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

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

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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