Allaying any concerns that you might’ve had after Microsoft showed off an early version ofWindows 8 with a distinctly tabletified, tiled,Windows Phone 7-inspired interface, it has now been confirmed that Windows 8 will ship with a touch-first Metro UI interface and the standard Windows interface that can be found on some 90% of the world’s computers.
Speaking on the Building Windows 8 blog, the president of Windows and Windows Live, Steven Sinofsky, has detailed how the tiled Metro interface and the standard Windows Desktop (with a capital D) will peacefully coincide. From the sound of it, you will have complete control over which interface you use — and you can use both at once, if you like. Tablets (and devices missing a keyboard and mouse) will probably boot up in the Metro UI, but it isn’t clear what the default for desktop and laptop PCs will be. It wouldn’t be surprising if Metro is the default for PCs simply because it Microsoft will want to show it off.
From an engineering and performance standpoint, Sinofsky is almost at pains to point out that Windows Desktop will become “just another app” — in other words, the will just be another tile that you can launch with the jab of a finger. Curiously (and a little worryingly), Sinofsky doesn’t say the same about Metro. It would be nice to assume that there’ll be an easy-to-find toggle that forces a computer to boot up to the standard Windows Desktop, with Metro becoming “just another app” that you can open with a double click — but who knows, maybe Metro will be the default and Desktop will be… just another app.
The advantage of this split is that tablets and other touch-centric devices won’t have valuable RAM and CPU cycles stolen by the Windows Desktop running in the background — and vice versa, if you’re allowed to boot up directly into Windows Desktop. It will also enable the creation of embeddedMetro-only devices where the Desktop is completely absent, though with 8 and 16GB fast becoming the norm for non-volatile memory, min/maxing the operating system’s footprint is unlikely to be an issue.