9 reasons why Microsoft should keep the Metro UI separate from the traditional Windows 8 desktop interface

So I have this annoying habit of saying what I really, really feel and this post is no exception.

Some of the readers have accused me of being an Apple fan and being a Microsoft hater. That makes no sense.

You see, only a Microsoft hater would spend 3 years off and on blogging about Windows 8 and how potentially game changing it could be. And only a true Microsoft hater would be a (former) Microsoft MVP.

No folks, my posts have become a little more solemn because as an independent blogger and publisher I’m free to reflect the reality of the landscape as I see it.

Since I don’t work for anyone else, I can speak freely (that’s the nice thing about being your own boss).

Since September 2011, I have gotten tons of reader feedback on this site about Windows 8 and where it’s going.

It’s been somewhat of a mixed bag.

The good news is that the Technology community mostly seems to want Microsoft to succeed.

Cooler heads recognize that a healthy and robust Windows 8 will be good for Microsoft, OEM’s, Apple (competition keeps you on your toes) and for us the consumers.

The only consistently negative feedback that I have received since the Windows 8 Developer Preview has centered around the (unwelcome) marriage of the traditional Windows 8 UI and the Metro interface.

I absolutely have to agree.

Having pondered the issue a bit, here are 9 reasons why Microsoft should keep the Metro UI separate from the traditional Windows 8 desktop interface.

Why merge them in the first place?

I know the wise people in Redmond don’t owe us an explanation but why the merger in the first place? I get the need for Metro and we know the traditional desktop interface is a winner but why do the two have to be joined? I haven’t heard a clear, coherent rationale for the merger and it just seems counter intuitive.

It’s clearly not very popular

Some things don’t sound right when they are explained but make sense when they are implemented. This is not the case here. We got past the Windows 8 Developer Preview and have used the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

The marriage of the two interfaces still doesn’t feel right and people still haven’t had the lightbulb come on about this one. Once again, this doesn’t seem to make sense to piss off so many faithful users.

Different from Windows 7

In the Microsoft community, Windows 7 walks on water. It’s stable, fast, looks great and reliable. More importantly, numbers don’t lie – with over 550 million licenses of Windows 7 sold, why radically change the Coca Cola formula? – Why force desktop users to endure something they have no interest in?

Different from Apple

I know this sounds like a good thing but umm.. in this case it’s not. Just like Microsoft, Apple sell a desktop OS and a Tablet OS. They keep their Operating Systems separate.

Now, Apple are arguably the best UI designers on earth today. More than any other company, they know exactly what people want and what people wouldn’t go for. I have to imagine that if they thought for one second (and validated) that there would be a benefit in having two Operating Systems in one, they would have done it.

I know that there are similarities between their iOS and OS X and they integrate features here and there but that is only happening in strategic areas, very carefully and very slowly.

They are winning – why literally reinvent the wheel?

Who wants or needs touch on their desktop?

I work on a desktop all day with a keyboard. I send emails, browse and use apps. I have absolutely no desire to use my fingers to move my screen.

Now I’m not saying nobody wants this. This may make sense for certain professions (Architects, Visual designers etc) where they may need to move complicated things around occasionally but the last time I checked, they were a minority.

Most of us can get along with a mouse and a keyboard. Making Metro mouse friendly doesn’t help either.

How do you market this?

How do you market something that isn’t intuitive and has your fans scratching their heads?

  • What is a rational reason for me to leave behind the stability of Windows 7 which my (hypothetical) company spent $7 million deploying?
  • Why would I want to figure out this new mixture of Windows 8 Metro and the old interface I am used to?
  • Why shouldn’t I just stay on Windows 7 for the next 5 years?

It’s not clear how a Microsoft sales person would respond to that.

Desktop on a Tablet

Who exactly wants the traditional Windows interface on a tablet? Where are the sales numbers and facts that say consumers are lining up for a traditional Windows desktop on a Tablet?

I’ve used Windows 7 on a tablet and it wasn’t great. The traditional Windows interface does not belong on a tablet – pretty clear to see.

Why force that on users?

WOA or not to WOA? – A muddled message

I am dreading the day when a civilian asks me why there are two versions of Windows 8 Tablets out there – Wintel and Windows On Arm (WOA). What are the differences and why did this happen? Why should civilians have to even know about this stuff?

Harder to develop a hybrid

Kudos to the Windows 8 development team for doing the work they do. Working on a Tablet OS and working on a Desktop OS and then working on making sure each one hands off smoothly to the other one and there are no glitches.

Maybe it’s just me but that sounds pretty inefficient to me. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have two separate teams working on separate Operating Systems?

Now a wise mentor of mine once said, never bring up a problem without proposing a solution and I agree with that concept.

So here’s my solution.

Offer 3 versions of Windows 8.

  1. Windows 8 Desktop
  2. Windows 8 Desktop/Metro Hybrid
  3. Windows 8 Metro

Windows 8 Desktop would be an enhanced version of Windows 7 with all the goodness we’ve come to know and love. Slight enhancements like the refresh and reset or changes to Task Manger would be received with open arms.

Windows 8 Desktop/Metro would be the current OS they are developing. This would be OPTIONAL for those who had touchscreen monitors and wanted to experience Metro on their desktops/laptops. Or even just for those who love metro and love the current direction that the company is going in.

Licensing would reflect the fact that these customers would essentially be paying for 2 Operating Systems.

Windows 8 Metro – Pure Metro for Tablets and Desktops. No access to the Windows Desktop and all apps would be Metro applications. There would be no Intel chips for the Tablets (until they got their low powered competitive chips ready) – just ARM processors and the ability to join Windows domains and be managed like everything else.

This would silence the critics, make everyone happy (except Intel) and probably just come on 1 DVD.

Users would be able to pick what install they wanted and enter the right license key for it.

It would also take advantage of all the development work done to date.

The bottom line

Microsoft are betting the farm that users want (or will accept) two user interfaces but what if they’re wrong? If users say no to Windows 8, these users have options.

They can stay on Windows 7 for 10+ years (like XP) and stubbornly refuse to budge.

Even worse, this could be the nudge they needed to visit that clean white store across the street. You know, the one with the Apple above the doorway.

That’s my take, now it’s your turn to tell me what you think?

Am I nuts? Do you love Metro? Is this much ado about nothing?

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