I Forget, Who Exactly Is Microsoft Targeting With Metro/Windows 8 Again?

Metro, it seems you love it or you hate it, or you simple ignore it. I’ve had a hard time figuring out which of these crowds I stand amid of late, but regardless of the camp you stand in, there is one thing we can agree on – this is a pretty bold move. Changing the UI is bold, maybe even foolish, because the truth is that people don’t like change.

Metro is designed to bring the tablet and PC world together, but at the same time it is clearly focused towards a more casual kind of user, right? This is what I’ve said dozens of times when I’ve talked about Metro. I’ve argued that PC techies like myself aren’t the target, it’s the casual users.

I tested this theory by giving my mom a chance to mess around with Windows 8 and Metro, and see is certainly NOT part of the technical crowd. See liked it, but I think I hit a major flaw in my experiment.

My mother is a Mac user. As such, she liked Metro for its locked-down design and because it wasn’t as confusing to her as Windows, something she hasn’t used since XP more than a decade ago. As for casual Windows users? I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several, and at least the vast majority seem to be hesitant to any change. They know how to launch their programs, run antivirus if needed, and do other very basic tasks. Why add a new UI?

So if it isn’t for techies and isn’t for casual Windows users, who is Microsoft targeting? With the Nintendo Wii back in 2006, many had the same complaints. The Wii was underpowered and used a strange motion device, but Nintendo did have a plan.

They wanted to target a new audience, those who never really gamed before. This was great idea as it turns out. The problem with applying this kind of revolutionary change with Windows 8 though is that there really aren’t any new target groups, at least not that significantly sized. Everyone pretty much uses a PC, and most of them use Windows.

Targeting Mac users is a thought, but you’d be foolish to think that Mac loyalists would convert because of Metro. Yes, my mom liked it better than Windows of Old (XP), but in the end she was happy to get her Mac Mini back up and running.

That leaves the really young and the really elderly. There are many 90 year olds that use the PC and the same goes for many 2-4 year olds, but I’d say that there is still market growth potential here. Is it enough to merit a total switch to a new UI (Metro), risking their current base? I would wager no, but perhaps Microsoft believes that if they can hook them very young (2-5) on Metro and touch, than they are pretty much set for the future.

The key to appealing to either group will be touchscreen desktops, laptops, and tablets. Why? I remember teaching my elderly grandma how to use a PC a long, long time ago. So long ago that this was a 300MHz Windows 98 machine.

She understood WHERE she needed to go for things like Internet and MS Office (she did a lot of writing, and generally used an old World Processor machine), but struggled with that mouse. My daughter is two and has picked up the mouse for the most part, but still struggles a little bit. Touchscreen is easier, though mouse is still the best for some tasks.

Appealing to the new market of younger and older uses that aren’t currently using a PC will require touch.

Again, was this worth risking their current user base? Heck no, but at least I can shed a little positive light on who Windows 8 might target. My hope still is that we are all wrong, just like naysayers about the Wii. I hope Windows 8 turns out to be highly popular and drive people to use PCs more and even buy tablets in huge droves.

Will this happen though? I’m starting to lean more and more towards no, but I would love to be wrong. Will Windows 8 TANK though? I don’t think so. I foresee a future where people buy PCs with Windows 8 and keep it, but in this same future they DO NOT go out of their way to purchase upgrades from 7 to 8. Still, that’s a better future than Windows Vista had, where many tossed in out to downgrade to XP.

What do you think? Who does Metro really target and is there any chance it will be a mass hit after all?

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