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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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?

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