In recent years I’ve been quite critical of Microsoft for their lack of product vision and execution – it seems like the disaster that was Vista set the company back almost a decade. Since then they’ve sat on the sidelines and watched the rest of the industry take advantage of emerging trends in mobile, web services and social networking – to name but a few.
Yet I’d be remiss to count the giant from Redmond out – From first hand experience I know how tenacious they are, and together with having some of the smartest engineers working for them are a formidable force in the technology industry. So it was with great anticipation that I spent a few hours today watching the keynote and a number of sessions at the Windows build conference and Jensen’s session on Metro UI. Just as he did a few years ago when the Office Ribbon was introduced, Jensen did a great job sharing the principles and philosophies of the Metro UI. Since this is the part of Windows 8 I like the least, I thought I should spend an hour and a half learning more about where it came from.
I’m going to share my thoughts, which are not meant to be a thorough review – Engadget does a much better job. But rather, something more in the mold of this excellent ReadWriteWeb article about what Windows should become (I highly recommend reading it – very insightful).
My Three Takeaways
- Windows 8 UI is bold, reimagined and inefficient: Windows is going to break existing interaction paradigms, and extend the boring and difficult UI of Windows Phone 7 into more places. Unless Metro UI can be turned off I think many who use Windows to get work done will look for alternatives. I fled the Mac because it is a far less efficient computing experience, but Windows 8 threatens to sap productivity in equal measure. I’ve only been using Windows 8 for a while now, but I can already tell the Metro UI needs a lot of work to be usable with a mouse and keyboard.
- Microsoft will struggle to get developers interested in building Windows 8 apps: It’s easy to point to the release of the Windows app store being many years after Apple as evidence of how far behind Microsoft is, but that’s not really the point., The dirty little secret is that despite hundreds of million Windows 7 users, the install base for the Windows app store when it launches will be zero. Microsoft is going to need to do something different, otherwise the Windows app store will end up like other wastelands of attempted developer excitement – the IE extension library and Windows widget gallery.
- Microsoft is trying hard to get services, but isn’t there yet: They’ve made some great progress with seamless syncing of settings across machines and the option to use SkyDrive to do the same for documents and photos. As a consumer, this is the most enticing aspect of Windows 8 for me – most of digital life is already in the cloud and seamlessly sync’d with Chrome, but there are still a few pieces of digital debris that litter my PC.
There are a few things I love so far about Windows 8, and a few more things which drive me crazy – I’ll share my thoughts on those soon. I think Microsoft has pushed reimagine about as far as they are able with Windows 8. The best scenario for them is that Windows tablets become the 2nd most popular tablets within a year, and eventually pull an Android and overwhelm iOS with their sheer quantity of devices and form factors.
If Metro can be turned off, I don’t think this poses any threat to their desktop dominance, but also doesn’t provide any compelling reasons for an upgrade. The biggest threat for them is not being able to create a compelling touch screen ecosystem of devices. If they can’t do this, their dominance of the desktop won’t matter in 10 years.
What do you think?