Desktop Mode

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2012-03-05 Print this article Print


The desktop portion of Windows 8 feels largely unchanged from previous versions, with some notable exceptions. The start button isn€™t present in the Consumer Preview. In Windows Explorer, Microsoft has introduced a version of the ribbon interface already present in other Microsoft products. Those who hate the ribbon€”a significant population, given the comments about it on Microsoft€™s official Building Windows 8 blog€”can perhaps take consolation in how Windows engineers have attempted to streamline it.

Despite those tweaks, the desktop€™s placement behind the new start screen makes it feel like something of an afterthought. For tablet users and those who only want Windows to run select apps, that€™s probably fine. It remains to be seen how power users will react to this variation.

Certainly Microsoft has designed Windows 8 to play well on a wide variety of machines. System recommendations for the Consumer Preview include a device with a 1GHz (or faster) processor, 1GB RAM (32-bit) or 2GB RAM (64-bit), 16GB available hard-disk space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit), and a DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 (Windows Display Driver Model 1.0) or higher driver.

During a keynote discussion at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in October 2010, a moderator asked Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about the company€™s riskiest bet. €œThe next release of Windows,€ he replied. Around the same time, now-departed Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie posted a long note on his personal blog in which he described a coming €œinflection point€ that would bring a future dominated by devices connected to the cloud.

Those devices, Ozzie added, would take forms beyond traditional desktops and laptops: €œAt this juncture, given all that has transpired in computing and communications, it€™s important that all of us do precisely what our competitors and customers will ultimately do: close our eyes and form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might actually look like.€  

Microsoft€™s response to that post-PC world is finally upon us. If the company€™s bets on a more mobile-centric interface pay off, then it could sell hundreds of millions of copies of Windows 8. If not, then it has the tech-world version of New Coke on its hands. 

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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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