Microsoft's Windows 8 will offer more tools and support for multi-tasking users who attach multiple monitors to their desktop and laptop PCs, the company disclosed in a blog post. But Microsoft is dropping the Aero Glass user interface that first appeared in the much-maligned Windows Vista.
More than 13 percent of desktop PC users have two monitors attached to their system, said Mark Yalovsky, a lead program manager on the Windows 8 user experience team, in a blog post Monday. That's according to data Microsoft collected through the Windows Feedback Program. Another 0.85 percent have three attached monitors, while 0.34 percent have four monitors.
More than 4 percent of laptop PC users have two monitors, according to the data.
"When we embarked on planning Windows 8, enhancing multi-monitor functionality was an important area to improve," Yalovsky wrote. "A multiple monitor setup is certainly more common today than they used to be, and many technical professionals (developers, graphics professionals, architects, etc.) have started using it."
Support for multiple monitors is standard on almost all PC hardware today, Yalovsky noted, and multimonitor configurations are becoming more common in work environments and even in homes. The low cost of monitors (in the range of $140 for a 21-inch LED display) also is fueling the trend.
Windows 8 will provide multimonitor support to the taskbar, making it easier to manage multiple windows. It also will allow users to choose different personalized background screens for multiple monitors -- Windows 7 users can only select a single image that is duplicated across monitors.
Users also will be able to launch Metro-style applications on one monitor and traditional Windows desktop applications on another. And corner and edge controls, including the Start menu, clock and other icons, or "charms," will be accessible from every monitor.
The news that Microsoft is ditching Aero Glass was buried deep in another blog published Friday by Jensen Harris, director of program management for the user experience team.
Microsoft originally developed Aero Glass for Vista to provide a translucent, glasslike appearance for Window borders, title bars and other surfaces.
"These stylistic elements represented the design sensibilities of the time, reflecting the capabilities of the brand-new digital tools used to create and render them," Jensen wrote. "This style of simulating faux-realistic materials (such as glass or aluminum) on the screen looks dated and cheesy now, but at the time, it was very much en vogue.
"We applied the principles of 'clean and crisp' when updating window and taskbar chrome," Jensen said of the Windows 8 development efforts.
The next step in Windows 8's development, the "release preview" version, is scheduled for June. Although Microsoft hasn't set a date for the final release of the operating system, it's widely expected to ship this fall.
Earlier Tuesday Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, speaking at the Seoul Digital Forum in South Korea, described Windows 8 as the "deepest, broadest and most impactful" version of Windows Microsoft has ever developed, according to published reports.