Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears -- what we know about Metro apps

Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears -- what we know about Metro apps

Summary: Windows 8 is looming on the horizon but the lack of information about the apps that are coming is disturbing.

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The most groundbreaking version of Windows yet is getting ready to hit PCs in the form of a Consumer Preview. Windows 8 will straddle the mobile and desktop worlds with the attractive Metro interface, and that means apps that are optimized for operation within that environment. There are a lot of questions about Metro apps and desktop apps, namely what will run where and how? I set out on a quest to find out what we know for sure about Metro apps, and this is what I discovered.

What we know for sure about Metro apps and desktop apps in Windows 8 will fit in this box:

My research into Windows 8 apps started with Mary Jo Foley and Ed Bott. If these two don't know about a Windows topic nobody does. Imagine my surprise to find that there's not much definitive information about either Metro apps nor desktop apps, and that includes where each type of app will run and how. I looked for specific information about what it will take for an app to be a genuine Metro app on Windows 8, and I just couldn't find anything.

My interest in Windows 8 and Metro is due to Microsoft's determination to make a splash in the mobile space with it. Putting Windows 8 and Metro on everything from desktops to tablets is a bold move, one I can't see how Microsoft might pull off successfully.

A big part of how well Windows 8 will do in the mobile space will rely on the mobile-inspired Metro interface, and especially the apps that are available for it. It's one thing to design a great touch-optimized user interface, but another thing entirely to have good apps to take advantage of it. Mobile is all about apps, and the lack of information about how Metro apps and desktop apps will work on Windows 8 at this late date is disturbing.

The questions that need answering, apart from what apps might be available at launch for Metro, are what exactly defines a Metro app vs. a desktop app? What devices will Metro apps run on? Will Windows 8 on ARM mean different Metro apps than Intel?

These questions may seem basic because they are. That's why they need answers, and quickly. The Metro interface will run on everything from desktops to tablets, but designing an app to handle all of those destinations is not trivial. An app that runs well on a Metro desktop system is one thing, but one that runs well on a touch tablet, ARM or Intel, is quite another. This hints at a Metro certification system needed from Microsoft for apps to designate which are for the desktop, which are for touch, and perhaps which are for ARM only.

Microsoft is not even clear yet on how its own software will be handled for Metro. Mary Jo recently probed into how Office will be handled, and came away with more questions than answers. She notes "we still don’t know for sure which way(s) the Softies have decided to go with Office 15: Metro, non-Metro or partially Metro."

It's getting confusing to figure out and I am not a Windows 8 app developer. I can't imagine what is going through their minds right about now.

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Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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19 comments
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  • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

    Developers who wanted to publish Metro apps can go full steam ahead. They will run in ARM/Intel platforms and MS engineers are providing excellent support.

    Now the questions about Desktop and how restrictive is it on ARM platform and other mysteries surrounding it will be answered in few weeks time. Fingers crossed.
    owlnet
  • Binary option

    Looks like M$ is either going to try to thrill us with a big box of unannounced goodies ...
    ... or wish it had stuck with 'beta' instead of 'Consumer Preview'. CP creates the expectation of goodies.
    I fear a Vista Ultimate Extras repeat ... but would love to be wrong :-(
    jacksonjohn
  • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

    The Win8 App Store will be full in no time, don't you worry. There are over 60,000 apps for the WP7 with its very limited install base. I'd bet dimes to dollars that Win8 will have a larger install base then the iPad in less then 6 months, and for App developers that is a huge opportunity. Win8 will be on tablets, netbooks, ultrabooks, desktops, laptops... basically everywhere and every formfactor. I've never understood why Apple sooooooo narrowly focuses the iProducts. It might give them the early lead but at the end of the day one 10inch tablet and one 3.5 inch phone isn't going to be enough to satify all buyers and maintain the level of growth they have seen in recent years.
    clcrockett
    • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

      @ccrockett@... WP will surpass the iJunk phone by late September, and be the dominant phone OS by June 2013. The so-called leaders today will be fighting over table scraps. I predict it will look something like this.
      WP: between 65% and 85%
      andyriod: between 10% and 12%
      Ios: between 4% and 12%
      Mcrosoft would stand to collect license fees on nearly 90% of the phones sold. Which is how it should be.
      Stephen-B
    • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

      @ccrockett@... [i] I'd bet dimes to dollars that Win8 will have a larger install base then the iPad in less then 6 months[/i]

      I'll take that bet; my 100 dimes to your $100.
      Badgered
  • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

    You could always go to developer sites and ask them how they are going to implement metro for Microsoft Windows 8. This blog post is more like a pleading for someone with insider information to spill the beans. The information will come out when Microsoft is ready to give it. You seem in a hurry to get this info even though Windows 8 its still a ways off from being released.

    [i]Putting Windows 8 and Metro on everything from desktops to tablets is a bold move, one I can???t see how Microsoft might pull off successfully.[/i]
    Of course you can't Mr. Negative. But oddly and in contrast to your statement everyone else finds the Metro theme to be one of the best designed UIs in a long time.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

      @Loverock Davidson- [i] You seem in a hurry to get this info even though Windows 8 its still a ways off from being released.[/i]

      Well, for those wanting to install and play with the CP this month, the information could be useful.
      Badgered
    • Metro ...one of the _ _ _ _ UI's of all time?

      @Loverock Davidson- best designed in a long time?? jesus.. did you down a gallon of microsoft kool-aide or are you taking it up the rear so you can get some sort of pay off?

      Metro may work for touch screen devices, tablets, even take a stab at some hacked install for ipad ... but in no way shape or form does it PROPERLY deal with a standard desktop computer.

