Metro on the Wrong Track for Many Windows Users

You know me. I'm a Linux guy. Still, I think Windows has gone from being a bad joke of a desktop operating system (Windows ME) to being a reasonable choice (Windows 7). Its course hasn't been steady, though: After the still popular XP SP3, we got Vista. And now we have Windows 8. What the heck is Steve Ballmer thinking?

Microsoft has made it clear that it considers Windows 8's Metro interface and applications to be the future. When I look at Metro, however, I see gaudy colors, boxy designs, applications that can either run as a small tile or as full screen with no way to resize or move windows. Where have I seen this before? Wait, I know! Windows 1.0.

Twenty-five years of user-interface development and this is what we get? Scary.

If Metro were just a tablet interface, I might be inclined to give it a pass -- except that Android and iOS already have better, more usable interfaces. This isn't just my opinion. Look at the market: Windows Phone 7 has a Metro interface, and it has just a tiny fraction of the smartphone market.

Another problem is that longtime Windows users already know the Windows interface. They don't know Metro, which is not the Windows interface. Heck, Mac OS X Lion and Mint Linux's GNOME 2.28 both look and feel more like Windows 7 than Windows 8 Metro does. Fortunately, you can use a more Windows-like interface, but Microsoft really seems to want everyone to move to Metro.

Windows developers can't love this either. They've spent years learning the likes of .Net, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), and now they have to learn WinRT and Jupiter/XAML. As if that isn't bad enough, their workload has just doubled, since they'll need to rewrite their apps for the more traditional Windows-style desktop.

Think you can ignore Metro? Well, if you're writing or using only business programs, it might be possible. But if you're playing in the consumer space or planning on using tablets and smartphones, you're stuck with Metro. You see, Windows 8 will run only in Metro mode on ARM processors -- which are the ones in your mobile hardware.

Let's get down to brass tacks. If you produce the operating system that much of the world runs, you'd better have a darn good reason for making a major change to your main user interface. There must be something about the interface that makes people go, "Wow." I don't see the wow.

Honestly, I don't see anything in Metro that's compelling. I just see a second-rate touch interface that's going to require every Windows user to learn a totally new, and not especially useful, way to do their daily work. What's the point?

Sure, Metro gives Windows 8 one interface on all platforms, but on the desktop, it's going to be a pain for both users and developers. It seems to me that with Metro, Microsoft is headed toward another Vista-size train wreck.

Strike that. Metro is worse than that. This may be the change that breaks Microsoft's stranglehold on the desktop. I can see a lot of people switching to Macs. I can see even more people taking one look at Metro and opting to stick with XP and Windows 7 for the foreseeable future.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was cutting-edge and 300bps was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon