Microsoft shows off Windows 8 business app 'concepts'

Microsoft shows off Windows 8 business app 'concepts'

Summary: What would a Microsoft Dynamics app look like if it was a Metro-style Windows 8 deliverable? Like this.


At its Convergence conference for Dynamics ERP and CRM customers and partners, which kicks off on March 19, Microsoft will show off early concepts of what the company's business apps could end up looking like when optimized for Windows 8.

The Dynamics team will be demonstrating these concept apps in Houston this week for the 10,000 or so expected Convergence attendees. These concept apps are Windows 8 HTML5 "Metro-style" (a k a WinRT-based) clients that connect to Dynamics ERP and CRM back-end services.

Here are screen shots from a couple of these demos, supplied to me by Microsoft. Start screen:

(click on the image above to enlarge)

This is an example of what the Microsoft Dynamics Start page in Metro style would look like. The UI would provide an immersive experience which can be personalized by each user.

Project approval:

(click on the image above to enlarge)

This is how Project approvals could look on a Windows 8 tablet device. The Metro-style app will provide the optimal experience for users across different device types, including tablet devices.

Microsoft execs are not sharing at the show any target dates as to when the company expects to field Metro-style versions of its Dynamics CRM or ERP wares. However, Dynamics AX evangelist and blogger Brandon George recently discovered that Microsoft is planning to deliver a Windows 8 version of its Dyanmics AX 7 client in 2013/2014. (He found this inside Microsoft’s own “statement of direction” documentation.)

Microsoft won't be the only company demonstrating early Windows 8 app prototypes at Convergence. Microsoft CRM partner Sonoma Partners is showing off what it's calling the first Windows 8 tablet app for the enterprise at the conference.

Update: Reader @alirobe has even more screen shots of the Dynamics Windows 8 concept apps on display at Convergence.

Topics: Microsoft, Apps, CXO, Enterprise Software, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I have to admit that I was not a fan of Metro

    But seeing dashboards and analytics presented this way is making a compelling argument.
    Your Non Advocate
    • You can't get it until you use it

      Metro is fantastic. Really a breath of fresh air.

      That said, MS has to figure out a way to bridge it and the desktop better than they have done.
      x I'm tc
      • Totally agree...

        While Metro (sorry...not supposed to call it that) is a breath of fresh air...the switch between the desktop, control panels, and even accessing two folder windows at once...leave a lot to be desired. If they can "complete" the UI (that's how I see not quite complete)...they'll have a winner on their hands. The only other issue is bridging the gap between the presentation of the UI on the desktop and that on the tablet. Right now...too much is designed for the tablet and touch.

        A few refinements...a bit more work...and it will be great. It's very fast...
    • Until you start actually trying to do anything with your pretty

      pictures, then you'll run into the limitations of the Metro interface.
      • People said exactly the same thing when Windows 3.0 first arrived

        They complained that GUI's would slow-down data-entry. They claimed that GUI's would require too much staff re-training. They claimed that Windows was way too slow and that it would impede productivity.

        What was needed were some break-out apps that showed how GUI's could, in general, offer significant benefits over the incumbant user experiences of the day.

        That's what Microsoft and other app developers need to do now: Work out and show-off how the Metro experience can offer significant step forward compared to today's experience. Apps like those above will revolutionize how businesses visualize (and control) data, processes and activities.

        Chances are that tommorrow's Metro apps will offer just as much end-user productivity whilst VASTLY simplifying the user experience. Businesses are going to eat this stuff up.
      • And to a degree, they were right...

        "They complained that GUI's would slow-down data-entry. "

        And in many ways, they were correct - which is why there are many systems in place today where the data-entry portion of the work is still being done on text-based terminals.

        Now that's only one part of the equation, but it is a very high-traffic part of it. For the analysis, managers, accountants - the GUI has become second nature and makes the results of the data-entry workers' efforts much more useful.
      • Elaborate

        Would care to elaborate on what limitations are you talking about? Are they a fact? Are they your opinion? Have you already seen the final version of Windows 8 and it's Metro UI? Do those so called limitations appear always or can they be avoided by the app design?
      • I disagree

        @daftkey - I believe data entry is done in text based environments because those platforms were written before Windows type coding was available, and now it's a million dollar investment to implement a new platform. Every platform implementation I've worked on in the last 10 years has been going from a mainframe type platform to a Windows based, point and click, non-command line type platform.
        widow maker
      • @jville, full screen apps focused on a single-tasking

        environment. Remember. These are Metrified apps. They DON'T drop you to the Desktop. They run on your desktop, just like they would on a tablet. And people have (rightly) been maintaining (ever since the iPad came out) that a tablet CANNOT replace a desktop, precisely BECAUSE of the interface limitations.
      • Not entirely true...

