Microsoft dumps 'Aero' UI in Windows 8, 'Metro-izes' desktop

Won't reveal Windows 8's final desktop user interface until launch later this year

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Battery power, in fact, seemed to be the one goal that applied to the desktop GUI, something well-known Windows blogger Paul Thurrott noticed when he speculated that the effort to extend battery life was the reason for Aero's demise.

"It's all about battery life," Thurrott argued on his SuperSite for Windows blog on Saturday. "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."

To lasso battery issues, Microsoft even considered limiting Windows 8 so that only one Metro app would run at a time. Ultimately, it decided against that restriction, and instead will allow two Metro apps to run simultaneously in a side-by-side view.

"Even with multitasking in the existing desktop still present, we did feel like only offering 'one-at-a-time' in the Metro style experience was a bit of a constraint, and not totally true to the Windows history of multitasking," Harris said.

Also in his missive, Harris countered naysayers who have hammered Windows 8 for its touch-centric philosophy or for the lack of a traditional "Start" button on the desktop. He reminded them of early criticism when Windows took to the mouse, and the need to coach users of Windows 95 on how to use that edition's Start button.

Harris also promised that GUI elements that have frustrated users -- including difficulty in hitting the "hot" corner of the desktop that triggers the Start screen -- had been addressed, and repeated earlier assertions that Microsoft would include tutorials with Windows 8 to show users how to manipulate both the desktop and Metro interfaces.

Essentially, his review of Windows GUIs, which stretched as far back as 1985's original graphical shell atop DOS, and his comments around mice and usability, seemed to be a call for customers to give Windows 8 a chance.

"Yes, there are parts of the Windows 8 UI that have generated discussions and even debate, and aspects of the change that will take some people a little time to understand and digest," Harris admitted. "Any change, particularly a change that doesn't just follow in the footsteps of what everyone else is doing, can be hard to fully grasp at first.... The world changes and moves forward. Windows will continue to change too."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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