Talking tech since 2003

Windows 8 has been something of a mixed bag for PC users. While it’s got a lot of bonuses for folks who use touch-enabled tablets and PCs, for traditional mouse-and-keyboarders, it’s far more trouble than its worth. It’s sort of a Frankenstein operating system, stitching together its boxy Metro mode with its not-totally-functional Desktop mode, combining into an experience that feels less like a step forward and more like something presided over by the Ministry of Silly Walks.

But a post on Paul Thurrott’s WinSuperSite today reports that when Microsoft starts to roll out its rumored “Threshold” initiative—an effort to unify Windows experiences across all devices—the OS may move even further back to its Desktop-focused roots. While he goes out of his way to point out that his sources aren’t discussing Threshold specifically, his information would seem to be a part of Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows reforms. Thurrott says that there will be more options for users to “run Metro apps in floating windows on the desktop,” which would be a great help to those uncomfortable with the weird application divisions in Windows 8. That way you’d be able to utilize desktop mode and not have to switch back and forth in order to take full advantage of all your applications.

Not only that, but the Start menu might make a comeback as well, which would make sense considering that one of Windows 8.1’s big benefits was the return of the Start button. Currently, hitting the Start button doesn’t really do anything you couldn’t do by hitting the Windows button on your keyboard—that is, it takes you to the Metro tiles screen. The Start menu would be a welcome addition considering how integral it’s been to Windows users’ experiences for the past several years.

All told, these changes would be great—but it’s telling that they’re mostly just logical returns to the way that Windows 7 worked. It’s a tricky thing, trying to advance your user interface to take advantage of the growing field of touch-enabled computers, but also keeping your core customer base happy. For now, it seems that Microsoft is still trying to figure out how to walk that line of innovation and familiarity…and it’s an even trickier line to walk than the company’s management could’ve imagined.

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