Microsoft has apparently decided to take their break from the existing interface we are used to a step further in Windows 8 than they had previously stated. The Aero Desktop theme will not be shipping with Windows 8 anymore, Microsoft having decided in favor of a less showy chrome theme. Aero has occasionally enjoyed some bad press, mostly due to its high resource demands and comparatively minor contribution to the overall experience, but this is likely to be seen by many as a drastic and unwelcome change in an already troublingly different OS.
Oddly enough, as much as I will miss many of the elements that are being dropped, I can’t help but feel that this is completely on-message. I brought some of this up in my previous post about the new Windows Logo, but Microsoft is finally starting to understand what it is to minimize the impact of the interface. This is probably the first iteration of Windows that has absolutely no incentive to try to look flashier. The graphics are too good these days, and the computers too powerful, for any extra shiny bits to really impress. Instead they have chosen to emphasize how easy it is to make the tools you need available at a moment’s notice without keeping you constantly aware of them. This is an impressive change of direction and will be, I hope, accepted.
The new design will bring back squared-off corners on desktop windows. It will also remove transparency effects and gradients. As shown in the image here, the interface is collapsed completely and the content is brought to the front. Naturally the ribbon takes up more space when expanded, but that will only change things when you feel the need to have those extra functions available.
Naturally this will also reduce power drainage. The whole Windows 8 philosophy has been built around efficiency and minimalism, after all. This is quite likely the main reason Microsoft decided on such a change this late in the game. Anything to eek out that last little bit of improved performance in time for launch. As much as Aero is occasionally nice to look it, it can’t really be considered an efficient use of power cycles. “No more transparency” will be almost as helpful as Metro’s “Always full screen” approach in this respect.
It is difficult to predict how this will go over with users. There will surely be some amount of customization available for those who don’t like the new chrome color scheme, but Aero itself won’t be coming back. The change will not be in place before the opening of the upcoming Windows 8 Release Preview, so we will have to wait and see what happens when the final product ships. Hopefully they will think ahead enough to offer users at least the option to try out the new paradigm before forcing them into it.