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Windows 8 ditches Aero interface in favour of 'clean' look

Austerity 1, decadent surfaces 0

Windows 8 will abandon much of the GUI eye candy introduced by Vista six years ago in favour of an austere style more consistent with the look of Microsoft's Metro applications, the company has announced.

The visuals released in the Building Windows development blog show an interface that harks back to the simpler interface of Windows XP but without the same garish colour palette.

The emphasis was now on "clean and crisp" and "airy", said Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky, crossing Windows 7's white text on light backgrounds with the geometric minimalism of Metro.

"Gone are the glass and reflections. We squared off the edges of windows and the taskbar. We removed all the glows and gradients found on buttons within the chrome. We made the appearance of windows crisper by removing unnecessary shadows and transparency," said Sinofsky.

"We squared off the rounded edges, cleaned away gradients, and flattened the control backgrounds to align with our chrome changes. We also tweaked the colors to make them feel more modern and neutral."

In other words, out will go the rendered Aero glass look, the best thing since the invention of the GUI the world was once told, but now seen as a passing fad.

"These stylistic elements [in Vista] represented the design sensibilities of the time, reflecting the capabilities of the brand-new digital tools used to create and render them. This style of simulating faux-realistic materials (such as glass or aluminium) on the screen looks dated and cheesy now, but at the time, it was very much en vogue."

The changes are clearly important for Microsoft with Sinofsky writing an unusually long blog on the history of the Windows interface to explain and justify the evolution.

As with Windows 8 generally, the overhaul suggests a younger, mobile-influenced generation within Microsoft has won the argument as to how Windows should reinvent itself in the face of competition unimagined as recently as the Windows 7 planning cycle.

Once Windows releases were shrouded in secrecy to launch day in order to maintain a 'product aura' but now the level of detail and justification offered is almost overwhelming.

The world already knows about the operating system's numerous new features (even if other OSes already have some of them), including its new file system, clever storage thin provisioning, and push-button reset to make OS installs something that can be carried out by a non-expert.

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