Okay I think I might have been too harsh on Windows 8.1. I ended up getting the W8.1 for my laptop since it started freezing up on me. While you could argue that reinstalling Windows 7 would have solved the problem as well, I thought I should take the benefit of my university student status (which will end in a few months after I graduate) and get the W8.1 Pro at $80.
So far, I love the live tiles. I set it up for news and weather. I also installed WP Central app, but was disappointed that it does not actually update on the live tile itself. I realized that I only access about 10 programs regularly, I just set up the shortcut for those on the start screen, so I do not even use the app screen that much actually.
Other than that, Skydrive integration is flawless (which was also the case in Windows 7). And the startup time is a lot faster (even though I disabled the "fast start" option in the settings).
There are a few suggestions I have:
1) Having desktop background in start screen is nice, but why not just keep whatever is open in the classic desktop and use that as the background. For instance, if you are using internet or word, when you go to start just show that on the background, (maybe with a bit of shading).
2) Some apps such as news should work with keyboard arrow keys for scrolling. Thankfully, I have pointing stick on my laptop, and it can replace the lack of keyboard arrow key functions.
3) Some apps seem to give off notifications even when I am on desktop? For instance, I got notification on the upper right corner from CBC News app that Canadian athletes just won gold medal. It's nice, but I want to have a setting to disable it.
4) For the apps list on the left side of the screen, why not have an option to "close all" or "close all except for desktop". Of course, you could do alt f4 to close the app everytime, but the app list can start to pile up, and it can be annoying to individually close every app.
Otherwise, I am pretty happy and I won't be going back to Windows 7.