Microsoft has decided not to go ahead with a planned Windows 11 update that would have sacrificed some existing taskbar functionality in favor of a cleaner look for those using tablet devices.
As reported by Windows Latest (opens in new tab), an Insider preview build released back in April 2022 included an option to disable the 'Hidden Icon Menu' that helped to keep the taskbar looking tidy, which was useful for those using windows-based tablets such as the Microsoft Surface line.
Unfortunately, this also caused some issues for desktop users who used the 'drag and drop' feature to rearrange the order of taskbar icons. For example, if you wanted to have the BlueTooth icon sitting on the taskbar for quick access, you would have to right-click onto the taskbar and make adjustments within the Taskbar Settings, whereas before you could simply drag the BlueTooth Icon from the icon tray onto the taskbar directly and then rearrange your icons to your liking in the same manner.
Microsoft confirmed in a Feedback Hub post that the taskbar's drag and drop functionality was removed to better optimize the operating system for tablet users, stating that "with the updates we made for the new tablet-optimized taskbar in Build 22563, we’re no longer supporting dragging icons in the system tray or between the system tray and the show hidden icons flyout."
Because Windows 11 doesn't have a dedicated OS for tablets, these changes also impacted desktop users which resulted in some heavy criticism. Thankfully, Microsoft appears to be listening to this feedback and has announced that the planned rollout for this feature has been canceled. Insiders who download Windows 11 Build 22616 will find that the normal functionality of the taskbar will be restored.
Analysis: Does Microsoft need a dedicated Tablet OS?
It's great that Microsoft is willing to admit that it made a mistake with this one, but it does seem a shame that planned changes for tablet users won't be implemented because they interfere with the desktop version of the Windows 11 operating system. Perhaps it would be better if a standalone tablet version of the OS was released to better serve both sides of the market.
That's clearly no small development task, but it might be better to create two well-optimized products for both desktop and tablet users than to try and cater to everyone's needs with a single operating system, especially with tablets and 2-in-1 devices being so popular these days.
Products like Apple's iPad Pro have proved that you can replace a laptop (or even a desktop computer) with a powerful, compact tablet, depending on your requirements, and it's likely that tablet use in the workplace and educational facilities is only going to grow from here.
If Microsoft is hoping to compete with Apple, it certainly feels like its line of tablets will need more love than they're currently getting. With any luck, we can get some better optimizations for tablet users in the near future without having to impact those using the desktop version of Windows 11.