Windows Blue to tweak mouse-based interaction

May 13, 2013 // 11:13 a.m.

Tags: #metro-ui #microsoft #modern-ui #touch-centric #user-experience #user-interface #windows-8 #windows-81 #windows-blue #windows-phone #windows-rt

Rumours that Microsoft is - at least partially - back-tracking from its Modern UI with the launch of Windows Blue later this year have come to a head, with sources indicating that Blue will include include both a Start Button and the option to boot the desktop along with additional tweaks to make things easier on keyboard and mouse users.

That Windows 8, and its tablet-centric Windows RT cousin, is based on a touch paradigm is undeniable: its Modern UI, based on the Metro user interface originally developed for Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, just begs to be poked with a finger thanks to its blocky tile-based design. It's also the source of much user dissatisfaction with the next-generation OS: few are complaining about the performance or features of Windows 8, but there are plenty of people queuing up to deride the experience of using Windows 8 on the desktop.

For some, it's enough to delay an upgrade from Windows 7 - even having purchased Windows 8 at its knock-down time-limited £25 upgrade price; for others, it's a reason to break out third-party modifications and extensions that seek to bring the Windows 8 experience back to the WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointer) paradigm that has driven every previous version of Microsoft's iconic operating system. While Microsoft may have hoped that touch-capable hybrids and all-in-one (AIO) systems would push Windows 8 adoption, relatively high prices - now dropping - mean that most users are still interacting with their Windows systems in the old-fashioned way: with a keyboard and mouse.

Microsoft recently confirmed that Windows Blue, also known as Windows 8.1, would be launched later this year - around August, if rumours are to be believed - but has been quiet on exactly what changes it will bring. Several leaked disc images have provided hints, ranging from a brand-new kernel revision to Modern UI tweaks - and, more importantly, the ability to bypass the divisive Start Screen altogether and boot directly to the desktop.

Now, sources speaking to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley claim that Windows Blue is all about winning back those who have been lost in the transition to the Modern UI. While it won't be a ground-up redesign, and Modern UI will still be Microsoft's focus for the future, the sources claim that there will be tweaks made to improve the experience for mouse users: as well as the ability to add back a Start Button - though not, it would appear, a Start Menu, with the Button simply loading the Modern UI Start Screen - and boot straight to the desktop, Windows Blue is claimed to include Start Screen and Charms Menu improvements that make them easier to use with a mouse rather than a finger.

Microsoft, for its part, is refusing to comment on precisely what new features and improvements Windows Blue will bring - but with a preview release expected to launch at the end of June, reasons to avoid upgrading from a prior Windows version could be in short supply pretty soon.

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