Why is Microsoft dropping the "glassy" Aero look from Windows 8, as announced last week? Battery life could be one reason.

Chris Spera, Contributor

May 23, 2012

3 Min Read

Microsoft gave us a taste of the changes yet to come in Windows 8, as late last week it announced that its Aero interface, made popular in Windows Vista and continued in Windows 7, would not be in Windows 8.

You really should read the MSDN blog entry, if for no other reason than its interesting retrospective on the history of Windows. You also need to watch one of the most celebrated computer moments of the 1980s.

Taken out of context--meaning at each OS release--it's hard to see the purpose behind Microsoft's Windows design decisions. But armed with the information in this blog, you'll recognize a real method to the madness. It will help you understand what Microsoft is trying to do by removing Aero from Windows 8.

According to Microsoft, computer use has grown and changed over time and of course it's right. We're no longer "managing files." We're consuming content and communicating with people from all over the world. We're constantly online; (almost) completely mobile; and although we want universal access to all of our stuff no matter where we are or what device we use, Microsoft realizes that the focus is moving away from stuff and onto people.

We are moving away from the mouse and instead relying on our built-in pointing device, the finger. We're leaving behind the traditional desktop experience of computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse and moving toward tablets, smartphones, and--to a lessening extent as tablets gain a firmer foothold--laptops.

According to Microsoft, Windows 8 is all about enabling this paradigm change. And although it's very big on touting the grace and fluidity of Windows 8 as it focuses on universal (read "in the cloud,") content consumption, people and communications, ubiquitous connectivity, blah-blah-blah, let's remember one important thing: on a dead device the OS doesn't matter.

Windows has a horrible track record with battery life on laptops and even netbooks. Part of that is due in no small part to the computing cycles needed to push Aero. As they say, "MIPS are cheap," especially in a device that's always plugged in. However, in order to more appropriately meet the needs of battery powered devices, the paradigm driving Windows needed to change, and so did the way the OS manages app states (active, minimized, etc.), memory, solid state and rotating storage, computing cycles, and a lot more.

One of the best ways to do this effectively was to cut down on the eye candy. Microsoft's new Metro look and feel is now going to extend to the entire OS. The one screenshot in the blog entry that clearly demonstrates how the new OS will look still has the Aero taskbar. Count on that being replaced with a different look and feel as well.

Although some might question how this is going to affect desktop computing, it's clear that it might have a positive effect on mobile computing, especially if battery life improves as many of us all over the world are hoping it will.

I'm not going to get too critical of the UI changes at this time. Honestly, I haven't seen them yet. There's a Windows 8 Release Preview slated to come out before the final release and some of the UI changes will be included there. You can count on BYTE to cover that, but most of the changes won't show up until the OS hits the streets, currently rumored for late October.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Spera


Based in Chicago, Chris is a senior IT consultant. He serves BYTE as a Contributing Editor. Follow Chris on Twitter at @chrisspera and email him at [email protected].

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