Windows 8 Metro Interface, The Wrong New Thing

Microsoft has been revealing more and more features about Windows 8, including the new Metro interface shown above. That is what the standard desktop interface is going to look like in Windows 8. You’ll be able to click a ‘Desktop’ link to interact with older legacy applications (i.e. anything developed for Windows 7 or earlier) but clicking on the ‘Start’ menu is going to land you back in this tiled world. Microsoft is trying to add a breath of fresh air to their interface but I think they’ve simply introduced the wrong new thing.

Direction of Change

Introducing change to your UI is never a decision made lightly. Companies enter legal fights over ‘look and feel’ to make sure they have a unique design, something easily recognizable to anyone sitting down to use their product. Microsoft no doubt is hoping to make their UI memorable but I’m sure is nervous about how it will be received. In fact, they were so nervous about the upcoming changes to Windows Explorer in Windows 8 that they posted a blog entry about it. In it, they didn’t just go into detail about the changes, they discussed the entire history of the interface, the commands most often used, and then ended with an attempt to convince us why we needed the new ribbon UI on a file and folder browser. Microsoft is anxiously trying to get the word out now before the product’s release, likely to avoid any user backlash over getting used to the new way of doing things.

Part of their problem, though, is that they are introducing change in a way that most folks don’t appreciate. Windows 8’s Metro interface is essentially the Windows Phone 7 UI writ large. The problem is Windows Phone 7 hasn’t been in use long enough nor by enough people for the interface to feel more at home to more people. In fact, Microsoft just recently announced plans to increase sales personnel to push additional sales. And now, before the public has really had a chance to become used to this new tiled way of doing things, they are attempting to push it into the new Windows 8 deployment.

At first blush, it would seem to be an attempt to steal a page from Apple’s playbook. Recall Steve Jobs’ “Back to the Mac” theme, where they discussed introducing iOS UI elements into OS X Lion? And in fact Launchpad is pretty much an iOS home screen with all of your apps and no groups. The difference is in the timing. Apple let the iOS experience percolate on iPhone, iPod Touch and then iPad before deciding to bring any elements back into the desktop. And even then, they didn’t make a radical departure. Perhaps bigger changes are coming. In fact, I’m certain of it. But Apple made the right move by easing folks into the iOS way of doing things first before introducing similar changes to an interface OS X users are very familiar with. In any event, the Windows 8 Metro interface is going to receive some pretty critical pushback from their userbase.

3 replies on “Windows 8 Metro Interface, The Wrong New Thing”

I’ll agree that the windows 8 interface isn’t impressing me right now. I hope that the metro style is merely an option and not a set interface. As far as Launchpad is concerned though it just seems like a redesigned applications folder that has taken a start menu approach to putting programs under groups. I’ll hand it to windows though for actually making something that looks different on every version and old versions are supported for years even after new versions come out. After 3 versions of OSX none can be distinguished unless you look at the “about this mac” window or some of the new programs. I’m sure there are other ways but for day to day activities, internet browsing, itunes, etc…, not a whole lot is different.
Personally home theater computers have caught my attention and Windows 7 is great for that. Windows Media Center along with various addons, some that are written locally, make watching movies and television through a pc a different experience. Add a blu ray drive and some form of streaming account and you have everything you need. Check out for more htpc info.
As far as mobile os’s on a desktop go I just assume keep those features for the phones. I see enough of my phone’s os while I’m working. I’d like to look at something different when I get home.

There’s going to be an option to launch “legacy” applications, so it’s not a wholesale break and you won’t be arm-twisted into always being in Metro-mode. However, it is going to be promoted to first class while everything else will be left as coach.

The Metro interface is designed for the future, but it will allow users to cling to the past. Windows XP had this feature for people who weren’t ready to give up their Windows 2000 interface.

Metro is designed for gestures. Gestures are great for mobile devices such as a phone or a tablet, but they are also great for Touch Screen enable monitors/computers. It is also great for Microsoft Surface.

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