Microsoft is planning to change the way its Start Screen operates with the release of Windows 8.1. Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans have revealed to The Verge that the company is currently testing builds of Windows 8.1, known as codename Windows Blue, that include an option to boot directly to the traditional desktop. We're told that the option is disabled by default, allowing users to simply turn on the functionality should they want to avoid the "Metro" Start Screen at initial boot or login.

We understand that the hot corner functionality, for access to the Charms and Start Screen, will remain intact if the boot to desktop option is enabled. References to a "CanSuppressStartScreen" option in early builds of the Windows 8.1 registry were recently discovered by members of the My Digital Life forum, but a UI to enable the feature doesn't appear to be present.

Microsoft's change of heart follows criticisms of its approach to Windows 8 for traditional desktop PCs with keyboard and mouse usage. Accessory makers have attempted to ease the situation, but Microsoft has faced pressure from businesses and desktop users for options to suppress the Start Screen or bring back the traditional Start Menu and Start button UI. Third-party tools to revive the Start button have proved popular, but it's highly unlikely that Microsoft will opt to bring the Start Menu back to life itself. We're told that the boot to desktop option is simply designed to appease desktop users who wish to avoid the Start Screen environment.