Microsoft is once again planning to alter the way its Start Screen works in Windows 8.1 Update 1. While the software giant originally released Windows 8.1 last year with an option to bypass the "Metro" interface at boot, sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans have revealed to The Verge that the upcoming update for Windows 8.1 will enable this by default. Like many other changes in Update 1, we’re told the reason for the reversal is to improve the OS for keyboard and mouse users.
We understand the latest internal builds of Windows 8.1 Update 1 have the boot-to-desktop option enabled by default, a change that Wzor noted earlier today. The update is still in development, and Microsoft could alter this further before it ships, but it's currently being changed to appease desktop users. It may seem like a minor change, but the move reverses parts of Microsoft’s original vision for Windows 8. While some critics argued Microsoft simply forced the Start Screen interface onto desktop PCs with little regard for keyboard and mouse users, the company pitched its "Metro" environment as the future of Windows. With the interface booting by default, developers had an opportunity to place their apps front and center on millions of PCs.
Most Windows 8 users still use a keyboard and mouse
The Windows Store continues to grow with applications, but we understand that Microsoft has been paying close attention to telemetry data that shows the majority of Windows 8 users still use a keyboard and mouse and desktop applications. This same telemetry data was used to justify the removal of the Start button shortly before the Windows 8 release, and contributed to its eventual return in Windows 8.1. Microsoft may have wanted to push touch computing to the masses in Windows 8, but the reality is that users have voiced clear concerns over the interface on desktop PCs.
Microsoft is also addressing other parts of feedback around Windows 8.1, especially concerns from businesses who are rapidly trying to move away from Windows XP ahead of the support cut off in April. Additional changes include shutdown and search buttons on the Start Screen, the ability to pin Windows 8-style ("Metro") apps on the desktop task bar, and a new bar at the top of Metro apps to allow users to minimize, close, and snap apps. These changes, and the default boot-to-desktop option, are part of small improvements ahead of a larger changes in Windows 9. Microsoft is expected to allow "Metro" apps to run in separate windows on the traditional desktop. Windows 8.1 Update 1, meanwhile, is expected to debut in March, ahead of potential Windows 9 details at the Build developers conference in April.
The Verge asked Microsoft to comment on the boot-to-desktop changes, but a spokesperson says the company has "nothing to share."
Update: Microsoft is still testing and tweaking this update, and we're told you can't always replicate the boot to desktop changes.