        "I believe data entry is done in text based environments because those platforms were written before Windows type coding was available, and now it's a million dollar investment to implement a new platform."

        True for some platforms - yes, many legacy apps that are slow to be replaced have text-based data input based on "old" technology, however there are even up-to-date platforms (some SAP modules, for example) in which there is a choice between GUI and Text-based input, and for high-traffic data entry, the text option is often still taken, because it *IS* faster.
      • Win 3.0

        @bitcrazed - After using Windows V1 and V2x, Windows 3 was anything but an unwelcomed change. In fact Win 3.0 and especially WFWG 3.11 were complete game changers for MS. Also they were evidence that it takes MS at least 3 tries to get something right.

        W8 is the first try and Metro has already been compared to the Win 1 GUI by several. Your comparison to W8 is totally absurd.
      • @daftkey

        Watch a seasoned operator of a hotel or airline's booking terminal. Their fingers are a blur as they blast their way through the text-based booking process.

        Now imagine that they were to invest in their systems and present a grid of rooms color-coded by availability with a couple of sliders to control stay duration, room type, etc.

        The system could:
        a) Be operated without requiring lengthy training & hands-on experience
        b) Be offered in the lobby/online for customers to find and book rooms themselves.

        But, of course, it'll take some time, effort and resources to design, build, test and improve. Some hotels and airlines have/are already doing this. Many are not.

        There are MANY such systems that could be improved dramatically by adopting informatic-type UI's like those above along with simple-to-use-and-understand, primarily graphic controls to allow 80% of users to understand and control a given system.

        I predict we'll see some really killer examples of this very scenario in the coming years.
      • @splork

        As someone wrote his first commercial Windows app in 1992, and having designed and built many text, GUI & web apps since, I can assert that when Windows appeared, it was often ridiculed by those who saw resizeable, overlapping windows, dialog boxes, sliders, buttons, checkboxes, etc. as the antithesis of efficiency & productivity in general.

        Some of those people subsequently saw the light when we presented our "reimagining" of their current systems as GUI-based systems, but some did not. Some of those that did not still don't see the value in a GUI for their specific workflow.

        We're going to see similar arguments levied at rich infrgraphic-style apps like those above ... until we see more such apps that unlock previously tabular data in a visualization that makes sense to and for the data's consumer. Heck, just read the comments in this thread - there are already those complaining that the UI above doesn't give the user enough control and that they'll have to drop back to a desktop app to do any "Real work".

        There will be those that prefer text/console-based UI's for some/all of their scenarios - even in the light of compelling alternatives. Ditto for traditional GUI's.
      • @bitcrazed

        I don't disagree - however before the investments are made, there has to be some proof that a real problem is being solved. Your own examples:

        "The system could: a) Be operated without requiring lengthy training & hands-on experience"

        Does text-based data input automatically mean a substantially heavier training requirement than a GUI-based system such as one you describe? In many cases the answer is actually "no". Most of the time, the processes these users follow are the same over and over again, and the workflow is designed such that the user doesn't even need to read the prompts after a short time - 3/4 of the keytaps you see these operators enter is often muscle memory.

        Even though an interface may be more intuitive for a new user, it can often be less efficient for an experienced user (even one whose experience is only measured in days or weeks). Your mouse-driven slide-menu interface may require a user to click through three or four pages of information to accomplish the same thing that a text-based user can get to by typing "b-<enter>-<tab><tab><tab>John Doe<tab><tab>225<enter>"

        "b) Be offered in the lobby/online for customers to find and book rooms themselves."

        Now this is a little different - now you're talking about a system that, by design, has to be intuitive enough for a user to be able to move around with "NO" training whatsoever. These systems also require that the customer being served fits the mold of 80%-90% of customers. Any exceptions usually require going into the more complex interface of the reservation system itself which, again, may or may not be quite as pretty as the one you describe, but it's likely a lot more efficient for the experienced user.
    • Its a web portal

      and nothing really new at that.
    • Argument for what?

      What? You can draw pie charts and line graphs on every OS since VGA.
    • How does it fit in

      Yes these analytics screens look nice (the color scheme doesn't look like a Fisher Price toy), but am I correct in assuming that the start button is still gone and replaced with the horrid metro start screen?

      No amount of features will convince me that the start screen is ok. It's really terrible. And besides, I don't use analytics for my job so I wouldn't find any use for these (even though it looks halfway decent).
  • Pretty slick...

    I think this does a nice job of demonstrating that Metro can be just as functional as a desktop app while still presenting a simple to use interface. I hope to see some additional demonstrations soon.
    • Slick doesn't cut it

      And you can already create something like the above in Visio as well.
      • Photoshop, too!

        ..however, in neither case are you going to get anymore than a pretty picture.

        Dashboards are a bit more complex than this, and they are something that Metro, by design, should be good at supporting.