Interview: Stardock's CEO talks about ModernMix for Windows 8

In 2012, Stardock released Start8, a highly popular software application that added the Start menu back into the Windows 8 desktop, along with other features. Later, the company released Decor8, which lets users change the wallpaper behind the Start screen on Windows 8.

Today, Stardock released yet another software program designed to make using Windows 8 easier. It's called ModernMix and it allows users to run Modern apps made for Windows 8 on the desktop and even resize those apps. We got a chance to chat with Stardock's CEO, Brad Wardell, about ModernMix as well as other Windows 8 related topics.

First, you recently told us there have been over three million downloads of the Start8 software. Do you think this is proof that Microsoft should not have abandoned the Start menu for the Windows 8 desktop?

I don't think that Start8's downloads (now over 4 million) prove anything. But I do think that Microsoft made a mistake getting rid of the start button/menu. If the desktop is supposed to be just another app, then why take out the Start menu? Taking it out didn't make the desktop any better, infuriated millions of PC users and provides no value to those who do like the Windows 8 Start screen.

How is Decor8 doing and are there any plans to add new features to Decor8 in the future?

Decor8 has done very well. I remain very surprised that Windows 8 doesn't include the ability to change the Start screen background.

Stardock is releasing its third Windows 8 product, ModernMix. How did the idea behind it come about?

It was during the Windows 8 beta. We just couldn't believe that Metro [now called "Modern"] apps were forced to run full-screen on a desktop PC. Seeing a weather app or a stock ticker app running full screen on a 22 inch monitor is nuts. The thing is, the WinRT API is good. You can make some really nice apps with it. But those apps are crippled by forcing them to run full-screen. A lot of people won't use them because of that. That's where ModernMix comes in.

How hard was it to get "Modern" Windows 8 apps to run on the desktop?

Running Modern apps in a window, on the desktop, where they show up on the taskbar as regular Windows programs -- non-trivial. We have been working on this since before Start8. It isn't that hard to make it "work" good enough to take a screenshot. It's lots of work to make it work seamlessly which is what ModernMix does.

What else can you do with ModernMix?

The more I use it, the more compelling it gets. For example, it's fairly difficult to get (and be confident that it's working) multiple Modern apps to run in the background. With ModernMix, I can have several Modern apps running together on the desktop and quickly switch between them. Another nice thing about ModernMix is that it adds min/max/close buttons to every Modern app so when you close it, you know it's really closed. Being able to see all your Modern apps in the Windows desktop taskbar is extremely handy. Especially since you can then pin them to the taskbar. Ironically, the Windows desktop becomes the only place now in Windows 8 that you can quickly move between all your running Windows programs.

This screenshot shows ModernMix working alongside Start8

Do you think this new product may keep some Windows 8 owners from ever having to go to the Start screen again and just work in the desktop?

I think it'll keep most Windows 8 desktop PC users from having to deal with the Start screen. The Start screen doesn't lose anything from the addition of ModernMix. But now that you can also launch and manage Modern apps from the desktop, there is no need to go to the Start screen -- especially if you combine that with Start8 which can see and launch Modern apps. If you put ModernMix and Start8 together, Windows 8 becomes undisputedly better than Windows 7. All those debates we see on Neowin about Windows 7 vs. Windows 8 become irrelevant because Windows 8 will be able to do everything Windows 7 can do and more. ModernMix eliminates the single biggest trade-off for Windows users. 7.

What price are you charging for the software?

$4.99

Windows 8 has been in general release for over four months now and there's evidence that its growth in the PC industry has been slow so far. Are you worried that Windows 8 might hurt the PC market as a whole if it keeps this slow growth?

We've been quite concerned about the slow adoption of Windows 8. It's been our primary motivation in creating Start8 and ModernMix to help ensure Windows 8 succeeds. We need our customers to move to Windows 8. There's a lot of "under the hood" stuff that we, as developers, want to tap into.

Do you think that having products such as the ones sold by Stardock might actually help sell more Windows 8-based PCs in the long run?

We're certain of that. ModernMix and Start8, when combined take away the downsides of Windows 8. You get to have your cake and eat it too. 

What other Windows 8-based products does Stardock have in the works?

There's still a lot of work to be done on Windows 8. Stay tuned.

Will Stardock ever publish its works on the Windows Store section of Windows 8?

Definitely.

Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Stardock's current and future plans?

We plan to release our annual customer report in the next couple weeks. We'll have lots of new stuff in there.

We would like to thank Brad for answering our questions.

Disclaimer: Neowin's relationship to Stardock.

Images via Stardock

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Just started to use this along with StartIsBack must say i am loving it

As for people saying go use W7 STFU W8 has much more than just a new UI.

People,

If you dislike W8 that much, and try to make it into W7 with all kind of tools, go back to W7.
All this is just silly imho...
There are other things to improve in W8, and a start menu and this forcing of Metro apps isn't it.

This is brought up each time one of these types of apps is mentioned. Windows 8 includes more improvements than just the start screen and modern apps. I can understand people wanting that extra functionality without the burden of the new UI.
As MS has continued to not update the apps and other problems with Windows 8, I welcome Stardocks efforts. Personally I like the start screen, but I agree at times on my desktop the modern apps take up too much space and even with snapping, still too much space and limit what else you can do at the same time.

