Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop interface not going away

Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop interface not going away

Summary: Microsoft's Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky, in a new blog post, reiterated that Microsoft is going to support both new touch-centric apps and existing Windows desktop apps, with its new Windows 8 user interface.

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Since Microsoft's Windows 8 team blogged about the decision to 'ribbonize' the Windows Explorer file manager earlier this week, there's been a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) being spread by non-Windows users about what the Windows 8 user interface will look like.

On August 31, Windows President Steven Sinofsky attempted to quell some of the unrest by reiterating Microsoft's plans for the coming Windows 8 user interface in a new blog post on the Building Windows 8 blog.

Sinofsky repeated what officials said in June when they first showed off the Windows 8 UI: Microsoft is planning to offer Windows 8 users a choice. They'll be able to use a tile-based interface optimized for touch that looks like the "Metro"-centric UI on Windows Phone 7. Or they'll have the option of switching to a more classic Windows desktop experience that is navigable using keyboards, mice and trackpads. Both modes will be available to users on both tablets and PCs, Microsoft officials said earlier this year.

I'm still not entirely clear, even after Sinofsky's post today, if the Ribbon interface, pioneered by Microsoft in Office, will be part of the new default desktop look-and-feel in Windows 8 beyond the Windows Explorer.

(In spite of the word "Explorer" in the name of the "Windows Explorer" file-management application, this isn't the default UI for Windows 8. Yes, the Windows Explorer -- also called by some the "Windows Shell" -- is technically part of the Windows 8 user interface. But, in spite of what some tech writers would have users believe, as noted by my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott, Windows Explorer isn't the interface that Microsoft is planning to make the default Windows 8 UI, as consumers understand that term, with Windows 8. As someone who falls more into the average consumer than the power-user category, and I find the distinction very confusing.)

Sinofsky never actually called out this week's Ribbon confusion in his new blog post. Instead, he went deeper into what he and other Microsoft execs showed off in June this year when they first publicly showed off the Windows 8 UI:

"If you want to, you can seamlessly switch between Metro style apps and the improved Windows desktop. Existing apps, devices, and tools all remain and are improved in Windows 8. On the other hand, if you prefer to immerse yourself in only Metro style apps (and platform) and the new user experience, you can do that as well!  Developers can target the APIs that make sense for the software they wish to deliver. People can debate how much they need or don't need different aspects of the product, but that has always been the case. All of this is made possible by the flexibility of Windows."

At Build, Microsoft is expected to explain more about the developer story for Windows 8. Microsoft officials have said that HTML5 and JavaScript will be key to developing new, "Metro style" apps. What's still not known for certain is what Microsoft is going to say regarding how .Net, Silverlight, XNA and other existing Microsoft developer platforms and technologies fit into the Windows 8 picture.

Some at Microsoft have been working on ways to keep the existing tools and technologies relevant -- that's what the project about which I've blogged that is codenamed "Jupiter" is/was all about. But Microsoft's top brass has avoided saying anything official about how the existing technologies will play in the Windows 8 world -- beyond Sinofsky's passing reference today to the fact that "existing apps, devices and tools all remain and are improved in Windows 8." (Emphasis mine)

Sinofsky's newest blog post also makes it clear (to me, at least) that the new HTML5/JavaScript/Metro apps are going to be the new, cool showcase apps from Microsoft's perspective.

"(I)f 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!" he blogged.

I'm still curious what navigating Windows 8 with a mouse and keyboard on an existing PC will really look like. Again, we'll know more in 13 days when Build kicks off. But who's counting?

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

    I hope MSFT is able to execute this will. What it will do is that differentiation of Slate Vs Desktop will move to software rather than hardware. One device call it what you may will be a tablet/slate and a desktop.

    Personally this sounds really cool. The fact that we carry a device (slate or tablets) which only satisfies part of our needs is a failure of technology.
    If in a year or two I can pick up a slate device which has all the advantages of slate and has user experience for it but I can hook it up to a dock and connect it to a monitor and a keyboard and get a fully functional desktop, that will be just great.
    Remember hardware will only get better with time.
    rohitharsh
    • Out with the old, in with the new

      @rohitharsh <br><br>So I write the following out of a little frustration,<br><br>I believe most will accept whatever finally becomes Win8 UI. Certainly, if Microsoft just throws out support for API and UI of previous Windows versions that would create havoc. <br><br> However, the challenge Microsoft faces is that it has not been BOLD enough, TIMING has been clumsy, and Microsoft's Hardware and Vendor Partners have simply not been innovative enough with the tools Microsoft has provided. (Which is sad, given the depth of tools)<br><br>"Windows" has been around so long. It is time that someone within Microsoft embraced the "Post-PC" world. In fact, Microsoft should have been the one to usher in the "Post-PC" world, but were it not for lousy timing.<br><br>Microsoft needs to lose the idea of a "Start" button, and a "Menu" for programs, and "Windows" and all of the dizzying API and underlying code base that goes with it.<br><br>Okay, Jscript/HTML 5/.NET/Siverlight/XNA - okay I get it, that's good. But those are high-level languages and api's that need an OS to run on.<br><br>Microsoft needs to redesign and rework it's core OS.<br>Microsoft needs a OS that is lean enough to run on a <br>low-power gpu/cpu integrated device, (okay tablet) and still scalable enough to run full desktop, workstation hardware and applications. Plus, other than to integrate with Cloud and other networking services, separate the marketing and development of this new OS from anything server related.<br><br>Sure there are many that are still clutching onto there Windows PC's for dear life. But, show them something really intuitive, connected, no learning-curve, develop an open app ecosystem (unlike Apple's closed one). Then no matter radically different, even the most die-hard Windows fans will embrace it. Especially if it comes from Microsoft. <br><br>It would have been nice for Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7 to have been this next new OS, but again Microsoft was not bold enough, it's timing was lousy and hardware partners still seem to be throwing in the towel.<br><br>But choose to stick with what is comfortable, not matter how many agree, and Microsoft will continue to face more and more challenges from those who are bold and think differently enough to try something new.
      daniel.pereznet
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @daniel.pereznet - one of Windows' biggest strengths is its ability to run many older apps on newer versions of the OS. Microsoft doesn't have the benefit of a tiny ecosystem that's willing to rewrite all it's apps at the drop of a hat like Apple was able to pull off when it moved to OSX.

        By the way, Win8 runs beautifully on ARM tablets and offers iOS levels of battery life too. What's even better is that most windows apps just need to be recompiled for ARM and they'll run fine on tablets too.
        bitcrazed
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @daniel.pereznet

        I think you are misinformed,some embeded windows version run with less than 128k memory.

        http://www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded/en-us/windows-embedded.aspx

        About innovation, Microsoft is a leader in innovation, just read the blogs for Windows 8 developper you will be suprise.

        http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/
        SylvainT
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        <i>About innovation, Microsoft is a leader in innovation, just read the blogs for Windows 8 developper you will be suprise.</i><br><br>I almost choked on my coffee when I read that, considering they are only now introducing native .ISO burning capabilities to Windows 8, something Linux and Apple have had for years.<br><br>How about a spell checker native to IE9? Or is that too tough? ;)
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @ScorpioBlue - ISO *burning* capability was included as part of Windows 7. ISO *mounting* is being included in Windows 8. Two different animals entirely.
        PollyProteus
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @PollyProteus

        Regardless. That's still playing catch up and hardly the stuff of "innovation".
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @ScorpioBlue

        Although I agree that Microsoft is not one of the most innovative companies, your reasoning is terrible!
        Because MS lacks behind on ISO mounting, the whole company is not innovative?...

        Not to mention there are freely available ISO mounting tools, as well as your IE9 spell checker.
        SalvadorOliano
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        [i]Because MS lacks behind on ISO mounting, the whole company is not innovative?...[/i]

        This is just another in a long list of catch-ups Microsoft has had to do. Doing a [i]"ho-rah-rah"[/i] over .ISO mounting is just lame sales spin.

        [i]Not to mention there are freely available ISO mounting tools, as well as your IE9 spell checker.[/i]

        I alluded to that earlier. Spell checkers should be native by now. I don't think it wouldn't take much to adapt their Word spell checker to the browser. They're just lazy and don't give a damm, that's all.
        ScorpioBlue
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

      @rohitharsh <br><br>I hope too Microsoft will keep it that way.<br><br>Like the article say at the begining "theres been a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) being spread by non-Windows users about what the Windows 8 user interface will look like"<br><br>I personally dont care for those non windows user, sadly windows have to care because he is the leader in OS developpement.<br><br>I hope Microsoft will continue the great work their are doing with Windows 8, Its the OS i always wanted to have. <br><br>I just wait for the new Windows 8 tablet to be availble, the money is already in my bank account waiting just for that.
      SylvainT
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

      @rohitharsh

      That means they(MSFT) have given chooice to Tablet users.
      for switching to and from metro interface. If that is the case Desktop users have nothing new in UI except that Ribbon added to Explorer... :(
      http://www.geekwindow.com/2011/08/new-look-for-windows8-explorer-ribbon.html
      TechExpert21
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        <i>That means they(MSFT) have given chooice to Tablet users. for switching to and from metro interface.</i><br><br>Can you imagine all the bloat code that's associated with that. Expect 25GB+ installs. And that's without Office.<br><br><i>If that is the case Desktop users have nothing new in UI except that Ribbon added to Explorer...</i><br><br>Yeah that is pathetic. More clutter added to Explorer. And pop down toolbars no less.
        ScorpioBlue
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

