Windows 8 – Dual Mode UI Dichotomy

Is the dual mode UI – Metro and classic Desktop Windows – realistic for today’s computing; or did Microsoft screw the pooch?

One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 that I saw in my review here on Soft32, was Windows 8’s dual mode user interface.  The OS could easily be split in two between both its classic desktop interface and Windows 8’s new MetroUI.  There’s been a lot of debate over this lately.

There are two schools of thought on this – Microsoft should take MetroUI out of Windows 8 and Microsoft should kill off Desktop Windows.  Both represent challenges to the organization. Part 1 of this series will deal with Microsoft taking Metro out of Windows 8.  Part 2 will address what would happen if MS killed off Desktop Windows.

Microsoft Should take MetroUI out of Windows 8
There are a lot of people that are Window experience purists and have been arguing that MS made a serious mistake when they introduced a tablet OS as part of their traditional desktop OS.  In many ways, with certain, realistic and reasonable modifications, Windows Phone can handle tablets very easily.

The OS is already optimized for handheld hardware. It works well on smaller screens. The MetroUI interface is already standardized there, and its users know and understand what it can and cannot do.  They’re used to Live Tiles. They understand what the apps look like and are used to task switching as opposed to true desktop multi-tasking.

I’ve heard both Leo LaPorte and Paul Thurrott speak to this in a recent episode of Windows Weekly.  Both are MS pundits and are on the inside with MS and came out in favor of the combined UI.  I disagree with them; and my review of Windows 8 Consumer Preview outlines why.  The two interfaces are in many ways totally disconnected and create a completely disconnected computing experience.

However, both Leo and Paul brought up a decent point, and I have to agree with them on this 100% – if you pull MetroUI and all of its components out of Windows 8, you kinda forego a reason to release an “upgraded” version of the OS.  In other words, if you pull Metro out of Windows 8, you remove the purpose for the new version.

While the optimizations in Windows 8 totally blow Windows 7 out of the water, if you release those by themselves, what you have is really nothing more than a Windows 7 service pack at best.  If I had my wish, this would be the way that I would go. MetroUI and Classic Windows Desktop are two totally different experiences, and don’t really belong together. Unless and until Microsoft kills off desktop Windows completely, I really don’t think combining the two user interfaces makes sense.

Color me too Apple influenced if you must, but forcing the two to live together is clunky. It creates a confusing end user experience. Developers won’t necessarily know or understand how to develop for the combined interface.  While I’m relatively certain that sandboxing requirements will stay in place regardless of interface, dual mode apps don’t work well and don’t share data very well, either.

Users are used to the classic desktop UI. They understand how it works, and they understand how to pass data to and from apps.  MetroUI is too drastic of a change and too limiting for the standard desktop crowd.  Leaving MetroUI in Windows 8 is going to confuse a great many people and slow its adoption.

In the next page, I’ll speak to what would happen if MS killed off Desktop Windows.

Continue reading…

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