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Next Windows 8 version can ditch bits of Metro

Keep calm, Metro-haters, it's the embedded version and it's not a backdown

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The Interface Formerly Known as Metro (TIFKAM) is Windows 8's most controversial feature.

Those using the OS with a touchscreen-equipped device generally report it's a decent touchy OS. Users of conventional PCs aren't always as happy: your correspondent personally knows one such user who has rigged his PC so he only needs to see Metro once a day, at startup, and another who returned a new PC to the shop it came from because TIFKAM was so confusing.

What then to make of the fact that the next release of Windows 8 will make it possible to remove some aspects of TIFKAM from the user interface?

It's definitely overreach to suggest the ability to do so represents any kind of backdown from Redmond, because the next version of the operating system is Windows Embedded 8, the cut destined for use in vertical applications and PC variants intended for use in all manner of odd environments.

Windows Embedded 8 is due to emerge later in March, when Professional and Standard versions will land.

Both, and the forthcoming retail-specific version due a few weeks later, will allow developers to suspend TIFKAM features like the swipe-from-the-left that invokes the “Charms Bar”, a Start-Button-like collection of shortcuts to various Windows 8 functions.

John Boladian, Microsoft's Windows Embedded business group lead for, Asia Pacific, China and Japan, says removing the Charms Bar is a fine idea for applications such as interactive kiosks, where user interfaces need to be restricted to a certain set of options lest users run amok. He's also sure the ability to restrict certain gestures on touch screens will be appreciated by developers, again because embedded applications don't need every gesture in the Windows 8 vocabulary.

Boladian also feels that native Windows 8 applications will be welcomed by developers of embedded apps, as they fill the whole screen.

Throw in new Kinect integration that will mean a PC's screen and motion sensor could be placed behind glass a couple of metres away from users, but still driven with gestures, and Boladian thinks developers will warm to the possibilities offered by the embedded cut of the OS.

That Windows Embedded 8 is Windows 8 with some extra bits, and therefore manageable with the same tools as a conventional PCs, won't hurt either.

Partners are apparently going through the motions of looking excited and showing off new boxes that make the most of the new OS. Bolandian spoke to The Reg from a Japanese retail technology exhibition where Toshiba, NEC and Fujitsu are showing off point-of-sale terminals tuned to the new OS.

Boladian thinks more such devices are in the works, but also feels Microsoft is seeing “an overall trend towards more generic hardware.”

“People just are not investing in ultra-specialised hardware,” he says. “They just don't need to any more.” ®

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