      @rohitharsh If Window 8 is like Vista and 7 it's not going work... the user interface and menu structure of Windows has become too busy and confusing. XP was much simpler and cleaner. I hope Microsoft goes with a cleaner less cluttered interface, once that lends itself better to touch, but I doubt it.
      Masari.Jones
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @Masari.Jones Windows 8 has a lean core, don't worry about it. It'll be smooth as glass. Plus Microsoft learned with Vista that drivers are key to everything. If the drivers are not in, it won't work. That's why in Windows 7 everything worked, they had the drivers in on time.
        orea
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @Masari.Jones
        Exactly. As a beta tester for windows buikds since longhorn I found during the windows 7 change that microsoft ignored the testers request to change the ui to a much cleaner simpler version or to offer the classic xp skin which makes windows so much faster and simpler to use. The big hang up on 7 was the UI when you went to the start button everything was just not how it should. i was happy 3rd party devllopers made some programs to kill the windows 7 start options and gave you the xp look and style again as it made windows 7 great.I much prefer the flyout options like xp had as it made using it quick easy and clean. the metro UI look is just garbage and was the main reason i opted not to buy a WP& as the tiles are hideous and just slow you down. Its not about how pretty you try to make it its about simplicity and form and thats what the classic windows UI layout has been. If windows 8 can kill the bloat, load and close fast use littel ram and have that classic UI look then it will succeed. It should be obvious by how people didnt flock away from xp to windows and had to be driven there that the UI is a huge player in success and the millions of users prefer a simple familar setup which 7 got away from.
        Fletchguy
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @Masari.Jones: How exactly is XP simpler to use than 7? What nonsense. Cleaner! Are you kidding? In what way?

        If you love the XP UI so much it's not hard to make 7 look like it (turn off Aero, turn on Quick Launch). If you want the Windows 95 Start Menu, tough. That one is 16 years old now.

        XP maybe "leaner" but then Windows 9x was leaner than XP. XP doesn't do half as much and does a lot worse.
        bradavon
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        Radical changes to the interface with every new release are bad news to corporate users. The training issues with a large company are no joke and just going from Office 2003 to 2007 was horrendous and never really completed here at my company. (Instead, we install a compatibility pack to let 2003 users work with 2007/2010 docs). Users don't like radical UI changes because to them the computer is a tool to get their work done. We have 250,000 desktops and 99% are still XP and will be for some time to come. Everyone can get their work done with it, it is very expensive to upgrade all those machines, and training classes, even though offered internally and therefor at low-cost, still take man-hours away from getting work done.

        The new UI may end up being awesome but if it takes well trained users days/weeks/months to regain productivity losses and doesn't really help them do their jobs any better then what's the point? Our systems are all locked down. Users can't change their screen savers, wallpaper, can't change folder views. in some cases they can't even see the contents of the local C:\ drive. I doubt very highly they would be allowed to switch between tiles and windows interfaces.
        JoeFoerster
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @bradavon

        You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. XP is simpler to use in this way..... If I want to modify the properties of an active network connection, I can simply right-click the systray icon and all the options I need are right there. In Windows Vista/7 this requires navigating several Windows. The same can be said of other functions such as Power Options - in XP the simplest thing in the world, but in Vista/7 a tortured journey through several screens, each taking you off on a tangent. Simpler my left buttock!

        AS for CLEANER. Don't make me laugh! As far as the extra 12GB footprint over XP, the extra 10+ seconds or minutes it can take for it to start up from cold goes, I'll tend to say no thanks! Yes 9x was leaner than XP, but it was not any leaner than NT which would have been its true contemporary OS. 9x was based on a hybrid 16-32bit shell extension and not a self contained OS, so the leap in technology you are describing is not the same thing. 10 years seperate XP and W7 - what has really happened? What is so different that it justifies the huge bloat in resource usage? What can W7 REALLY do that XP cannot?

        Having said that, things do move on and so must we, but that doesn't give license to talk complete and utter gibberish nonsense about things clearly not being understood.

        Yes I know all about branch cache, powershell, pin to taskbar, snapping windows, new search, libraries, etc. ya da ya da. Great! They are nice improvements, but HARDLY 10 years worth and even though you might like to tell yourself otherwise, the fact is that the core OS has changed very little......

        "XP doesn't do half as much"???? What? Really? Perhaps you can enlighten all of us who actually KNOW something about computers. No doubt you are aware that despite the huge gulf of time since Vista was released, there is still a huge range of software that only works correctly on XP - and I am talking about industrial, manufacturing and quality systems, as well as many others. Yes you heard me - no Windows 7 support. You know why? Because most businesses are still struggling to see the value in moving to Windows 7 which takes a great deal away and gives very little back. Thats why....
        12312332123
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

        @Masari.Jones
        I totally agree, I am currently using Mac osX, I haven't used a Windows PC in 3 years. I just Got my hands on an older laptop running Vista and to be honest, it is confusing as hell. Too much rubbish everywhere. I would love a more streamlined version of windows. I love my Android tablet I love the simplicity and of iOS (I hate apple), I can set up my devices in minutes, but it took me an hour to set up a windows laptop, it is just counter intuitive. I cant wait to see what Windows 8 is capable of.
        drayphly
  • RE: Microsoft's Windows chief reiterates Windows desktop not going away

    Sinofsky may be lucky to leave Build alive if HTML/Javascript uber alles is his only message to developers.
    Sir Name