Microsoft has bowed to public pressure and is to introduce a raft of new measures to its Windows 8 operating system, in an attempt to head off criticism of it.

The decision to scrap the ''start'' button in the latest version of the operating system had been the chief cause of criticism of Windows 8 - sales of which have not been as high as had been expected.

The main change in the Windows 8.1 update, which is due to be released for free later this year, will see the introduction of something resembling the old "start" button.

However, clicking on what Microsoft is describing as the start "Tip" will not bring the user to the old style start menu.

Instead, clicking on the icon in the bottom left hand part of the screen will open the Metro interface, introduced for the first time in Windows 8.

Another bone of contention in the seven month old operating system is the inability to boot up straight to Desktop view, will also be addressed in the upgrade.

In a blog on the company's website, Windows engineer Antoine Leblond wrote "if you prefer to see the Apps view versus all the tiles, you can choose to have the Start screen go directly to Apps view."

Microsoft says it is not just responding to customer feedback, but is also introducing new features and functionality.

The updated PC Settings in Windows 8.1 will allow the user access device settings without having to go to the control panel on the desktop. There will also be the option to change your PC or tablet into a picture frame by making the Lock screen into a slide show.

Those who log onto their device using the account will find their settings and apps will be copied from one device to another. There will also be a range of changes to basic apps, including Music and Photos. App tiles will also be resizable to any size that the user wants.

The full blogpost is available here

Microsoft made the dramatic overhaul to Windows in an attempt to expand the operating system's franchise beyond personal computers that rely on keyboards and mice to smartphones and tablet computers controlled by a touch or swipe of the finger.

But Windows 8 has been widely panned as a disappointment, even though Microsoft says it has licensed more than 60 million copies so far.

One major research firm, International Data Corp, blamed the redesigned operating system for worsening a decline in PC sales by confusing prospective buyers. Meanwhile, Windows 8 has not proven it is compelling enough to put a major dent in the popularity of Apple's pioneering iPad or other tablets running on Google's Android software.

The growing popularity of tablets is now being driven largely by less expensive devices with 7- and 8-inch display screens. Microsoft built Windows 8 primarily to run on tablets with 10-inch to 12-inch screens, an oversight that Leblond said the company is addressing by ensuring Windows 8.1 works well on smaller devices.

If Windows 8.1 does not stimulate more sales of PCs and tablets running on the operating system, it could escalate the pressure on Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Although the company's revenue and earnings have steadily risen since Ballmer became chief 13 years ago, Microsoft's stock performance has lagged other technology companies. Investors, though, appear to becoming more optimistic about Ballmer's strategy.

Microsoft's stock has risen by 25% since Windows 8's release last October