Microsoft May Prioritize The Desktop In Windows 9

The latest rumor from the Microsoft community is confusing: Microsoft may disable, by default, the Metro-defined Start Screen on desktop-based computers in Windows 9, what is currently referred to as “Threshold.”

According to Neowin’s Brad Sams, in some Threshold builds, users must “manually turn [the Start Screen] back on, but this is situation dependent, if you wish to access the live tile environment.”

ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley has a slightly different take on the situation:

Users running Threshold on a desktop/laptop will get a SKU, or version, that puts the Windows Desktop (for running Win32/legacy apps) front and center. Two-in-one devices, like the Lenovo Yoga or Surface Pro, will support switching between the Metro-Style mode and the Windowed mode, based on whether or not keyboards are connected or disconnected.

The combined Phone/Tablet SKU of Threshold won’t have a Desktop environment at all, but still will support apps running side-by-side, my sources are reconfirming. This “Threshold Mobile” SKU will work on ARM-based Lumia phones, ARM-based Windows tablets and, I believe, Intel-Atom-based tablets.

All of the above makes sense, so let’s synthesize. We’ve known a few things for some time now: Microsoft wants to re-prioritize the desktop Windows environment, because for all the talk of a post-PC world, people are still wildly dependent on their trusted computing configuration; and Windows is going to become a more unified system across discrete screen environments, eventually becoming a functionally dual-version operating system that works from phones to desktops.

I doubt that Microsoft will ever disable the Start Screen on PCs that are desktop-focused. But that doesn’t mean that the company wouldn’t build a flavor of its core operating system that has the desktop experience greatly favored.

Here we reach a point of dissonance: If Microsoft is hellbent on building share for its Windows Store, which resides in the Metro side of Windows 8.x, how the hell could it afford to essentially push that section of the operating system aside? It’s actually made the proper concession: The Windows Store’s icon has been moved to the desktop-side of the operating system.

And if you can run Metro apps in the desktop environment, ahem, you can Windows Store for days without needing the Start Screen.

Anecdotally, and I know that means we’re speaking with a skewed sample set, I’m recently seeing folks in my life that have purchased Windows 8.x PCs that are enjoying the new form factors, and touch, but are not too enthused about using the Start Screen on a chronic basis. Make of that what you will, it’s merely something that I’ve noticed and heard.

Foley has an interesting thought:

Microsoft is basically “done” with Windows 8.x. Regardless of how usable or functional  it is or isn’t, it has become Microsoft’s Vista — something from which Microsoft needs to distance itself, perception-wise. At this point, Microsoft is going full steam-ahead toward Threshold and will do its best to differentiate that OS release from Windows 8.

I think that’s actually a savvy take. We’re in a potentially Office 2007 situation, when Microsoft shook up the paradigm, took a number of potshots, managed to keep the bulk of the work intact and push out Office 2010 to massive success. Provided that Microsoft can keep that which is good in Windows 8, and blend in a host of strong desktop-focused updates, prioritizing each in different weight based on device form factor, the company could have a pretty solid operating system on its hands.

However, it’s no simple task: If Microsoft instead manages only a muddle of updates that are disparate in nature and are even less cohesive than Windows 8.0, the company could tilt the entire PC market south, past the point of stability in the 300 million units per year mark.