Microsoft will kill the "dated," "cheesy" Aero desktop with Windows 8. Is it a mistake?

Windows Aero lovers, say good-bye to your bad taste in user interfaces. Microsoft says that it's killing Aero in the Windows desktop, which it now calls "dated" and "cheesy." Is the move a mistake?

Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for the Windows 8 User Experience team says in a lengthy blog post that the Windows 8 desktop will kill the Aero interface first introduced in Windows Vista. Harris sums up Aero this way:

"Aero gave the appearance of highly-rendered glass, light sources, reflections, and other graphically complex textures in the title bars, taskbar, and other system surfaces."

He goes on to say that even though when it was introduced, it looked stylish:

"This style of simulating faux-realistic materials (such as glass or aluminum) on the screen looks dated and cheesy now."

So when Windows 8 is finally released, Aero will be gone from the desktop. Microsoft will simplify the look of the desktop, flatten it, and make it more Metro-like. Harris describes the Windows 8 desktop this way:

"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."

You can get a sense of what he's talking about from the Microsoft-created screenshot, below:

Windows 8 Desktop

As to when you'll get a look at the new desktop, be prepared for a long wait. Windows 8's new desktop interface won't appear in the upcoming Windows 8 Release Preview, which is expected to be released in June. Instead, you'll have to wait until the final release of Windows 8.

The death of Aero, though, may have less to do with aesthetics than it has to do with an operating system designed for mobility rather than the desktop. Paul Thurrott argues in the Supersite for Windows that:

"It's all about battery life.

"Aero, with all its glassy, translucent goodness, is bad for battery life. Metro, meanwhile, which is flat, dull, not transparent, and only full screen, is very good for battery life."

I think he's on target. Harris even lists "long battery life" as one of the major design goals of Windows 8. And this design decision points out a serious problem at the core of Windows 8: It's designed more for tablets than it is for desktop PCs.

As I've said before, a tablet operating system is different than a desktop operating system, and Microsoft needs to design different but compatible operating systems for each. It may be that Aero needed to go, anyway. But separating the two operating systems would allow Microsoft to design the right operating system for the right hardware.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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