As we spoke about in a recent post, Steven Sinofsky is no longer a part of Microsoft. The rumors surrounding this leadership change have been plentiful, but in the end it isn’t what happened that is interesting so much as what might happen as a result. Since Sinofsky was a driving force behind the form Windows 8 ended up taking, it’s somewhat reasonable to speculate that changes might be in order.
The biggest change that could possibly take place would be the return to a Desktop-based Start Menu. As well-reviewed as the current interface seems to be among people who use it for long enough to get a feel for the nuances, it has definitely been proven the weakest link in marketing. The Start Screen and the Modern UI in general are widely criticized for the design choices that have been made to accommodate touch screen interfaces being used alongside the keyboard and mouse.
Owing largely to the increased training load required for a Windows 8 migration, which carries with it some obvious expenses, business adoption has been slow so far. Analysts predict that this will not start to turn around until next year at the earliest and that even then such efforts will largely be based around Windows 8 tablets before desktop adoption is considered. Eventual migration is a given for many companies as they come to the end of the Windows XP support cycle but that’s small comfort in the short term.
The success of Stardock’s Start8 software makes up the other side of things. The Start8 Start Menu replacement tries to prevent users from ever having to learn how to use their new operating system by recreating the Windows 7 interface and allowing those users to boot directly into the Desktop. It has proven to be a very popular product.
Microsoft has to be at least considering adding an optional Desktop Start Menu to Windows 8 by now. That would undermine their efforts to establish a new interface paradigm that spans all Windows-based devices, but it would also have immediate positive effects on sales numbers by catering to those potential customers who are put off by the rhetoric indicating keyboard and mouse users have been ignored or marginalized.
The problem with restoring the Start Menu is that it could slow Windows development for the Modern UI significantly. If Windows RT is going to remain viable, and it has certainly started to gain some attention as user reviews appear, software made for WinRT is needed. If the draw for developers is removed, particularly the incentive provided by the Windows Store being front and center for every user and therefore providing great exposure, there is no point in their creating programs that are not compatible with older iterations of the operating system.
As much as this is a possibility some time down the line, I would guess that there is little chance of an officially sanctioned change back to the purely traditional Desktop interface. Metro, the Modern UI, or whatever we’re calling the big screen with tiles on it at the moment will be around for a while. Chances are very good that it is here to stay. Adoption of Windows 8 might be slower than many would like, but there aren’t many real affordable alternatives for PC users. It’s only a matter of time before exposure makes the new interface as intuitive as the old one.