Windows 8 desktop to be 'just another app,' says Microsoft exec

Conventional desktop UI won't load unless users want it

The Microsoft executive who heads the company's Windows division said Wednesday that the next edition of the operating system will let users treat the traditional desktop as "just another app" that loads only on command.

In a lengthy blog post, Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, provided more detail on Windows 8's user interface (UI).

In June, when it unveiled parts of the Windows 8 UI, Microsoft said the new OS would feature a "touch-first" interface to help it compete in the fast-growing tablet market. Underneath that, however, would be a traditional Windows-style desktop. In demonstrations, Microsoft showed the touch-style start screen for Windows 8, and how users could switch to a more familiar icon-based design.

Wednesday, Sinofsky reiterated the dual nature of Windows 8, calling the design work a "balancing act."

"Having both of [the] user interfaces [work] together harmoniously is an important part of Windows 8," said Sinofsky.

The "Metro"-style UI -- the one inspired by Windows Phone 7's tile-based design -- will be the first to show up when a user boots a device. At that point, users reach a crossroads.

"If 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," said Sinofsky. "If you don't want to do ... 'PC' things, then you don't have to and you're not paying for them in memory, battery life or hardware requirements."

Users working on conventional PCs, where keyboard and mouse are the primary input devices, will run an "app" to load the desktop, according to Sinofsky.

"Essentially, you can think of the Windows desktop as just another app," he said.

The majority of the blog's 225 comments as of early Thursday gave Windows 8's split personality a thumbs up, although many advised Microsoft to create design continuity between the two to make switching less jarring.

Windows 8 desktop
To reach a traditional desktop in Windows 8, users will launch an 'app' from the tile-based interface inspired by Windows Phone 7.
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