Metro on the Wrong Track
For Many Windows Users
Where have I
Wait, I know!
YOU KNOW ME. I’M A LINUX GUY. Still, I think Windows has gone from being a bad joke of a desktop operating system (Windows ME) to being a reasonable choice (Windows 7). Its course hasn’t been steady, though: After the still popular XP SP3, we got Vista. And now
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been
technology and the
business of technology
since CP/M-80 was
300bps was a fast
Internet connection —
and we liked it!
He can be reached at
we have Windows 8. What the heck is Steve
Microsoft has made it clear that it considers
Windows 8’s Metro interface and applications to
be the future. When I look at Metro, however, I
see gaudy colors, boxy designs, applications that
can either run as a small tile or as full screen with
no way to resize or move windows. Where have I
seen this before? Wait, I know! Windows 1.0.
Twenty-five years of user-interface development
and this is what we get? Scary.
If Metro were just a tablet interface, I might be
inclined to give it a pass — except that Android and
iOS already have better, more usable interfaces. This
isn’t just my opinion. Look at the market: Windows
Phone 7 has a Metro interface, and it has just a tiny
fraction of the smartphone market.
Another problem is that longtime Windows users
already know the Windows interface. They don’t
know Metro, which is not the Windows interface.
Heck, Mac OS X Lion and Mint Linux’s GNOME
2. 28 both look and feel more like Windows 7 than
Windows 8 Metro does. Fortunately, you can use a
more Windows-like interface, but Microsoft really
seems to want everyone to move to Metro.
Windows developers can’t love this either.
They’ve spent years learning the likes of .Net,
Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and
Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), and
now they have to learn WinRT and Jupiter/XAML.
As if that isn’t bad enough, their workload has just
doubled, since they’ll need to rewrite their apps
for the more traditional Windows-style desktop.
Think you can ignore Metro? Well, if you’re
writing or using only business programs, it might
be possible. But if you’re playing in the consumer
space or planning on using tablets and smartphones, you’re stuck with Metro. You see, Windows
8 will run only in Metro mode on ARM processors
— which are the ones in your mobile hardware.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. If you produce
the operating system that much of the world runs,
you’d better have a darn good reason for making a
major change to your main user interface. There
must be something about the interface that makes
people go, “Wow.” I don’t see the wow.
Honestly, I don’t see anything in Metro that’s
compelling. I just see a second-rate touch interface
that’s going to require every Windows user to
learn a totally new, and not especially useful, way
to do their daily work. What’s the point?
Sure, Metro gives Windows 8 one interface on
all platforms, but on the desktop, it’s going to be
a pain for both users and developers. It seems to
me that with Metro, Microsoft is headed toward
another Vista-size train wreck.
Strike that. Metro is worse than that. This may
be the change that breaks Microsoft’s stranglehold
on the desktop. I can see a lot of people switching
to Macs. I can see even more people taking one
look at Metro and opting to stick with XP and
Windows 7 for the foreseeable future. u
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:
n Preston Gralla wonders whether Windows 8 has
anything enterprises are looking for. Page 35