Windows 8: A bad bet

Have you really looked at Metro? I have. I see a flop.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Given my choice of desktops, I'm running Linux, but over the years Windows has gone from being a bad joke of a desktop operating systems--Windows ME and Vista--to being a reasonably good choice-Windows XP SP3 and Windows 7. But Windows 8? What the heck is Microsoft thinking?

After looking at Metro, Windows 8's default interface, for the last month, all I see a lame, reactionary response to iPad and Android. In a broader sense, it's Microsoft's response to the move away from the desktop to smartphones and tablets.

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Microsoft has made it clear that while there will be room for the Windows 7's Aero style interface, in Windows 8, Microsoft really wants everyone working with the Metro interface and applications. When I look at Metro, I see gaudy colors, boxy designs, applications that can either run as a small tile or as full screen with no way to re-size or move windows. Where have I seen this before... Wait, I know! Windows 1.0!

No, I'm not kidding. Let's take a look at Windows 1.0:

Windows 1.0

Windows 1.0

And, now let's look at Windows 8's Metro

Windows 8 Metro

Windows 8 Metro

Twenty-five plus years of user-interface development and this, this, is what we get!? Scary isn't it?

If you want an interesting take on a universal interface, take a look at Ubuntu's Unity desktop. Metro? It's klutzy and even people who love Windows admit that "the jury's still out on the touch/no touch question."

But, even if Metro was just a touch tablet interface I doubt that would find many users. Google's Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich and Apple's iOS 5 already have better, more usable interfaces, and they'll have years more to improve before Windows 8 actually arrives. This isn't just my opinion. Look at the market. Metro is already Windows Phone 7.x's interface and that OS has a tiny fraction of the smartphone market.

Besides, bread and butter Windows users already know the Windows interface. Metro is Not the Windows interface. Heck, Mac OS X Lion and Mint Linux 11'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 Metro either. They've spend years mastering .NET, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), etc. etc. and now they have to learn WinRT and Jupiter/XAML? That's bad enough, but since you'll need to rewrite your app. for the more traditional Windows-style desktop your work load just doubled.

Metro is going to be a pain for both users and developers. It seems to me that with Metro, Microsoft is headed toward another Vista-sized fiasco.

Microsoft can't afford that kind of disaster. This isn't the 90s or the 2000s. Today, users buy tablets and smartphones. According to IDC, tablets alone in 2011 will equal 17% of the PC market's sales. At the same time, tablet sales are growing explosively PCs sales are barely moving upward. If Windows 8 is a failure, Windows users won't wait around for the next version the way they did for Windows 7, they'll just continue to switch over from conventional PCs to Android and iOS devices.

Microsoft may never lose the PC market, but with Windows 8 and Metro they may never have a chance to win the growing, broader computing market of PCs, smartphones and tablets.

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