There are few software releases that have polarized reviewers and users alike than the recent release of Windows 8. One faction embraces all of the changes, and the other despises the lack of a familiar interface. From the shear commotion, I was motivated to try and evaluate Windows 8. I installed Windows 8 (x64) on a Virtual Box running on my fairly beefy quad core, Windows 7 based desktop.
It dawned on me that this schism appears to have originated internally at Microsoft; the final product appears to be the combined efforts of a team refining the Windows 7 platform and the another team tasked with refining and porting the Xbox/Windows Phone 7 operating system UI. Clearly, Microsoft has taken the somewhat bold path to showcase the work of the latter as it’s vision. However, the work of the former team is also quietly evident in Windows 8 “Desktop” mode or as some has called it “Legacy” mode. I have found that Windows 8 “Desktop” environment is significantly revamped. Instead of the Vista-era simplified dropdown menus, an Office 2010-era ribbon interface is introduced. Even more curious is the inclusion (at least in the Professional Edition) of quick shortcuts to the command line and power shell. The Task Manager and other integrated utility have also seen significant revamping. All of these changes took significant thought and effort to implement, and yet they seem to perpetuate Windows 7 design concepts, so it’s apparent that not everyone on board with Modern UI design at that point of these changes.
By some simple digging around, it appears that the entire Windows Tile / “Metro” interface is closely tied to the newest Windows 8 Shell, i.e. explorer.exe version 6.2. If one should end the process of explorer.exe, they will find themselves in the “Desktop” environment. This is significant to note because Microsoft would like us to believe that in fact the “Desktop” environment is just in fact another Metro-style program, when it appears that the Metro-style front end is just another layer of the Desktop interface, this is not too different from the way Windows Media Center runs on Windows 7, viz. a full screen immersive environment running on top of the “Desktop”. This kind of explains why there is such poor integration of core windows components in the “Tiles/Metro” interface.
This is an interesting time in computers, it’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft proceeds to develop Windows and which vision will be prominent?
If I had to guess of the future of Windows, I really see a final separation of the Metro environment and the Traditional environment, the former being for light computer users and the latter for power/corporate users, giving us the best of both worlds. The former will take a significant amount of effort to interface the new GUI to the kernel and related services without using the "Desktop" mode piggyback.