Microsoft, Metro takes our choice away!
I don't dislike Metro, as indicated in my Windows 8 Consumer Preview review. That doesn't mean everyone will, or even should embrace the new user interface. Early reception to Metro is mixed. I think Windows 8 has great potential and may be a market success, but Microsoft should listen to those people complaining about the "reimagined" UI.
Microsoft should pull back from its Metro frenzy and take a more commonsense look at how real users do things. There needs to be better intergration between Metro and the desktop motif. Rather than view the desktop simply as a legacy environment and put all their "eggs" in the Metro "basket", Microsoft should give more priority to the "old way" and to better integrating the two UI motifs so they flow as one. Windows 8 is one operating system, not two.
Don't Chase iPad
The integration of the two parts of Windows 8 should be so seamless that they act like one. The desktop actually offers some things that Metro currently cannot.
For example, I use OpenGL for a custom control that allows me to add multiple child controls all running OpenGL, but on a normal "chrome" (desktop) form in an application. From what I see so far, OpenGL is now considered a legacy graphics engine that will not be supported in Metro.
I am a programmer and know how easy it is for developers to "not see the forest for the trees". Microsoft should be mindful of the path Windows has successfully trodden through the forest, rather than chase competitors into it. Microsoft should simply forget about what Apple is doing with the iPad and what Google is doing with Android.
This is Windows we are talking about, which has been around a lot longer than these other operating systems. Windows already has a rich heritage that is decades old. Rather than spurn the best of that heritage, use it instead. Windows benefits from decades of software developers learning how to leverage the operating system to get the most out of it. Why leave all of that behind?
Windows is all about choice, which is a major factor making it the most popular operating system on the planet. Windows has always allowed users to do what they want, to have control over their systems, to install or uninstall what they want.
Metro is all about stiffling many of those choices. At least in the x86 world of computers, this is counterproductive. I can see the need to have Metro sandboxed for Windows on ARM -- it's a truly reimagined architecture for consumer electronics-like devices. Maybe with ARM devices this can be tolerated, but in the x86 world and especially with businesses and good old fashioned "power Windows" users choice is paramount.
Metro tends to make long-time Windows users feel frustrated and a bit out of control. Rather than "Windows reimagined", Metro needs to come more in line with the Windows heritage so it becomes simply an extension of Windows, rather than its replacement (which is what it feels like now).
Sure, Windows 8 retains a desktop motif, but is it really there, in any meaningful way, when Metro overshadows it? Wouldn't it be better to let Metro learn (or borrow) a little bit from the long Windows desktop heritage and to let the desktop share (or borrow) a little bit from Metro?
Windows Can Do Anything
There needs to be a better blending of the two. We should have some things in Metro that are at least familiar to long-time Windows users (and developers, for that matter) and then there should be features in the desktop that should make users feel that Metro is simply a new extension of the Windows that they know and trust.
People do things with Windows today that you don't see or likely will ever see with an iPad. For example, you use a virtual machine on Windows to run Linux, previous versions of Windows or any other unique operating system that supports the same hardware. You can run a DOS Box on Windows so you can even use very old, but still useful, MS-DOS applications.
There are so many choices provided by third parties for Windows, it can do almost anything. Even some savvy programmers have figured out ways to do things that Microsoft never intended. Look at what happened with Kinect and the PC. Developers who were able to "think outside the box" came up with ways to do things with Kinect that even Microsoft never envisioned.
That is the beauty of Windows. At least for the x86 world of Windows, it needs to maintain that heritage. Microsoft, please don't take our choice away.
Chris Boss is an advanced Windows API programmer and developer of 10 year-old EZGUI, which is now version 5. He owns The Computer Workshop, which opened for businesses in the late 1980s. He originally developed custom software for local businesses. Now he develops programming tools for use with the PowerBasic compiler.