Is this photo PROOF a Windows 7 Start Menu is coming back?

Screenshot hints at yet another attempt to fix the desktop


Build 2014 Microsoft seems willing to try almost anything to increase the use of Windows 8 these days – including rolling back some of the software's least-loved features, and even giving it away for free in some cases.

The latest batch of tweaks to Redmond's latest OS comes in the form of the Windows 8.1 Update, which shipped to MSDN subscribers on Wednesday and will become available to the general public via Windows Update beginning on April 8 (the day Windows XP support officially ends).

Among the major benefits of Windows 8.1 Update are user interface fixes that make touchscreen-friendly Windows 8 easier to use with a keyboard and mouse – an apparent concession to the millions of Windows users who don't share Microsoft's recent zeal for smartphones and tablet computers.

But at the annual Build developer conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Terry Myerson, executive vice-president of Microsoft's operating systems group, hinted that even more dramatic changes are on the way, including some that seem designed to convince Windows 7 holdouts to upgrade.

"I'm not here to announce the next version of Windows," Myerson said. "But I am going to share that we are going all-in with this desktop experience, to make sure your applications can be accessed and loved by people that love the Windows desktop."

("Going all in with this desktop experience" is a startling choice of language given the company's "Mobile First – Cloud First" strategy, by the way.)

Putting the 8.1 Update aside, Myerson said that, among other forthcoming features, users will be able to launch Metro-style Windows Store apps inside on-screen windows, and stack, resize, and minimize them alongside traditional desktop applications. (The Windows 8.1 Update already adds the ability to pin Windows Store apps to the desktop Taskbar.)

Myerson also said that Microsoft planned to "enable your users to find, discover, and run your Windows applications within your Start Menu" – and to illustrate what he meant, he briefly displayed an eyebrow-raising screenshot.

Photo of a future Windows 8.x desktop

Is this the future face of the Windows 8 Start Menu? (Click for a huge version)

In it, a Windows desktop user has opened what looks like a hybrid of the Windows 7 Start Menu and Windows 8's Start Screen, with Windows 8–style Live Tiles stacked alongside a column of traditional application launcher icons, where the icons appear to include both desktop applications and Windows Store apps.

Myerson didn't say when this next Windows makeover would ship to customers, but he did say that Microsoft "will be making this available to all Windows 8.1 users as an update."

Send no money now

Myerson also confirmed that Microsoft will be offering a radical new incentive for small device makers, by giving them access to the Windows OS for free.

Redmond is hard at work on a version of Windows for the so-called Internet of Things, he said, and when that version is ready, it will be made available at no cost.

What's more, Myerson said, as of Wednesday, Microsoft is now offering Windows for free for phones and tablets with screens smaller than nine inches.

This isn't the first time Redmond has offered such a discount. The software giant reportedly waived its Windows Phone licensing fees for handset makers in India earlier this year, for example. But it is the first time Microsoft has committed to offering a zero-cost OS to its device OEM partners worldwide.

As for when the version of Windows for the Internet of Things would arrive, however – or the next major update to the Windows 8 desktop – Myerson cautioned that unlike many of the announcements made at Build, the things he discussed in his portion of the keynote were "not coming in the next few days or weeks." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Despite global uncertainty, $500m hit doesn't rattle Nvidia execs
    CEO acknowledges impact of war, pandemic but says fundamentals ‘are really good’

    Nvidia is expecting a $500 million hit to its global datacenter and consumer business in the second quarter due to COVID lockdowns in China and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Despite those and other macroeconomic concerns, executives are still optimistic about future prospects.

    "The full impact and duration of the war in Ukraine and COVID lockdowns in China is difficult to predict. However, the impact of our technology and our market opportunities remain unchanged," said Jensen Huang, Nvidia's CEO and co-founder, during the company's first-quarter earnings call.

    Those two statements might sound a little contradictory, including to some investors, particularly following the stock selloff yesterday after concerns over Russia and China prompted Nvidia to issue lower-than-expected guidance for second-quarter revenue.

    Continue reading
  • Another AI supercomputer from HPE: Champollion lands in France
    That's the second in a week following similar system in Munich also aimed at researchers

    HPE is lifting the lid on a new AI supercomputer – the second this week – aimed at building and training larger machine learning models to underpin research.

    Based at HPE's Center of Excellence in Grenoble, France, the new supercomputer is to be named Champollion after the French scholar who made advances in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs in the 19th century. It was built in partnership with Nvidia using AMD-based Apollo computer nodes fitted with Nvidia's A100 GPUs.

    Champollion brings together HPC and purpose-built AI technologies to train machine learning models at scale and unlock results faster, HPE said. HPE already provides HPC and AI resources from its Grenoble facilities for customers, and the broader research community to access, and said it plans to provide access to Champollion for scientists and engineers globally to accelerate testing of their AI models and research.

    Continue reading
  • Workday nearly doubles losses as waves of deals pushed back
    Figures disappoint analysts as SaaSy HR and finance application vendor navigates economic uncertainty

    HR and finance application vendor Workday's CEO, Aneel Bhusri, confirmed deal wins expected for the three-month period ending April 30 were being pushed back until later in 2022.

    The SaaS company boss was speaking as Workday recorded an operating loss of $72.8 million in its first quarter [PDF] of fiscal '23, nearly double the $38.3 million loss recorded for the same period a year earlier. Workday also saw revenue increase to $1.43 billion in the period, up 22 percent year-on-year.

    However, the company increased its revenue guidance for the full financial year. It said revenues would be between $5.537 billion and $5.557 billion, an increase of 22 percent on earlier estimates.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022