Recently, Windows Blue – an update to Windows 8 – popped up unofficially. It was only a matter of time before the usual blogosphere nonsense began, and so it has, right on time. I was gonna quote that article, but it’s so laden with clickbait and lack of any deep thought I’ll just leave it with a link.
The reason more settings are included in the Windows Blue NUI (New UI) is so tablet users don’t have to drop back into the not-built-for-touch desktop Control Panel when in the NUI. Currently, OS settings are spread across both the legacy Control Panel AND NUI, which is bad from a UX uniformity perspective. This change makes them more accessible from both UIs. How this reasoning is non-obvious to supposed “experts” is beyond me. Microsoft simply wants Windows 8 tablets to function more like tablets when in a tablet use case. Forcing a touch user to drop into a non-touch dialog to change settings on a touch device is really poor UX. This change fixes that.
Will the desktop be retired? Eventually, yes. But for now, Microsoft is supporting both desktop and NUI. The rate of iteration on NUI – assuming Windows Blue is released, it will be 1 new version per year – suggests Microsoft isn’t killing the desktop as nearly as much as they’re building a more powerful replacement for it. Evidence of this includes Blue’s new option to tile apps in the same manner as the desktop currently does. Obviously, this is a massive undertaking that will take time, and the NUI has a quite a few more iterations to go before that goal is realized. But in the mean time, desktop support is still there and strong as ever. If Microsoft’s development of IE – which has supported legacy web code at least up to v10 – is any indication, the desktop won’t be retired until something just as capable or better is on hand.