Even if Microsoft does go all-in with the Modern-style interface in Windows 9, the company still has work to do. As Nielsen Norman Group pointed out in a recent usability study, Windows 8 relies heavily on hidden commands, such as the menu bar that you call up by right-clicking or by swiping up from the bottom bezel. Since users don't know what's in those menus until they bring them up--assuming that they know to look for them at all--the design wastes time and breeds confusion.
Budiu suggests that Windows 9 could provide visual cues to show what options are hidden in a particular menu bar. Modern-style apps already have plenty of white space at the bottom of the screen, so there's room to hint (at least) at the contents of the menu bar, using text or partial icons, perhaps.
Another approach would be for Windows 9 to expose the relevant menu controls when a user opens the app, and then slide them out of view after a few seconds--a behavior that iOS apps have widely adopted. "That signals to users that there is something hidden, and it also gives them an idea of what that may be," Budiu says.
Microsoft might also rethink the charms bar. Currently, app settings are too difficult to access. You must open the charms bar, click settings, and then look for the appropriate settings menu selection in the sidebar--and you don't know what you'll find there until you look. Moving app-specific settings down to the menu bar would help point users in the right direction, especially if this change were combined with the visual cues that Budiu suggests.
Put apps at center stage
There's a problem with all this talk of slaying the Windows 9 desktop and committing 100% to the Modern-style interface: Third-party app developers haven't exactly flocked to Windows 8, and there's no guarantee that the death of the desktop would change their minds.
Microsoft can do only so much to spur app development; but according to Michael Cherry, lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft, the company hasn't done enough.
The biggest problem is that Microsoft hasn't led by example with great Modern-style apps of its own. Cherry noted that Office served as a role model for desktop application developers, illustrating the usefulness of concepts such as the icon bar and the ribbon interface.