One Wallpaper Makes Metro an Extension to the Desktop

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Windows 8's problem wasn't bundling a modern and legacy environment together, but the failure to dispel the perception that the two are entirely independent entities. The Desktop was falsely presented as an app. And not an operating system feature. Metro, on the other hand, was carelessly introduced as an additional operating system layer. And not an extension to the Desktop. Windows Blue appears to address this, despite earlier concerns

The Start button clarifies that the Start screen is the Start menu's successor (and not a Desktop replacement). As a result, transitioning between the Desktop and the Start screen should now make more sense on a conceptual level. However, perceptually, there would remain friction because of the absence of visual uniformity. That is, clicking the Start button is akin to time travel. One moment it looks like 1995. Suddenly, 1995 feels like 18 years ago. That's a lot of change to absorb in one click. But there's an obvious and cost-effective solution. And Windows Blue implements it - the ability to use your Desktop wallpaper as your Start Screen background.

I've actually always used a common solid colour background for the Start screen and Desktop to make the transition between the two less jarring. Compare the difference in transition to the Start screen from a Desktop with the default daisy flowers wallpaper to a Desktop with a customised solid background colour.

More Jarring

Less Jarring

Judging by the screenshot of this leaked feature, the Start screen is now essentially a visual layer on top of the Desktop resulting in an even less jarring transition 1. This seemingly trivial addition may significantly influence people's perception of the Start screen. That it's an evolution of the Start menu. And an extension to the Desktop. A big win, potentially.

Update:  See a video of the Desktop to Start screen transition on Windows 8.1. Pretty smooth. 

1. It could even be smooth depending on the animation used during the transition and the effects applied after.