Microsoft’s next update for Windows 8.1 will tweak the user interface again, and this time Redmond is reportedly planning to bypass the “Metro” (or new-style, but everyone still calls it Metro) interface entirely upon boot up.
With the Windows 8.1 update, which was rolled out last autumn, Microsoft introduced an option users could enable to allow for booting straight to the desktop, rather than the Metro Start screen paved with its live tiles.
The latest internal build of the upcoming Windows 8.1 Update 1 has this feature enabled by default, according to the Verge. This is being done to placate mouse and keyboard users who spend all their time on the traditional Desktop, rather than the Metro UI which is focused on touch, and designed to be used by those with touchscreen monitors, all-in-ones, laptops or tablets.
Note that the build is still in testing, so there’s no guarantee that the final update will keep this feature once it goes live.
On the face of it, this seems like a pretty minor change – after all, it’s hardly difficult to switch this feature on with Windows 8.1 as it currently exists – but in terms of Microsoft’s overarching philosophy, it’s a major signal. The company is once again backing away from its push for the Metro UI, which is part of Redmond’s grand strategy for the future, to tie desktop PCs, tablets, smartphones and indeed its game console together in one unified block.
The truth is that the whole Metro thing has really rankled many mouse and keyboard users, and data from Microsoft’s Windows Store has showed that the vast majority of Windows 8 users are still using the mouse and keyboard, and desktop applications.
It seems Microsoft feels it has to do something to further placate these folks, and try to get further momentum behind lacklustre Windows 8 sales – before the arrival of Windows 9, which could be due out as soon as October.
Redmond will have to be careful, though – what with all this and the huge pre-release reversals with the Xbox One – not to get a reputation as a company which is overly fond of U-turns.