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?

Share your thoughts below.

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  • Safrane

    “Nintendo Wii back in 2006, many had the same complaints”… “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”.

    Do you see the irony in this? Obviously, the people who complained about the Wii did not foresee its success. What makes you think that you would be better than them with Windows 8?

    BTW, I am not saying that Windows 8 will be a “success” (whatever that means); I’m just saying that your crystal ball is unlikely to be any better than any other.

    • Andrew_Grush

      My crystal ball is completely wrong most of the time, I’m sure. I do think and hope that MS will truly pull a “Wii-like” move with Windows 8. Either way, I do foresee failure in the future for Windows 8? I never felt that way, no. I think many users will resent changes in Windows 8…. it will likely still sell well. Vista was poorly received because it was slow for most users.

      Windows 8 is fast. The primary concern will be UI changes, which can easily be fixed through 3rd party software. So that means Windows 8 could become an OS that people complain about but use anyway. Isn’t that almost every Windows OS? (kidding).

  • Mark

    Hey! Isn’t the whole point to Metro to get MS in to the tablet market? In my opinion, it does it very well. I am running Metro on a Fujitsu Q550 with digitiser pen which I use every day for both business and casual and I work really well with it – much better than a notebook PC and much better than an iPad or Android – and this is only on beta with an underpowered Oaktrail processor. When the OEM’s release their full-experience tablets they are going to fly because you CAN have a pretty awesome tablet that runs windows with all your legacy stuff, and if you don’t need all the legacy stuff you can opt for an ARM Tablet with all the new Metro stuff including Office – what’s the problem?

    The iPad is a really great device and so are many of the Android offerings, but a lot of us just want the consistency of working with what we know WILL work.

    Target market? Target market? Windows on Tablets! – no more, no less. For those that don’t want this, they will stick with good old W7.

    I was really impressed with your articles when I first subscribed Onuora, but I am beginning to think that you are losing the plot – wake up and smell the coffee! Have you seen some of the W8 prototypes of the OEM’s – it’s going to be good!

    Keep up the good work man, at least it creates reaction 😉


    • Andrew_Grush

      I understand that the key target market is tablets, but I’m not sure if forcing all desktop/laptop users to make a massive change is a great idea or not. I think it is VERY possible that I’ll eat my own words and Windows 8 will do quite well. I have no reason to want MS to fail. I have used OSX and like it, and I like Windows and Linux. They all have their place. RIght now I use Ubuntu/Windows, myself.

      • ECM2

        I doubt that the whole point of Metro is to get MS to the tablet market. A Metro-fitted PC with motion-sensing input would ensure MS dominance of the desktop/laptop market. But very few talks about this. Its already a reality with the PC Kinect and it will be more obvious when we hear PC hardware manufacturers incorporating built-in motion sensors in their gadgets. This is really exciting! And I don’t think it’s just wishful thinking

  • ECM2

    I copied this exact comment I posted to Mr. Amobi’s article “Oh Joy! – Microsoft says the Start Button is not coming back”. Mr. Amobi did not respond to it, so I’m reposting it here – just in case you have an opinion on it.  I see that this issue is also very relevant to your article.
    I heard (read rather) rumors that motion sensing is going to be built-in on future desktops and laptops (believe it or not the post-PC world is a myth). We all know that MS released a PC version of their Kinect sensor and it’s possible that new monitors/display screens/LCDs will come out with standard Kinect sensors (or some variants) in addition to microphones. Is it possible that MS wants to kill the Start Button to give way to this new input technology?  We know MS also has a vested interest in selling add-on Kinect sensors. No matter how cool it will be, motion control will of course not replace the Mouse completely as it is the only (affordable) way to accomplish tasks that require fine control and coordination. But most navigation tasks can be accomplished by Kinect.
    Then I wrote an addendum: I did not see any Start Button in the movie “Minority Report”.  Is this what MS wants the world to be like?
    So if all this rumor is true are we still going to judge Win8, the way we are judging it now?  Is this going to completely change our perspective in deciding if Win8 design is going to appeal to the majority?  I know this is very hypothetical, but isn’t this plan very easy for MS to implement. Aren’t we seeing this grand plan unfold with the PC version of the Kinect?
    In summary, is this MS’s big surprise to the Win8 skeptics (I’m a skeptic myself)?

    • Andrew_Grush

      I believe that alternative input technologies, whether they are kinect or touch or both, will have a major impact on the future of the PC, yes. It is of my opinion that within 2-4 years the majority of PC laptops/desktops will have Kinect, touch, or both built right in. Having Mouse and Keyboard only interfaces will be relegated mostly to ‘budget’ machines.

      The only problem with the Minority Report future is we aren’t quite there year (in fact we are still a long ways from such technology… though the gap is closing in everyday). We need transitions to make us happy, in my opinion.

      Windows 8 would solve some of its problems with “target audience” simply by creating an OS that better adapts to its hardware. Does a tablet need start orbs and menus? Probably not. Should a desktop at least have the option for an orb/menu if you don’t have touch or kinect on your machine? I think so, and so do many other skeptics.

      I DO NOT hate Metro. I like it, I just don’t know if its the “Be All, Fit All” that Microsoft is making it out to be. A more Metro-focused interface is perfect for many devices, but for others a more desktop-centric approach with Metro OPTIONS makes more sense. Know what I mean?

      Thanks for your comment, I’m really glad you shared, and i largely agree that MS could have some big surprises in the future. The Wii pulled of a major upset in the gaming world not long ago by bringing major change no one thought would get accepted, it could happen in the PC world too, I suppose.

      • ECM2

        Thanks for taking the time to write this lengthy response. I agree that Metro on touchscreen is not an issue – only Metro on non-touch screens.  I have a gut feeling  that MS has a hidden agenda to include motion sensing in the first or second crop of Win8 desktop PCs that will be released at Q4. I don’t think they are that stupid to release desktop PCs with Metro as the “primary” interface in the absence of something else (e.g. motion sensing) to justify Metro as the default mode of interaction. To do that would be very dumb and disastrous considering all the complaints and criticisms the W8CP is getting from desktop/laptop users. But then a Metro-fitted desktop with motion sensing is a different animal!  I don’t think MS is dumb or playing deaf to its critics – I would rather think that MS has this hidden agenda and intends to surprise and impress us all earlier than we expect. Perhaps, some tech writers should explore this angle.