Windows 8.1 Update 1 Preview: Now with More Integration

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Preview: Now with More Integration

More Windows 8.1 Update leaks help a clearer picture emerge

A newly leaked set of shots from a prerelease version of Windows 8.1 Update 1 suggests that Microsoft is going to further integrate the Metro and desktop worlds in this important coming update. As you might expect, I have a bit more information about what's happening here.

First though, here's what's leaked: infamous Windows leaker WZor has provided a few screenshots of a recent Update 1 build that show how Microsoft is adding the ability to pin Metro apps to the desktop taskbar, a feature that is currently available via third-party utilities like Stardock ModernMix. For example, here you can see the Windows Store (Metro) app pinned on the taskbar.

This is interesting, of course. You may recall that I had previously reported that Microsoft would make two major changes to Metro/desktop integration in Windows 9 "Threshold": The ability to run Metro apps in floating windows on the desktop and a return of the Start menu as an optional feature.

So what does this leak suggest? And what else do I know about this?

Generally speaking, we know that Microsoft is moving to further integrate Metro and desktop and create a more seamless environment. (The original Windows 8 was correctly called "jarring" by an otherwise clueless tech commentator on the day it was publicly unveiled, which everyone should have seen as a bad sign.)

My Windows Weekly co-host Mary Jo Foley has been reporting for some time that Update 1 is designed, at least in part, as a companion release to Windows Phone 8.1, which will be released at the same time in very early April. And that part of the point of this release is to bring those two currently-separate OSes more closely together, both technically and functionally.

Of course, Windows Phone doesn't have a desktop, so this stuff has little to do with that. But I do have a few more tidbits to share about Windows 8.1 Update 1. Indeed, had this not leaked this morning, I would have revealed it on Windows Weekly today.              

Microsoft is improving Windows in Update 1 so that the Metro environment works better with traditional PC hardware. And while these improvements will take many forms, some subtle, some not, I can confirm one new feature: Metro apps will now include a close box, similar to that seen on desktop applications, which can be clicked with a mouse so that the app closes completely.

I'm also hearing about some other major changes to Metro from a mouse-user's perspective, but since I haven't been able to confirm them with other sources yet, I'll hold off until I can do so.

I am curious about the experience of pinning Metro apps to the desktop, however. When those apps run, will they just run full-screen, as they do now? That doesn't seem like much of an addition until those other two features I mentioned—windowed Metro apps and a Start menu—are offered. But since that won't happen until Windows 9, I'm curious why the taskbar pinning feature is being added first. Perhaps it's just a way to show that they're taking steps.

Before signing off, here's one more semi-related tidbit: After someone pointed out that the year-long delta between the April 2014 announcement of Windows 9 and the April 2015 release was only a year, I started asking around about this, and how Microsoft would be planning a major release in such a short time. (An issue that is made all the worse by current uncertainties around the company's reorg and CEO ascension.) Last night, I was told not to expect much from Windows 9 and that it would be similar to Window 8.1 in scope. Fundamental changes are not coming, I was told.

More as it becomes available...

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