Microsoft moves to hide the Metro interface, going back to desktop interface

When Microsoft first shipped the Metro interface, there was tremendous pushback from desktop users. Metro was designed for a touch screen, not for a keyboard and mouse environment. Windows 8 removed the Start button, arguably the anchor of the Windows desktop interface, but brought it back in Windows 8.1. Now it looks like the upcoming Update 1 to Windows 8.1 will bring the desktop interface back as the default for desktop users.

The update is still in development, and Microsoft could alter this further before it ships, but it’s currently being changed to appease desktop users. It may seem like a minor change, but the move reverses parts of Microsoft’s original vision for Windows 8. While some critics argued Microsoft simply forced the Start Screen interface onto desktop PCs with little regard for keyboard and mouse users, the company pitched its “Metro” environment as the future of Windows. With the interface booting by default, developers had an opportunity to place their apps front and center on millions of PCs.

That last sentence is a big part of the value of Metro for developers. It’s a billboard for pre-installed apps. This was not an easy decision to make, I’m guessing.

The Windows Store continues to grow with applications, but we understand that Microsoft has been paying close attention to telemetry data that shows the majority of Windows 8 users still use a keyboard and mouse and desktop applications.

This puzzled me from day 1. Who owns a desktop machine with a touch screen? Can’t be many people. That’s why the Mac has Mac OS X and the iPad and company have iOS. Metro on desktop just never sat right with me.

  • bbolli

    Now it looks like the upcoming Update 1 to Windows 8.1 will bring the desktop interface back as the default for desktop users.

    That’s already the case with stock 8.1. I set up a HP desktop last week with 8.1 preinstalled and it booted right onto the desktop.

    • Dave Mark

      Interesting. Do you think this is the case for all new PCs or is this just a single case?

  • BC2009

    Had they done this with Windows 8 original release they would have had a win-win.

    For desktop users: a better version of the desktop with optional access to the metro touch-centric UI

    For tablet users: A cool new touch-centric Metro UI with optional access to the desktop to use your non-touch desktop apps in a pinch.

    The Metro UI’s “billboard” would have been the motivation for developers to offer Metro-optimized versions of their apps alongside desktop versions of the apps. The apps could share much of the same underpinnings, but simply use different interfaces for touch versus keyboard/mouse.

    However, the big mistake was Microsoft pitching that every developer should redesign their app for Metro and abandon keyboard/mouse-optimized apps. The users did not want this and the developers did not want to go there for that reason.

    This is what makes iPhone + iPad + Mac so great. Each has its own take on the user interface that is optimized for the form factor. A universal iOS app gives you the best experience on iPad or iPhone with largely the same underpinnings. Now with the 64-bit A7 you can even share those underpinnings with an OS X version of the app and have all three versions linked by iCloud.

  • Donkey

    Microsoft have lost the plot.

    They appear to be hanging everything on two fallacious premises: 1) Users want the exact same interface across every device they have. 2) Users want to have MS Office on every device they have and will start buying devices with MS Office on once they are available.

    No. 1 is quite daft to me – and many others from my experience. On my mobile touch screen device, I want an interface that is designed to work well on a mobile touch screen device. On my desktop, I want an interface that is designed to work well on a desktop. Etc.

    As far as this “we’ve listened to our users and bought back the Start button” thing goes – from what I can tell, it’s not the Start button that people wanted back and/or missed from the pre-Metro days – it was the Start Menu.

    And they haven’t bought that back at all. Forcing people to change interface paradigms every time they want to find an app is, again, daft.

  • Dave Brandt

    Dave, the other half of this story is about the (likely) new CEO. It sure looks like the new CEO will be 100% an enterprise guy! Not a “consumer” guy at all! They’re going back to the only thing they can do. What the hell is their plan for getting into mobile computing? They bet the Farm on Metro and lost. That’s the story, with several threads.