Microsoft is gearing up to show off a technical preview of the next version of Windows in late September and the focus very well could be on the enterprise based on the current watermark on builds of Windows Threshold. Along with new features like Cortana and virtual desktops, Microsoft has also removed the Charms bar from the desktop.
Where did the Charms go? Well, they now reside inside Modern apps but we have already talked about this before. Oh, and if you are a dev who has an app that heavily relies on the Charms bar, you might want to start thinking about a world where the Charms bar is not a central focus like it is in Windows 8.
So we know that on desktops, the Modern UI will be turned off by default and that Modern apps run in a windowed mode; on the tablet side, the Modern UI is lovely as ever and will receive a few tweaks too. But the middle ground, the 'hybrid' machines, it gets very interesting and necessarily in a good way.
The ultimate hybrid at the moment is the Surface Pro 3, all tablet, mostly-laptop and generally speaking, a good machine. But the way that Threshold is designed right now, you are either all touch or all mouse and keyboard. The Charms bar was a middle ground where touch was useable on the desktop but Microsoft went and killed that feature.
For anyone who has a Surface, you will know that the Charms bar gets used quite a bit when you are on the desktop because your hands are so close to the screen. Especially when using the pen in OneNote, you need some sort of middle ground for these types of devices.
And that's the current debate. How does Microsoft handle these middle-ground devices? Should they allow the user to turn on a Charms bar-like feature so that hybrid devices continue to function as they were intended to do when they were built? If so, doesn't that send a message to the consumer that 'sometimes this feature is there and other times it isn't and it really depends on the type of device you are using'? This surely has the potential to become a bit confusing. Consumers already had a hard time adjusting to the lack of a Start menu, so having features that turn off and on depending on the device could be a bit tricky.
It's an interesting problem currently because there are tons of hybrid devices on the market. If these devices do not include a functional way to interact with the OS using their finger while on the desktop, then the devices have less of a value proposition.
The reason we bring this up is that you need to be watching the fine details of the next iteration of Windows. For the past two years, Microsoft has been pushing hybrid devices but the current builds of Threshold - which may be missing a key component that no-one seems to have uncovered yet - is not exactly a great experience on these middle-ground devices.
We know that Microsoft will likely address the issue but finding the right balance could be complicated.
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