Next version of Windows will remove Live Tiles from traditional PCs and laptops but keep the Start screen for hybrids and tablets, according to reports.
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With features like boot-to-desktop mode and Modern-style apps that can be pinned to the taskbar, Windows 8.1 Update is a significant retreat from Microsoft's original, Tile-dominated vision for Windows 8. According to a flurry of new rumors, Live Tiles will fade even further into the background in the next edition of Windows, with some versions disabling the Start screen altogether.
According to multiple reports, the next version of Windows, codenamed Threshold, will reportedly arrive in spring 2015. It will include a variety of features intended to appease longtime Windows users who were dismayed with Win 8's revamped UI. Like Windows 8.1 Update, the forthcoming iteration will behave differently depending on what type of device it's running on. Live Tiles will reportedly factor heavily into tablet configurations but have little or no out-of-box role on PCs and laptops.
According to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, who cited unnamed Microsoft insiders, Threshold will be available in three basic versions: One for PCs and laptops that emphasizes the desktop interface; one for 2-in-1 devices such as the Surface Pro that will prominently feature both desktop and Modern UIs; and a version for smartphones and pure tablets that lacks a desktop in any form. The websites Neowin and The Verge both published similar reports, each of which cited anonymous sources familiar with Microsoft's plans. All three publications have previously revealed accurate prerelease Microsoft information.
The new desktop UI is expected to include a reimagined Start menu that integrates both desktop and Modern apps. Microsoft demonstrated an early version of the new Start menu in April at Build, its conference for developers. The Threshold desktop will also likely allow users to run Modern-style apps in floating windows, just like they can with regular apps. Microsoft also previewed this feature in April. Both The Verge and Neowin reported that the Start screen will be disabled by default on desktops and laptops running Threshold, meaning mouse-and-keyboard users will see the Start screen only if they turn it on.
The Live Tile-infused Start menu that Microsoft previewed in April
The phone/tablet edition will presumably merge Windows RT with Windows Phone, a move that's been rumored for months. It will reportedly still support side-by-side "snap" multitasking, and it could run on Intel-based devices instead of just the ARM models to which Windows RT has so far been confined. Microsoft is currently working on touch-first, Modern-style versions of its Office suite, an effort that could make Windows RT, which otherwise seems left for dead, a more viable platform.
Aesthetically, Threshold will reportedly be easy to distinguish from Windows 8.1. Microsoft is allegedly leaning toward making Threshold free to all Windows 8.1 Update customers, and perhaps even to Windows 7 Service Pack 1 users too. The next version of Windows could also include new positions for snapping together Modern-style apps.
The new reports offer few insights to the changes Threshold might bring to the Modern UI. Earlier this year, a Microsoft Research video posted online demonstrated Live Tiles that
Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio