A year ago, Microsoft "reimagined" the look and feel of Windows, and placed a risky bet on the future of computing. Touch is everything, it said, and nearly everything about Windows 8 was designed to be used in a world without laptops and desktop PCs. But most people still use laptops and desktops, so Microsoft hedged its bets and built a desktop mode as well. Millions of people installed Windows 8, but Microsoft’s two worlds, each with different applications, created a steep learning curve with Windows 8 that wasn’t familiar for traditional Windows users.

With Windows 8.1, a free update designed to address some of its users’ concerns and enable a faster pace of Windows releases, Microsoft tries to bridge the gap between old and new, between mouse and touchscreen. The new OS looks and feels mostly the same, but its many small tweaks make for a significant update — and hint at the future of Microsoft's vision for its own computing platform. Microsoft is completely invested in Windows 8, and it’s been busy over the last twelve months, but making Windows 8.1 into something easier and more familiar is no small task. Microsoft’s chance to usher in the touch-friendly, tablet-filled future it imagines — take two.