There are reports circulating, including this January 30 one from The Verge, that Microsoft may be poised to hide its Metro Start Screen with Windows 8.1 Update 1, by turning on by default the boot-to-desktop setting.
However, I'm hearing this may not end up being the case by the time Windows 8.1 Update 1 begins to be made available to users preloaded on new PCs and pushed via Windows Update. (That rollout is supposedly starting in mid-March.)
Windows watcher may recall that after refusing outright to include a boot-to-desktop setting with Windows 8.0, Microsoft conceded with Windows 8.1 and added boot-to-desktop option to its operating system.
The coming Windows 8.1 Update 1 is focused first and foremost on making Windows 8.1 more palatable to traditional mouse/desktop users. This is a good thing, as this is the core of Microsoft's sizeable installed base. And, in my opinion, it was a dubious idea from the outset to try to force users running Windows 8.x on non-touch hardware to interact with the operating system in a touch-first way.
If Microsoft did make skipping the Metro Start screen a default option, the company would give developers even less of a reason to write Windows Store/Metro Style apps. Yes, the ability to pin Metro Style apps to the desktop task bar is supposedly part of Windows 8.1 Update 1, as has been reported previously. But if users don't have incentive to seek out Metro Style apps from the get-go, why bother?
The feature set for Windows 8.1 Update 1 is believed to be locked-in at this point, according to one of my contacts. While there's no reason Microsoft couldn't opt to make boot-to-desktop a universal default -- or even just the default on non-touch devices/machines -- my contacts don't believe this is currently the plan.
Microsoft officials aren't commenting on anything to do with Windows 8.1 Update 1. They still haven't even verified it exists, even though there have been leaked builds and private demonstrations of the coming update.