Microsoft flirting with boot-to-desktop and Start button in Windows 8.1 Blue

Microsoft will reportedly backtrack on attempts to push the Windows 8 Start Screen front and center, leaks suggest, with the upcoming Windows 8.1 set to include the option to bypass the controversial touch-friendly UI. The so-called "Blue" refresh of Windows 8 will feature the option to boot straight to the desktop mode, sources tell ZDNet, rather than defaulting to the Metro-style interface, a much-requested feature from those not using tablet or touch-enabled PCs.

Although deployment on regular desktop PCs and notebooks far outstrips that of touchscreen-equipped hardware, Microsoft's Start Screen UI has been pushed on all Windows 8 computers with no easy way to bypass it. Manually switching to the traditional desktop is possible, but so far cannot be established as the default.

According to the insiders, Microsoft's latest test builds of Blue have seen the addition of an option to do just that, however. The feature is expected to be particularly popular with enterprise users, who rarely have a touchscreen and have supposedly encountered strong negative feedback from users frustrated by the Metro-style interface.

Meanwhile, there's also the possibility that the Start button itself could make a reappearance, with Microsoft also supposedly considering restoring the app launcher button. That's been another controversial omission from Windows 8.

As the source points out, "until it ships, anything can change" and Microsoft's final rounds of testing could end with the decision not to include the customizable UI options when Windows 8.1 finally ships. That judgement is expected to be finalized by August 2013, when Windows 8.1 "Blue" is believed to be released to manufacturing.