According to leaked screenshots and secret sources, Microsoft will scrap ‘Metro’ and roll boot-to-desktop as the default in the Windows 8.1 update coming in March.

If you hated the Live Tiles presented as the default on the Windows 8.x Start screen, then Microsoft allowed users to tweak the setting in Windows 8.1 to bypass the “Metro” interface at boot and instead boot to desktop. But boot-to-desktop will be the default, according to leaks from Microsoft insiders and screenshots of the upcoming Windows 8.1 update. Rumor has it that the update will roll out on Patch Tuesday in March.

The Russian site Wzor first posted leaked Windows 8.1 test build screenshots showing the change enabled by default.

Leaked Windows 8.1 test build, no more Metro Start screen, boot to desktop as default
Then Microsoft insiders, or “sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans,” told The Verge that Microsoft hopes to appease desktop users by bypassing the Start screen by default, meaning users will automatically boot straight to desktop. “Additional changes include shutdown and search buttons on the Start Screen, the ability to pin Windows 8-style (“Metro”) apps on the desktop task bar, and a new bar at the top of Metro apps to allow users to minimize, close, and snap apps.”

Of course, Microsoft continues to lose millions upon millions of customers to iOS and Android. That desperation is likely what drove Microsoft to force a touch-centric operating system on customers. If customers can’t easily use a Windows OS on a traditional desktop, then Microsoft hoped its “make-them-eat-Metro” strategy would force people to buy its tablet to deal with the touch-based OS. For Microsoft, it was like killing two birds with one stone. But despite the company’s “One Microsoft” vision, we’re not birds and we don’t like having stones thrown our way.

Microsoft claimed that telemetry data justified the removal of the Start button in Windows 8, and then its return in Windows 8.1. That same telemetry data shows “the majority of Windows 8 users still use a keyboard and mouse and desktop applications.” The Verge added, “Microsoft may have wanted to push touch computing to the masses in Windows 8, but the reality is that users have voiced clear concerns over the interface on desktop PCs.”

“Microsoft really dug a big hole for themselves,” Gartner’s David Smith told Gregg Keizer, referring to the Redmond giant’s approach with Windows 8. “They have to dig themselves out of that hole, including making some fundamental changes to Windows 8. They need to accelerate that and come up with another path [for Windows].”

Back in December, NetMarketShare stats showed that more people were still using the hated Windows Vista than Windows 8.1. January 2014 stats showed Windows 8.1 on 3.95% of desktops with Vista on 3.3%. Despite Microsoft warning about the evils of clinging to XP, and the April death of XP support, Windows XP, however, was still on 29.23%. Many people still hate Windows 8, which may be why the company plans to jump to the next OS as soon as possible.

Microsoft plans to start building hype for “Windows 9″ at the BUILD developers’ conference in April. The new OS is supposedly set to come out in the second quarter of 2015. While it seems wise for the company to want to ditch the hated Windows 8.x as soon as possible, Microsoft had better to do something to encourage developers as the expected boot-to-desktop change will mean folks won’t see the Metro apps on the Start screen.

Windows 8.1 update leaked screenshot of test build
According to the test build screenshot, Microsoft is urging people to “switch to a Microsoft account on this PC. Many apps and services (like the one shown for calendar) rely on a Microsoft account to sync content and settings across devices.” Note that “sign into each app separately instead” is “not recommended” by Microsoft. Of course, setting up a Windows 8 computer without it being tied to a Microsoft email account was “not recommended” either…but it can be done with about any email address or set up as a local account tied to no email address. If you use SkyDrive, aka the newly dubbed “OneDrive,” then why not just log in when you need it?

Trying to keep its developers “happy,” may be part of the reason Microsoft does not recommend signing into your Microsoft account on an individual app basis. Sure there’s still the Windows Phone Store, but some people complain that the Windows Phone Store is full of junk and fake apps. Of course, since Windows 8’s dueling tablet-PC interface was a flop, perhaps Microsoft will follow Apple’s lead and come up with a separate OS for tablets. That move might help out Microsoft and developers; without developers, there’s no apps. Without good apps, even a new OS for tablets won’t help Microsoft from continuing to decline and falling into the abyss of irrelevancy.

 


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