Stardock's CEO talks to us about ShadowFX, his thoughts on Windows 9 and more

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell gives us his opinion on various Windows subjects

Stardock was already a well known developer of Windows utilities and games before the launch of Start8 in 2012, a desktop Start menu for Windows 8 to take the place of the one that Microsoft decided to remove from the OS. While Start8 is not the only Start menu replacement for Windows 8, it turned out to be a massive success for Stardock. Since then the company has released a number of other utilities for Windows 8, including ModernMix, which allows Modern UI apps to run in windowed form on the desktop. Both the Start menu and the ability to run Modern apps on the desktop are slated to be added to the next official version of Windows by Microsoft, code name Threshold.

Stardock's newest Windows8 program, ShadowFX, which adds shadows to desktop windows, launched earlier this week. We got Stardock CEO Brad Wardell to answer a few questions via email about ShadowFX, along with his thoughts on the upcoming Windows 9-Threshold and more.

First, in 2012 Stardock launched the Windows 8 desktop start menu program Start8 and in 2013 the company released ModernMix, which lets Modern UI apps run on the desktop in a window.How successful have those programs been for Stardock?

They've been immensely successful. Start8 is the type of program that really only happens once in a career. We stopped counting downloads at around 30 million earlier this year.

Microsoft has since announced plans to offer a Start menu and a way to run Modern apps on the desktop in the next version of Windows. Do you and Stardock feel validated about Microsoft adding both of the features that the company offers in its third party programs?

Definitely. It just means Microsoft is listening to its customers.

For those folks who may not have heard of the new program. can you give us a general idea of what ShadowFX is all about?

My desktop has 3 monitors with lots and lots of windows. On Windows 8, it gets really fatiguing picking out the active window. That's because Windows 8, unlike Windows 7, doesn't have shadows. It's one of my biggest pet peeves with Windows 8 visually. This wasn't a problem with Windows 7 because each window had its own drop shadow which changed based on what was the active window. As a result, at a glance, you could pick out the active window.

Why do you think Windows 8 users will enjoy downloading and using ShadowFX?

Once you use it, its benefits become really obvious. Even as we're communicating right now, it is just so much nicer having my active window "pop" out of the screen a bit.

Does Stardock have plans to release any Modern UI apps for the Windows Store at some point?

Maybe. It's not compelling enough yet. I want to see what happens with Windows 9.

Microsoft is rumored to launch a public preview of Threshold very soon. Based on your experience, will this new version of Windows be enough of an improvement to help Microsoft end the poor reputation of Windows 8?

I think so. What I'd like to see in Threshold is something like this:

  • Gimme the Start menu back
  • Make modern apps behave similarly to regular Windows apps
  • Get rid of the Charms bar
  • Let me have something like full screen sessions ala the Mac.
  • Gimme DirectX 12

Gimme those 4 things and I'm a happy camper.

The PC industry is now seen to be in a better place than it was a couple of years ago, due to the slow down in tablet sales. Do you feel the PC industry will start growing back again and where do you see Windows evolving to keep up with the current trend?

I don't think we'll ever see the desktop return to the dominance it once had. We're in a multi-polar world, so to speak, where the desktop is just one of the platforms available to users.

Finally, is there anything else Stardock is working on that you would like to plug?

Heh. We're on the verge of a major switch in how we do Object Desktop (our suite of desktop enhancements). We're going to make it available soon as a subscription model ala Office 365. With Windows 9 on the horizon, we think there will be a terrific opportunity for users who want to always be able to enhance their Windows experience now that it's pretty obvious that Stardock tends to be ahead of the curve on where Windows is going.

We would like to thank Brad for answering our questions

Editor's note: The interviewer was previously employed by Neowin, which is 40 percent owned by Stardock.

John Callaham