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Microsoft May Be Dumping Windows 10's Live Tiles

An "accidentally released" Windows 10 build appears to offer an interesting clue into Microsoft's plans for the operating system's Start menu.

On Wednesday, the company apologized on Twitter for accidentally rolling out Windows 10 build 18947 to a "limited number of Windows Insiders." Microsoft gave these users rollback instructions in an announcement.

However, Build 18947 turned out to be a notable release because it dispensed with the "Live Tiles" menu approach seen in the flagship Windows 10 product. Live Tiles are the sometimes-rotating squares, representing links for starting programs, in Windows 10. Live Tiles also show frequently updated information, such as in weather apps.

Instead, with Build 18947, users were presented with a cluster of inert icons representing applications. No rotating squares or updated text messages were shown, and the arrangement was somewhat jumbled.

The Windows Insider Program is a public program for voluntary testers of new Windows 10 features being developed by Microsoft. However, build 18947 was supposed to be available only for internal testing at Microsoft. It wasn't supposed to be more broadly shared with the public and released to external testing "rings."

Build 18947 got out to the public because "a configuration change allowed this build to release to multiple rings simultaneously, including external rings," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Various media reports, such as this one by Neowin, claimed that Build 18947 was showing a menu devised for "Windows Lite," a new rumored operating system. Zac Bowden of Windows Central also claimed that "I know for a fact that this is the start menu experience that you can expect to see on Windows Lite, which is a new operating system Microsoft is building, but it looks like they are working on it for Windows 10 desktop as well." Bowden showed off the new start menu in Build 18947 in this video.

Windows Lite hasn't been described by Microsoft, but various media sources lay claim to knowing about it. Veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley has previously suggested in a ZDNet article that Windows Lite is a new Windows Core OS version, per her unnamed sources. Possibly, it's being designed to be a competitor to Google's Chrome OS Web-based operating system.

In any case, the public reaction in Twitter posts to the new menu approach appeared to be mixed. Many winced, but some users wanted to keep it.

The use of inert program icons seems to be a far less noisy version of Microsoft's current Live Tiles approach, which evolved from early Windows 8 "Metro" design concepts. Live Tiles currently are difficult to customize and they also serve up ads, at least to Home edition users. Many people may be ignoring them and instead using Windows 10's built-in search to find programs.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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