As concessions from Microsoft go, this one would be pretty significant, even if it is symbolic.

windows8-1The upcoming “Windows Blue” update for Windows 8 will give users the option to boot their machines directly to the desktop, skipping the new Start screen, according to a report this morning from The Verge, citing unnamed sources.

If the report is true, it’s a nod to the business and desktop computer users who have turned up their noses at Windows 8’s new user interface, which is centered around the tile-based Start screen. Current versions of Windows 8 require users to go directly to the Start screen after booting up and logging in, with the ability to access the desktop from there.

However, according to the report, the option to avoid the Start screen would be disabled by default, requiring users to specifically opt for the “boot to desktop” startup process on future bootups. In addition, it appears there would be no option to turn off the Start screen entirely. That makes the move more symbolic, but theoretically it could allow someone to avoid the Start screen altogether.

The news follows word that PC sales have been slumping following Windows 8’s release, with research firm IDC last week reporting a 14 percent decline in desktop and notebook computer shipments. IDC blamed factors including a poor reception for Windows 8.

Update: Mary Jo Foley reports on ZDNet that the company is also looking into bringing back the Start button to the traditional desktop, addressing another complaint from some Windows 8 users.

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  • Jason Farris

    Well, that’s one millisecond I won’t have to waste.

  • Anon

    This is really stupid. As the article says, it’s really only symbolic.

    Going straight to the desktop will make it impossible for users to launch some apps, including any Windows Store apps. This means that users will still encounter the Windows 8 Start screen sometimes, and all of the problems will still be there. When they do launch a Windows Store app, they’ll lose the desktop and be confused about how to get back.

    What on earth was Microsoft thinking when they redesigned their cash cow to only work properly on the 1% of computers with touch screens? Microsoft should fix the Start screen so that it works well with a mouse. On-screen buttons and right-click menus aren’t bad things in and of themselves. Easier organization would be a huge improvement. Improvements would help tablet users as well.

    If they had built a decent Start screen in the first place, and had global navigation mechanisms that worked on non-tablets, they wouldn’t have these problems.

    • Jason Farris

      I’m guessing you don’t own any W8 devices, since your complaints are all innacurate. This change is symbolic, to appease people who haven’t used the product and run around complaining about problems that don’t actually exist.

      • Anon

        Your guess would be wrong. I have both a tablet and a desktop. The Start screen is a disaster with only a mouse. Scrolling is a pain. Put the cursor in a corner and then wait? What were they thinking!

        With a touchscreen, it’s a lot better, but they clearly spent much more time on the look of the Start screen than on its functionality. Maybe they’ll get it right in Windows 9.

        • Jason Farris

          Then you are aware of the Win key?

          • Anon

            Then you are aware that the vast majority of users don’t use keyboard shortcuts?

            Just because YOU don’t have a problem doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist. You can deny it all you want, but it’s a problem for real users, including this expert user.

          • Jason Farris

            A button is not a shortcut. It’s one button. Computers have used buttons for a long time, let me know if you need help.

          • Eric Cromwell

            I have been using and programming computers since the 80’s. I was there for the first “touch screen revolution!” that never caught on because touch screens still have the same problem now as they did then. Fingerprints that make your screen look like crap and not many people want to try to play a fast paced action game jabbing at the screen. Your arms get tired after 8 hours at work poking a screen. etc.

            Windows 8 is garbage, pure and simple, intended for simple minded people that never want to look at the hardware or have any control over their own computer.

            and I refer you to the manual that calls the windows key “Windows shortcut key” named so because pressing one key is shorter than moving your mouse to the corner and waiting 2 seconds for the (expletive) crap OS to determine you want the “charms” to pop out.

        • Nathan Ottenson

          Scrolling is a pain?? use the mousewheel, that’s what it’s there for. Put the cursor in the corner and then wait for what? Was your computer built in the 90’s? And the look of Win8 is to compliment a touchscreen interface which will take over the market place sooner than you could imagine.

    • guest

      First you say this will make it impossible to launch some apps. Then you contradict yourself and point out that those apps can still be launched, you’ll just encounter the Metro start. And get lost in Metro and not know how to get back to the desktop? Are you for real? Maybe select the big tile that says “Desktop”?

