Microsoft discusses Windows 8's dueling Metro, desktop UIs

Windows 8's tile-based Metro interface is undoubtedly the operating system's most controversial new feature. Critics have bashed Microsoft for catering to tablets with the finger-friendly UI, but recent revelations about the new OS make it clear that plenty of enhancements are in store for the traditional Windows interface. In its latest post on the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft discusses the rationale behind the Metro UI and how it will coexist with the old-school desktop.

According to the post, the desktop definitely isn't on its way out. Microsoft knows that droves of users and applications rely on the standard UI, and it's well aware of the fact that some tasks require the precision of a mouse or the reliable input of a keyboard. But Microsoft also wants Windows 8 to provide a "first-class" option for touch-based input—and to do so with no compromises.

Unlike with Microsoft's Media Center interface, Metro doesn't run on top of a standard desktop. When the tile-based interface is in use, Windows 8 doesn't even load any code associated with the traditional desktop. Indeed, the desktop is referred to as "just another app."

The more I look at the Metro UI, the more I think it'd work well for home-theater PCs in addition to tablets. As the computing ecosystem expands to accommodate different input mechanisms, screen sizes, and even rooms in the house, it seems unlikely that one interface can effectively rule them all. Whether one OS should rule them all is debatable, of course.

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