The Desktop Experience ‘just another App’ in Windows 8
In case you missed it, Steven Sinofsky, who is the president of Windows and Windows Live division has started blogging about Windows 8 since the middle of August. Among other nuggets of information, he has revealed to date the next iteration of the Windows operating system that will incorporate robust USB 3.0 support as well as native support for ISO and VHD files. In addition, Sinofsky touched on a topic of immense interest when he wrote about the GUI (Graphic User Interface) this week that we can expect to see in Windows 8.
In the blog titled "Designing for Metro style and the desktop," Sinofsky confirmed that Microsoft will incorporate both the touch-friendly Metro experience (Think Windows Phone 7) while also retaining the traditional desktop. A few reasons were given against starting from a clean slate with a Metro-only touch interface, one of which would be the "hundreds of thousands of existing apps" designed with the desktop in mind.
"The mechanisms that people rely on today (mice, physical keyboards, trackpads) don't suddenly become less useful or "bad" just because touch is also provided as a first-class option. These tools are quite often the most ergonomic, fast, and powerful ways of getting many things done."
Moreover, he cited the popularity of remote desktop programs for tablets and phones as evidence of the desktop's versatility. With these considerations in mind, Microsoft has opted for a more nuanced approach in the form of a Metro style interface that will work well with touch (and which includes the mouse and keyboard), in addition to support for a desktop interface.
What I found interesting though, was the revelation that it will be possible to stay "permanently immersed in the Metro world" as Sinofsky puts it. Users who opt for such an experience will work exclusively in Metro, without ever needing to see the desktop. The desktop code will not even be loaded for such users, assured Sinofsky, which means zero penalties in terms of memory, battery life and performance. On the other hand, users who require the desktop experience can seamlessly switch to it. Indeed, Sinofsky encouraged seeing the Windows desktop "as just another app."
On a more serious note, this update appears to dovetail well with earlier news that the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer will be shipping with Windows 8 in a 2012 refresh. Assuming that Microsoft can deliver a truly seamless Metro/Desktop interface, there could well be a surge of demand for Windows 8 tablets that convert into a laptop by snapping on a keyboard. Rather than the prospect of a bleak post-PC world, a Windows 8 "convertible" would conceivably serve the needs of users for both work and play.