Thursday, September 1, 2011

Windows 8 Dual User Interface Revealed

From what we have read and taken into account in the past year or so, we knew that Microsoft was working on two different user interfaces for the Windows 8 operating system. First the traditional desktop UI that is part of all existing Microsoft systems, and then a Metro style interface that we in the beginning expected to be delivered exclusively for tablet and touchscreen PCs.
Steven Sinofsky in a recent blog posting over at the Building Windows 8 explains how those parts work together under Windows 8.
From the start, our approach has been to reimagine Windows, and to be open to revisiting even the most basic elements of the user model, the platform and APIs, and the architectures we support. Our goal was a no compromise design.
metro ui windows8 400x225 Windows 8 Dual User Interface Revealed
Reading that article it becomes clear that Microsoft is taking into account users who embrace change and users who do not want change. Having said that, it is clear that Microsoft is heading towards a simplified well designed user experience.
You get a beautiful, fast and fluid, Metro style interface and a huge variety of new apps to use. These applications have new attributes (a platform) that go well beyond the graphical styling (much to come on this at Build). As we showed, you get an amazing touch experience, and also one that works with mouse, trackpad, and keyboard. And if you want to stay permanently immersed in that Metro world, you will never see the desktop—we won’t even load it (literally the code will not be loaded) unless you explicitly choose to go there! This is Windows reimagined.
It seems to be clear that Metro UI will be the core interface that users will see when they start Windows 8. This could be a shock to some who were expecting the standard Windows desktop. It will be interesting to see how companies and organizations react to that new user experience.
It is also interesting to note that the desktop UI, the traditional desktop, is not loaded until the user wants to to be loaded. As Steven puts it: The desktop UI is basically just another Windows 8 app.
But if you do see value in the desktop experience—in precise control, in powerful windowing and file management, in compatibility with hundreds of thousands of existing programs and devices, in support of your business software, those capabilities are right at your fingertips as well. You don’t need to change to a different device if you want to edit photos or movies professionally, create documents for your job or school, manage a large corpus of media or data, or get done the infinite number of things people do with a PC today. And if you don’t want to do any of those “PC” things, then you don’t have to and you’re not paying for them in memory, battery life, or hardware requirements. If you do want or need this functionality, then you can switch to it with ease and fluidity because Windows is right there. Essentially, you can think of the Windows desktop as just another app.
That does not mean that Microsoft is not improving the desktop experience as well, as you might already know if you read our previous coverage:
Windows 8 To Have Native ISO Support
Microsoft Showcases New Windows Explorer With Ribbon UI
Microsoft To Improve File Management Processes In Windows 8
The desktop is there to stay, at least for now.
Which brings us back to the improvements we’re making to the desktop experience: we believe in the Windows desktop. It powers the experiences today that make a Windows 7 PC the most popular device in the world. So, even if we believe that over time many scenarios will be well-served by Metro style apps, for the foreseeable future, the desktop is going to continue to play a key role in many people’s lives. So we are going to improve it. We’re having a good dialog about what folks might think about our design choices but also wanted to put these choices in a broader context of the unmatched utility of the desktop.
The interesting question here is if it will be possible to turn off Metro completely and work with the desktop UI straight away. What’s your take on this


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