Feeds

Is this photo PROOF a Windows 7 Start Menu is coming back?

Screenshot hints at yet another attempt to fix the desktop

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Build 2014 Microsoft seems willing to try almost anything to increase the use of Windows 8 these days – including rolling back some of the software's least-loved features, and even giving it away for free in some cases.

The latest batch of tweaks to Redmond's latest OS comes in the form of the Windows 8.1 Update, which shipped to MSDN subscribers on Wednesday and will become available to the general public via Windows Update beginning on April 8 (the day Windows XP support officially ends).

Among the major benefits of Windows 8.1 Update are user interface fixes that make touchscreen-friendly Windows 8 easier to use with a keyboard and mouse – an apparent concession to the millions of Windows users who don't share Microsoft's recent zeal for smartphones and tablet computers.

But at the annual Build developer conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Terry Myerson, executive vice-president of Microsoft's operating systems group, hinted that even more dramatic changes are on the way, including some that seem designed to convince Windows 7 holdouts to upgrade.

"I'm not here to announce the next version of Windows," Myerson said. "But I am going to share that we are going all-in with this desktop experience, to make sure your applications can be accessed and loved by people that love the Windows desktop."

("Going all in with this desktop experience" is a startling choice of language given the company's "Mobile First – Cloud First" strategy, by the way.)

Putting the 8.1 Update aside, Myerson said that, among other forthcoming features, users will be able to launch Metro-style Windows Store apps inside on-screen windows, and stack, resize, and minimize them alongside traditional desktop applications. (The Windows 8.1 Update already adds the ability to pin Windows Store apps to the desktop Taskbar.)

Myerson also said that Microsoft planned to "enable your users to find, discover, and run your Windows applications within your Start Menu" – and to illustrate what he meant, he briefly displayed an eyebrow-raising screenshot.

Photo of a future Windows 8.x desktop

Is this the future face of the Windows 8 Start Menu? (Click for a huge version)

In it, a Windows desktop user has opened what looks like a hybrid of the Windows 7 Start Menu and Windows 8's Start Screen, with Windows 8–style Live Tiles stacked alongside a column of traditional application launcher icons, where the icons appear to include both desktop applications and Windows Store apps.

Myerson didn't say when this next Windows makeover would ship to customers, but he did say that Microsoft "will be making this available to all Windows 8.1 users as an update."

Send no money now

Myerson also confirmed that Microsoft will be offering a radical new incentive for small device makers, by giving them access to the Windows OS for free.

Redmond is hard at work on a version of Windows for the so-called Internet of Things, he said, and when that version is ready, it will be made available at no cost.

What's more, Myerson said, as of Wednesday, Microsoft is now offering Windows for free for phones and tablets with screens smaller than nine inches.

This isn't the first time Redmond has offered such a discount. The software giant reportedly waived its Windows Phone licensing fees for handset makers in India earlier this year, for example. But it is the first time Microsoft has committed to offering a zero-cost OS to its device OEM partners worldwide.

As for when the version of Windows for the Internet of Things would arrive, however – or the next major update to the Windows 8 desktop – Myerson cautioned that unlike many of the announcements made at Build, the things he discussed in his portion of the keynote were "not coming in the next few days or weeks." ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.