      I also don’t know what you’re talking about the Metro start with a mouse is a “disaster”? I’m using that as my primary input daily. It’s slicker on a touch-enabled device, obviously, but I have no problem navigating the interface with a mouse.

      Look, the new start is different and some are going to like it and others aren’t. I’d also agree that there are refinements that should have shipped with the product and are needed in order to better marry the Win32 and “Metro” environments. But many of your criticisms are either demonstrably false or just plain silly.

      • Jason Farris

        Pretty much.

        • tthor

          what does the win key do to fix the nav and keyboard problems with the “metro” interface? back button? left/right keys? consistent mouse scroll? If you want I’ll list it up for you as you’re clearly not that into usability. And does the win key fix the issue where you have to move your mouse to the corner and wait to get the options you want? stop making excuses. usability for mouse and keyboard in win8 were an afterthought at best. the good news is that it can be fixed.

          • Jason Farris

            Left right keys… check. Working.
            Mouse scroll… check. Working.
            Back button… check. Working.
            Win key… check. Working.

            I’m actually very into usabilty, which is why I use Windows8. It’s the best UX out there.
            Let me know if you need help.

          • tthor

            “it’s the best UX out there”

            Really? Explain how one closes a Metro app with one mouse gesture? You have to move your mouse to the corner, wait for a second, then click on the Start screen or hit the windows key. Then you have to move your mouse to the top left, right click, select close. Or if you’re advanced, hit ALT F4. How is that “the best UX out there” ?
            Sorry, as someone in the industry (20 years) working on design and usability, flipping the bozo bit on you. You seem to be in blame the user mode. These things are easily fixed. But they need to be fixed.

          • Jason Farris

            To close a metro app with one mouse gesture, you grab the app and drag it (flush it) to the bottom of the screen. This is the same “gesture” you would use if you used your finger on a touch screen. Its quite simple actually. What else are you having trouble with?

          • tthor

            I just tested this out with a few of my colleagues. Not only was it not discoverable, but even when told how to do it, they had a lot of trouble performing that gesture with a mouse. Sometimes the app was docked, sometimes the content scrolled, etc. Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t make it usable.

          • tthor

            btw, simple fix. If a mousemove (vs. a pointer or touch event) is detected, show a small close button (x) in the upper right. Not only is that discoverable and most direct, simple way to close a window /app, it is what every single desktop user expects to find. Pretending that everyone wants to use touch gestures with a mouse is ridiculous.

          • Jason Farris

            Unnecessary. There’s already a visual cue, when the mouse moves into the “pull zone”, (that’s my term not theirs), the cursor turns into a hand. This is the entire top of the app, the same vertical space that the a windowed app would have for it’s title bar.

            If you’re having trouble with the gesture, you’re probably going too slow. Just grab the app and flick it downwards. I can open an close metro apps faster than the eye can keep up with. Learning a few simple gestures will go a long ways towards your appreciation of the product.

            You’ll realize, once acclimating, that having the same gestures for mouse and touch is actually a good thing.

            For example, pulling the app down to flush it isn’t the only purpose of that gesture. You can also pull the app to the side for split docking. Now, unlike the desktop, the apps don’t just cram into the dock space, the UI actually rearranges to make best use of this space. So many useful applications on the daily.

      • Anon

        Look, I’m happy for you that you’re happy, but the market is making it pretty clear that general users aren’t happy. They’re confused. To say that what I wrote is false or silly because you personally don’t have a problem is just dumb. And telling people who don’t use keyboard shortcuts (most users) that the solution to the poor mouse control is to use the keyboard is ignoring the actual problem, which is, as tthor puts it, making desktop usability an afterthought in the design of Windows 8.

        If you want to pick nits with what I wrote add “without going to the Windows 8 Start screen” at the end of the first sentence. But, everything I wrote is true, whether or not you like it.

        • Jason Farris

          Nope. None of it true actually and I’m happy to demonstrate.

        • curt

          lol…I think the market is coming around pretty fast. Just ask Aapl (stock ticker) since September of last year.

    • Nathan O

      They would get to the desktop the same way they got to metro. My GF is not the most tech savvy individual but I’m sure it took her no longer than 2 days to figure out how to switch between desktop and metro on my Win8 PC.

      And what was MSFT thinking? They were thinking about the future.

      • Jason Farris

        My six year old niece has no trouble using Win8 whether it’s touch or mouse. No one had to show her, its quite natural. I guess she doesnt have 20 years of prejudice clouding her thinking.

        • Eric Cromwell

          33 years of prejudice here. Simpler is not always better. My problem isn’t with them developing a simple organic interface for non power users, it’s with them flat out telling everyone, “get used to it” and removing functionality and access.

  • guest

    An admission of failure if there ever was one.

    • James

      More like capitulating to dinosaurs.

      • LD

        Oh, so I suppose you write Java or C# code in touch mode?
        Or edit large documents?
        Or compose web pages?
        There are excellent reasons why people who actually do work on their computers need traditional KB+Mouse and desktop modes.
        Has nothing to do with the Cretaceous or any other prehistory.

    • jamesnobles

      More like capitulating to dinosaurs

  • Ian Trimble

    I agree with the author. Microsoft is now in the defensive position.
    Microsoft now needs to get its stuff back together and listen to the
    vocal minority who are complaining the loudest.

    • jamesnobles

      That article is crap. Touch is coming to the desktop and if MS drops it from 8 it will be another instance where MS was there first but dropped the ball.

      • Jason Farris

        No one is dropping touch. This is just a PR move to appease folks who have trouble understanding why both environments exist in the same OS.

  • guest

    The W8 start screen is great, but the OS is schizophrenic. There’s no wonder folks might want to go straight to the old-style desktop — you have to go there anyway if you want to get any work done. Personally, I wish the news were in the opposite direction — that the new update would accommodate exclusive use of “metro mode”.

  • guest

    I prefer the W8 start (overall) but it was obvious from the beginning that some wouldn’t, particularly businesses. So not allowing a control panel option to re-enable the familiar W7-style environment was always a mistake and now, at least if this report is correct, one that is being corrected. W8 is an interesting product. On the one hand I applaud MS for finally taking some risks, while on the other I question the overall lack of user-visible innovation and question some of the design choices made. MS really needed to get this one right on version one. But unfortunately we’re likely looking at the usual 3+ before that happens, assuming it does.

  • socialbomb

    i have windows 8 pro and its very fast i love it if blue gone be free for windows 8 users i get it :)

  • Eric Cromwell

    Bought a laptop with windows 8 and had windows 7 installed on it within 3 days. I hate software with a “screw you it’s better this way” attitude.

  • LD

    Love the “blood-and-guts” of W8 and am forced to use it (we develop WinPhone 8 apps, so no choice).

    Agree with many, though – on a traditional PC, it’s just stupid to make you boot into the Modern UI. I literally use none of the Modern apps, and even Office 15 suite apps don’t run Modern, so booting into the Modern screen first is ridiculous.

    • LD

      BTW – included in the blood-and-guts that I like and find most functional is full-on Hyper-V engine support.
      I run no less than 3 OSs on one machine (often two VMs simultaneously) while compiling code in VS on the native machine, and it’s fast and efficient.

  • Monty

    Thank god for Mac

  • Clayton Toth

    Screw Windows 8. It’s designed for simple minded people who don’t care about being fucked by ads and bloatware. Honestly, whoever had designed the Xbox One and Windows 8 are retarded and just put Microsoft in a terrible position.
    If only Microsoft knew, that they didn’t have to compete with other
    companies like Apple to make good products. They where already good on
    their own. Also, when you own a large company why would you want to expand profits when you already pretty much rule the world anyway?

  • Anon

    Jason Farris = Microsoft Lackey? Its not a secret that corporations are paying people to perform PR maintenance through a web presence, sending peons out into the virtual landscape to manipulate social media and consumer reaction.

    Or he could just be a delusional fanboy.

    • Loveunderlaw

      COMPLETELY AGREE! Windows 7 is STILL the best Dektop OS IMO, and for Mobile computing stick with Android. I don’t like Apple’s “Walled Garden” approach, and I don’t like Windows 8 more baubles and eye candy approach to computing.

      It’s a good thing I still can use OracleSolaris as a backup, if Microsoft keeps going down the road of stupidity.

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