Windows 8.1

Windows 8 has been perhaps the most maligned software release in recent memory, causing a backlash among the consumer and enterprise markets that rocks Microsoft to this date. Abandoning 20 years of continuous design language, the new version of Windows adopted a daring new ‘Metro’ inspired design, with no provision left in place to ease in long-time users. As such, setting up and using one of these new machines was akin to sitting at a computer for the first time as a Luddite, fear and anger were commonplace.


As such, recognizing the importance of maintaining their customers’ loyalty, Microsoft endeavored to patch their leaking ship with the much vaunted 8.1 update, which brought back such fan favorite features as the ‘Start’ menu among others. This is the first major trend of the year so far, 8.1 has finally reached something approaching dominance in the Windows market. In November, 92% of downloads from the Windows app store came from devices running 8.1, with another 8% mysteriously clinging on to the older version. No doubt time will convince them of their mistake.

Windows store

Windows has always been the main platform for PC gaming. In spite of advances made by competitors, Mac and the various flavors of Linux, none can match the sheer breadth and number of titles available for Windows PCs, nor the vast selection of custom hardware at various price points to cater for every consumer. As such, even through the app store, it comes as little surprise that the large number of apps downloaded have been Games, making up 42% of the total. In comparison, the next strongest category, Productivity, comes in at a mere 10%.


What is perhaps something of a surprise, though perhaps only for those without a knowledge of trends, the country responsible for the largest number of downloads from the app store was not from the USA, nor was it from China. A large portion of downloads came from the ‘Other’ category, which consists of countries that aren’t listed in the chart. Where many consumers there opt for a mobile device over an office-bound machine, valuing mobility above all else, clearly there are some who prefer the ‘traditional’ approach. China made up 6% of downloads from the Windows Store in 2014, with the USA coming in at 25%. A large portion of the pie likely refers to emerging markets or smaller countries, which accounts for 40% of downloads from the Windows Store. Whether this has any correlation with ownership of devices powered by Windows is not yet possible to tell, but if this is the case and current trends continue, then it may have implications for the software market in the future.


One thing that is certain however, is that the Windows market has an abundance of languages involved in its makeup. As is somewhat guaranteed by having a global market presence, there is a diverse range in the tongues in which apps are coded. Making up the large majority of these is English, accounting for over 25% of all users. Following this are Mandarin, Hindi, French and German, which all roughly make up around just under 10% each. This indicates that the number of downloads from China is perhaps less reflective of the number of users, but the lack of legacy software in Chinese, perhaps meaning that such consumers are simply more likely to download software via the store.

This has been a positive year for Windows, in alone that adoption of the 8.1 update has now reached the vast majority of users. Allowing Microsoft to build further goodwill towards consumers, both public and enterprise, will have direct implications on the impact and uptake of Windows 10, to be released later in 2015, showing that it has realized its mistakes and is working to improve the situation. The app store has also had something of a positive year, with a diversification of apps available, as well as an increase in their quality and number.

If things continue as they are, 2015 will be another milestone in the return of Windows to deserved dominance.

Has the 8.1 update improved your opinion of Windows? Let us know in the comments below.