I don't know about you, but for the past 10 years I have stayed away from Stardock products on purpose. As of late with Start8 and now ModernMix, they really seem to understand what is lacking on the Windows 8 side of things. Now I can finally play my Xbox music without having to switch into Metro lol... now only if Microsoft hadn't integrated the Xbox music app into the system sound so I could level out the volumes

Brian Jackson said,
now only if Microsoft hadn't integrated the Xbox music app into the system sound so I could level out the volumes

^This x 100.

I don't know what was MS smoking. You can't even change the volume properly on the music app. There's no "right there" way to do so (Volume buttons are not included... and please, the charms bar is too much of a hassle!)

it allows users to run Modern apps made for Windows 8 on the desktop and even resize those apps.

Finally.

It should have been built in from day one. If it's stable enough i'm gonna buy this for sure.

Now i just wish i could have the start screen as my desktop background. That's the only thing missing from windows 8 to become a proper desktop os.

This is pretty sweet, its what MS should have enabled on release, but maybe it was smart letting star dock proof of concept it.. I think dogfooding this on the public would have been almost suicidal in confusing people initially.

As a fan of Windows 8, this is actually a very compelling add-on, and I just might pick it up to play with. My BIGGEST question, and one that doesn't seem to have been asked, is:

Will this break with a Windows Update?

don't think it will break automatically, the installer didn't replace any system dlls so it looks like its running using standard api, no hacking.

Aww, have a Linux spirit about it. Offering a base system with a primitive UI and requiring third party developers to get it to a complete experience is what open platforms are all about.

Can netbooks (1024x600 devices) run this software? My netbook runs Windows 8, but it can't run any modern app because of the limited screen resolution. Considering that now apps can be resized to fewer pixels than 1024x600, is it possible to run them using ModernMix?

Luke777 said,
can the start menu also run in a window?

The Windows 8 Start menu being in a window is not something ModernMix offers, but Start8 also from Stardock allows you to have the Win8 menu in a smaller size if you wish.

FloatingFatMan said,

Thanks! Looks neat! Purchased!

Now installed and using it. Works great! That's my last bugbear with Windows 8 fixed!

Thanks Stardock!

Ridiculing Stardock has a hobby of mine, but I have got to say that this is truly a killer app for windows 8.
I may have to stop making fun of them and start sending them some money.

So I can disable the start screen, hot corners, get a start menu, and run metro apps in a window on my desktop. I may just have to upgrade to 8 now (:

Jose_49 said,
So, I will like to see how this compares to RetroUI's own method, which seems to be quite sick!

We got someone to download the latest RetroUI and it doesn't seem to be even close. ModernMix allows multiple apps at once, interaction with your desktop, taskbar button, taskbar pinning - none of which RetroUI seems to offer based on a quick test.

Hmmm. Quite nice!

What I really like about this, is that I can use it with Startisback, since there won't be a need for an extra start menu for Windows 8.

Thanks for the info!

Jose_49 said,
Hmmm. Quite nice!

What I really like about this, is that I can use it with Startisback, since there won't be a need for an extra start menu for Windows 8.

Thanks for the info!


You can use it with any start menu replacement yes including Start8 from Stardock and other companies solutions.

Neil Banfield said,

You can use it with any start menu replacement yes including Start8 from Stardock and other companies solutions.

I think it's more effective with Start menu programs that can "see" and launch Metro apps. Can StartIsBack launch Metro apps? Last time I checked, it couldn't.

It can since v2.0; ModernMix works well.
The only minor bug is that it considers ModernMix-ed apps modern apps and enables all screen corners. I guess you implemented desktop frame around immersive windows instead of making them non-immersive.

Tihiy said,
It can since v2.0; ModernMix works well.
The only minor bug is that it considers ModernMix-ed apps modern apps and enables all screen corners. I guess you implemented desktop frame around immersive windows instead of making them non-immersive.

If you send a mail to support@stardock.com and ask them to forward it onto neil we should be able to work with you to resolve that.

We already have support in Start8 to handle it, so it shouldn't be too hard to get you the info too.

greenwizard88 said,
So I can disable the start screen, hot corners, get a start menu, and run metro apps in a window on my desktop. I may just have to upgrade to 8 now (:

Indeed, stardock is doing things to windows 8 that microsoft should have done in the first place.
Now all I need is a good program to enable gadgets without hogging half my memory and causing slow boot times and overall stability issues then windows 8 might actually have a future on one of my machines at home.

Neil Banfield said,

If you send a mail to support@stardock.com and ask them to forward it onto neil we should be able to work with you to resolve that.

We already have support in Start8 to handle it, so it shouldn't be too hard to get you the info too.

I should be able to fix it myself, watching for owning / repositioning immersive window changes. At least until I make my own ModernMix with blackjack and hookers...

ACTIONpack said,
He was making a joke about it because these Articles are more about promoting Stardock.

A joke would have had one of these "/s" after it.

ACTIONpack said,
He was making a joke about it because these Articles are more about promoting Stardock.

Actually it's a breakthru addon for windows 8. A MS dedicated web site MUST have this as news.

Dutchie64 said,

/s?

If you think its sarcasm then i don't know what to say. This app is really something many windows 8 users were waiting for.