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How Windows Red can fix Windows 8: The right strategy for Microsoft

Galen Gruman | June 4, 2013
A proposal to rescue Windows 8 and fulfill Microsoft's promise to deliver a modern computing experience on both PCs and tablets.

The Charms bar is eliminated
Another unnatural aspect of Windows 8 is the Charms bar, which takes search, device access (printers, scanners, and monitors), sharing, and settings configuration out of the apps using them and into an independent element you have to call up each time you want it. This requires users to move outside of a Metro app for these common functions — it's also unfriendly and unnecessary.

So Windows Red kills the Charms bar.
Instead, there are Search, Share, and Settings buttons standard in every app's control bar, both in Windows Red Pro and Windows Red Mobile. The Share button, by the way, extends the sharing notion from social apps and cloud storage to include printing, screen mirroring, and screen placement (on devices connected to multiple displays). Essentially, it absorbs the features of the Devices charm.

The Charms bar's PC Settings controls, which managed Metro-wide preferences, are part of a separate Settings app in Windows Red Mobile. In Windows Red Pro, the PC Settings controls not already duplicated in the Control Panel are moved to the Control Panel for a unified OS settings environment.

Live tiles and Metro apps are incorporated into the Windows Desktop
If Windows Red Pro were merely a better version of Windows 7, there'd be little hope that the Microsoft platform would ever transition into the new generation of computing that Apple's iOS points to. Fortunately, Microsoft can move Windows forward on the PC.

One way is to let Metro apps — both from Windows 8/RT and Windows Phone — run on the Desktop like any other apps. (Because Windows Phone 8 shares a common core with Windows 8, Microsoft's engineers should be able to support Windows Phone apps on PCs and other Intel-based devices.) It'd be a great boon to Microsoft's desktop and smartphone ambitions.)

So in Windows Red Pro, Metro apps run in application windows, using the keyboard and mouse instead of gestures and the onscreen keyboard. They're accessed from the Start menu like traditional Desktop apps, and they can be pinned to the taskbar like Desktop apps. This is a more sensible way to transition PC users to the Metro approach.

When running in Windows Red Pro's Desktop, Metro apps change their UI slightly. The App bar that appears at the bottom of the screen in Windows 8 Metro and Windows RT (and thus in Windows Red Mobile) moves to the top of the screen when running in Windows Red Pro. That keeps parallelism — important for a consistent user experience and motor memory — with the equivalent menu bar in Windows Desktop apps.

For Metro apps that also have a Control bar (at the top of the screen in today's Metro environments), the Control bar appears under the App bar when running in Windows Red Pro. Again, that's parallel to the Ribbon's placement in Windows Desktop apps.

 

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