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Windows 8 to step back on customization in Apple-like choice

updated 11:10 pm EST, Thu January 26, 2012

Windows 8 to limit custom look to themes

A seemingly minor decision for Windows 8 in the post-developer preview versions has shown an about-face by Microsoft in its approach to design. During new demos on Thursday to TechRadar, Windows 8 communications lead Chris Flores explained that users wouldn't be allowed to change the background of the main Metro screen to their own photo. Scaling was an issue, but Microsoft had also decided that the home screen tiles would cover it up too much, defeating the point of a custom image.

In its place, Microsoft is offering a mix of basic styles with color themes, each of which has a coordinating set of hues for the trim. The login screen will still allow a custom photo, much like Windows Phone.

The reduced choice is unusual for Microsoft and shows the emphases on consistent style, visibility, and usability in the new OS. Apple has often been criticized for not allowing much customization of Mac OS X, but it like Microsoft today has argued that preserving the look and consistency of the interface is more important.

Along with the customization aspects, Microsoft has been at work improving the interface for its public beta in late February. Windows 8 now has more controls for mouse users in the Metro interface to flick through home screens or running apps. The charm bar, where the Start button and other common controls are available on touch devices, also now has a subtler effect where it won't deploy fully if the user's input suggests they'd tapped the very edge of the screen by accident.

Windows 8 is expected to ship in the second half of the year and will use the stylized Metro interface as the default Start screen for most users, whether or not their PCs support touch.

by MacNN Staff



  1. juraiprince

    Joined: Dec 1969




  1. nowwhatareyoulookingat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    maybe Apple's got something there...we should more closely copy them, now that they are making billions of dollars more than we are.

  1. nitewing98

    Joined: Dec 1969


    OK, So..

    Let me get this right. Microsoft is limiting users of the new Windows version to the same interface that the current Windows 7 phones are (not) selling? (sigh)

    Folks, innovate. Not duplicate. Redmond has their copiers running again.

  1. Kees

    Joined: Dec 1969



    your commenteverybody seems to be talking about how great these tiles are, but anyone actually using W8 is complaining how weird it is to click the start button and be dumped into an entirely different interface.
    A much better approach would be to have your regular desktop visible, the tiles would just fade in over it.
    That would reduce some of the schizophrenia currently plaguing W8.
    Of course, that would make it like a live version of Apple's launchpad, not their greatest innovation imo, but Balmer will just argue that Apple actually copied them anyway..;-)

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Nothing new

    Neither Windows 7 Starter edition nor Windows 7 Home Basic edition allow you to change the desktop background. I seem to recall that Windows Vista Starter and Windows Vista Home Basic had the same problem. You have to pay more for the Premium, Ultimate, or Super Ultra Mega-Deluxe Platinum edition to change your desktop background.

    Maybe there will be a Windows 8 Ultra Mega-Deluxe Platinum edition too. So you can change your background.

  1. facebook_Eric

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jan 2012


    K-12 for pros

    I'm starting to suspect that common operating systems are going to start looking like comic books.

  1. freddymac

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What ever happened to?

    The old adage that windows was customizable and Mac is not. My how things change over time.

  1. Mr. Strat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Dropping a deuce

    If Microsoft keeps the ugly, unintuitive Metro interface, Windows 8 will go over like a t***. It will be worse than Vista and ME combined. Not only is the interface ugly and unintuitive, to have users switch between Metro and the Windows 7 interface is absurd. Metro might work fine for a kiosk or a phone (that nobody wants to buy), but it's awful on a desktop PC.

    Hint to Apple - dump the Launchpad.

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