      And what happens when the app store for Windows 8 gets packed with spamware, crapware, spyware, virus trojan and x?x-ware ?? What then, microsoft comes up with some "signed by:" campaign? Like we haven't seen several hacks this past year which put the kibosh on "Trusted Certifiers" ?

      This "designed for app store" bullsh*t needs to go, microsoft needs to get in line with whats best for the user, rather than just trying to trick them into the next wallet draining OS and, why not leave the trix for kids.

      To that end, during the install or eula/enduser presentation, plus after the fact, need to make the CHOICE available to the *USER* as to what interface they are using as primary .. perhaps even giving the user a choice to setup a "ask me again in X days" option so they can test drive what they are going to be using, rather than forced into something they may ultimately hate, and thus in the end erode their user base.
      TG2
  • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

    Nothing "Metro" is ever good, forget that androgynous "everybody smart phone" crap; I'll stick to my Android device that still runs like it has some balls and let the ladies enjoy their iPhones.
    Socratesfoot
    • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

      @Socratesfoot Yeah android runs like it has a case of blue balls... It tries so hard to get in the game yet ultimately stumbles, crashes, force closes, locks up, etc...
      mikroland2.0
  • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

    It's troubling to observe all this confusion about Metro and Windows 8. There is plenty of documentation available at dev.windows.com.

    [b]Will Metro applications work on all Windows 8 supported CPU architectures?[/b]
    Yes, Metro applications use WinRT as their underlying base and it makes them CPU independant.

    [b]Will Office 15 be a Metro applications?[/b]
    No, it will not. It may somewhat borrow some of the Metro look but it will be a Win32 based application suite like it always have been (in the recent years). There is not a chance (and probably no intention) Microsoft can refactor Office for WinRT in a short amount of time.

    [b]Will Microsoft release an Office 15 for Metro?[/b]
    I hope they do release a scaled down version of the applications that would be especially designed for a touch-first experience. Failure to do so in the early Windows 8 life will just give Apple more time to continue its already starting foray into businesses. This trend could end-up being unstoppable.

    [b]Will Office 15 work on ARM devices?[/b]
    It is possible that Microsoft compiles and distributes it for ARM. Nothing technically prevents it considering they already ported the Windows code base.

    [b]Will existing desktop (Win32) applications work on ARM devices?[/b]
    No, they will not. They x86 emulation is too costly and the final experience is hard to completely control. They're may be quirks with some software and supporting this would be a nightmare. Not a chance here. Thank god.

    [b]Will new desktop applications work on ARM?[/b]
    Only if the applications are compiled for it. Chances are that very few vendors will want to go through the hassles of supporting more CPU architectures. The early Windows NT days were like this (with x86, Alpha, MIPS, PowerPC architecture for example) and it ended-up being a massive failure with only x86/x64 surviving (ignoring Itanium here).

    [b]What exactly defines a Metro app vs. a desktop app?[/b]
    They subsystem on which is was designed/compiled for. Metro applications use WinRT as their application model. Desktop applications use Win32 as their application model. They are mutually exclusive.
    TheCyberKnight
  • Thats very chicken little of you JK

    App devs arent having any trouble figuring out what's a metro app and what isnt or what will run on arm and what wont. As for what metro apps will be in the W8 at launch, not to worry. There could be zero apps there at launch and W8 tablets will still be a roaring success. The W8 app store will fill up very quickly, much quicker than the ios/android tablet markets, just as the WP marketplace has but even faster. And the metro ui has already proven so much better than the ios/android tablet experience that that alone will make everyone prefer them while they wait. Still I may wait for one of the haswell tablets.
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

      @Johnny Vegas yes WP 7 has proven, beyond a doubt, that the Metro interface is much better than those stupid static grid of icon interfaces. Now if the carriers would only get on-board, and advertise the hell out of WP 7, you'd see faster adoption. I don't see why the Carriers are wasting time with the other, inferior OSs, when they could be backing the best.
      Stephen-B
  • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

    One thing for sure about Metro apps: they will suck on large screens and desktops/laptops (everything but phones and tablets). The jury on the joy of Metro on phones and tablets is still out, but the outlook is somewhat promising.
    txscott
    • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

      @rshol
      Uhhh... the Xbox uses a metro-inspired interface. Why wouldn't the metro interface not scale for W8?
      dc1026
  • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

    I have been diving into the Win RT APIs since BUILD and I all I can say is that it is really incredible. The possibilities of what you can do are endless. I am creating the next generation musical instrument / controller that directly integrated with digital audio workstations and music collaboration websites such as MyOnlineBand using WinRT and the Kinect for Windows API.
    sharkboyjohn
  • Tell Me Now!

    I think we see the same thing each time MS starts previewing their latest OS. "I want to know now!" "Answer my questions now !" Do you not think MS has already considered these questions and has answers, but They will decide when to answer them. And as a few others have said, talk to the developers who are already writing Win8 apps. They can probably tell you what you want to know.
    jpr75_z
  • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

    When Windows Phone 7 was released, many critics and writers had screamed left and right that they should enlarge and put the OS on tablets and devices...now that Windows 8 is nearing its arrival at the gate, they are all screaming the opposite. Microsoft and its teams have both made development as clear as they can for developers without jumping too many guns to misfire, which is pretty damned tricky I think! I've seen metro fist hand when I took a trip to Seattle last year, quite a shocker...Metro is all over the place! You could see Metro all over the landscape near Redmond, its pretty funny. I downloaded the official design language of Metro pdf file, quite illuminating and I'm not even a developer... =P
    MediaCastleX
  • RE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview nears - what we know about Metro apps

    Mister Kendrick I don't get you. In this posting you say Metro is attractive. In another one you say it's ugly. I don't mean to be hostile but consistency is a good thing.
    mikedees