By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated January 31, 2014.
Is Microsoft preparing Windows 8 for a default boot-to-desktop instead of to the Metro-style tile interface? According to several news reports, the answer is yes.
Reports on various Web technology sites indicate that Update 1 for Windows 8.1 will no longer include the option for a user to choose the Metro interface or the desktop interface, but will go directly to the desktop. There was no boot-to-desktop option in the initial release of Windows 8, but, after protests from users, such an option was offered in 8.1.
If a default boot-to-desktop is coming, it would represent a significant turnaround of the technology giant’s current operating system, which has emphasized the touchscreen-ready, tile-based interface originally known as Metro. The company has received a substantial amount of pushback from productivity-oriented users who claim that the touchscreen interface is less useful for getting work done than a desktop with a keyboard and mouse. A default boot-to-desktop would also encourage developers of Windows desktop apps, possibly over development of Windows touchscreen apps.
Expected Release in March
According to the reports, Update 1 is still in development, so anything is possible by the time it will be released. Update 1 is expected to be released in March, while Microsoft-watchers are expecting some details about the next version, 9, at Redmond's Build developer conference in April.
Other reported revisions in the update include repositioning of shutdown and restart buttons in the Start screen, as opposed to their previously hidden positions, and the ability to right click on Tiles to get a menu for resizing, pinning and uninstalling.
According to screenshots of Update 1 being displayed by the Russian Web site Wzor, there will also be the ability to pin Metro-style apps in the desktop’s taskbar, which some observers are reading as initial steps by Microsoft to begin merging the two interfaces. Another example is reflected in preliminary reports that Windows 9 will feature the ability for Metro-style apps to run in individual windows on the desktop.
Microsoft has neither confirmed nor denied these reports of Update 1 revisions.
‘Placeholder,’ Not Failure
Brad Shimmin, an analyst at industry research firm Current Analysis, told us that, “If the reports are true, this is a necessity for Microsoft” because such a large portion of Windows users are keyboard- and mouse-based. He added “the hope that the desktop will now be treated as an equal in Windows, and not as a stepchild.”
Shimmin pointed out that Microsoft is known for its persistence as much as for anything -- persistence in continually revising a product until it gets it suitably right for its targeted audience. The company, he said, “has shown a willingness to start over, so we can expect a ‘re-imagining’ of Windows 8” -- which itself was intended to be a “re-imagining” of Microsoft, according to CEO Steve Ballmer.
In that context, Shimmin said, one could look at the possible default boot-to-desktop in Upgrade 1 as “not so much a failure as a placeholder.”