Microsoft appears to have decided that its Windows 8 Modern UI strategy has not paid off, and is preparing to reverse course. The Start screen and Modern apps will be demoted to less prominent roles in the upcoming Windows 8.1 Update 1, which we can expect to be released in March or April 2014.
Previous reports of the Update 1 leak indicated that an option to skip the Start screen and boot directly into the desktop would now be enabled by default. It was also confirmed that Modern apps (now referred to as Store apps) will be able to be pinned to the Start menu and launched from there, reducing the importance of the Start screen. Now, a video has appeared online which documents not only these features, but several other, more subtle, tweaks that confirm Microsoft's intention to relegate the entire Modern UI to a non-essential role for users of non-touch desktop and laptop PCs.
Youtube user Bavo Luysterborg has posted a video walkthrough of the various changes. Modern apps now have a title bar that appears when the mouse cursor approaches the top of the screen. Apps can be minimised, closed, or docked to either side of the screen via the Windows Snap feature. They can't be reduced in size to run in their own floating windows, but that's something rumoured for the next major release of Windows.
The Start screen itself has been given a few tweaks. There are now buttons in the top right corner for power and search, which previously required users to dive into the poorly conceived "charms" panel. The default tile layout and the All Apps view have also been redesigned. Right-clicking on a tile or option now brings up a regular context menu in place, rather than the option bars that used to appear across the top and bottom of the screen. Holding the Ctrl key will allow multiple tiles to be selected in one go.
Critics of Windows 8's design will be disappointed to learn that there's no sign of a traditional Start menu that could replace the Start screen entirely. It has become less and less necessary to use the Start screen, but you can't yet ignore it completely.
As a last little surprise, the video confirms that Update 1 will ship with a new build of Internet Explorer 11, which features a new Enterprise mode. This will allow IT administrators in business environments to specify websites and browser-based services that should be rendered in a compatibility mode. The mode is designed for businesses that have resisted upgrading to Windows 8 because of in-house tools that can't run in newer versions of IE.