May 20, 2012

Thurrott: Windows 8 Ditches the Aero Interface

Paul Thurrott details Microsoft's long-term Windows agenda:

"Today, Microsoft boasts of up to 1.3 billion active Windows users. Windows 8 is not for them, not for the most part: We get a few bones, like Storage Spaces and quicker boot times, but the desktop environment is pretty much just Windows 7++  (or Windows 7+1 for you non-programmers). But it is those very users who don’t want or need tablet functionality that are financing Microsoft’s push towards an OS—that is not really Windows—that will replace what they’re using. Maybe not in Windows 8. Maybe in Windows 9, or 10. But eventually."

Thurrott is no Microsoft antagonist. He's a well-known Windows technology writer, enthusiast and, perhaps, apologist, but he's not pleased with the direction Microsoft has taken with Windows 8.

Microsoft disclosed this week that it will discard the familiar Aero Glass desktop user interface in the upcoming Windows release:

We applied the principles of ‘clean and crisp’ when updating window and taskbar chrome. Gone are the glass and reflections. We squared off the edges of windows and the taskbar. We removed all the glows and gradients found on buttons within the chrome. We made the appearance of windows crisper by removing unnecessary shadows and transparency. The default window chrome is white, creating an airy and premium look. The taskbar continues to blend into the desktop wallpaper, but appears less complicated overall. To complete the story, we updated the appearance of most common controls, such as buttons, check boxes, sliders, and the Ribbon. We squared off the rounded edges, cleaned away gradients, and flattened the control backgrounds to align with our chrome changes. We also tweaked the colors to make them feel more modern and neutral.

In short, Microsoft is firmly moving the Windows 8 desktop in the direction of their new tablet UI, called Metro, even before that product reaches the public.

This is a really big deal for them and their customers. Throwing out the familiar Windows desktop UI in favor of a more Metro-like space is nothing short of betting Microsoft's future on a competitor's ideas, ideas with which Microsoft has repeatedly failed to gain traction (see all past efforts at selling Windows tablets).

Can there be any greater evidence that Apple's iPad and the mobile computing revolution are the future of personal computing?

Thurrott isn't happy about it. In his lede, he states:

It’s about the Windows team abandoning the very market that drove Windows’s success for over 25 years in order to chase a coming and potentially illusory market for tablet devices.

Thurrott's error: failing to see that today's technology may only hint at tomorrow's.

If the iPad and  Metro-based Windows tablets are as far as tablet computing will ever go, then Thurrott might have a point. Tablets are not capable of fully replacing laptops and desktops today. What will tomorrow bring?

Microsoft apparently believes the answer looks more like a tablet than a desktop.