There has been a huge amount of debate over the upcoming release of Windows 8 for desktops, laptops and tablets, with many people criticising Microsoft’s decision to transform the user interface to one much more similar to Windows Phone 7′s, that much talked-about metro style.
Personally, as a Windows Phone user and enthusiast, I love the new interface. It has entirely altered the way I think about a computer, making the experience much cleaner, simpler, and nicer. But of course there are other questions we must ask, the first of which questions the need for the metro UI on desktops and laptops. Many people see it as a logical step for tablets, but they don’t see how it works with a standard computer screen with no touchscreen. That’s a fair point, and it certainly is slightly more unnatural to navigate through Windows 8 Release Preview, which I am using to type this article.
One must, however, remember that this is not the final version just yet, and there is plenty of time for Microsoft to iron out the issues some users have been facing. For me, I would like to be able to click and drag to navigate the start screen, and I would also like a more convenient (on a laptop) way of getting the ‘charms’ on the bottom bar when in an app.
Microsoft seem to be desperate to make a serious dent in the smartphone market, with huge rivals Apple and Google both more powerful than ever, and they are attempting to promote their phone interface by, in a sense, forcing users to upgrade to metro from the aero UI present in Windows Vista and Windows 7. Microsoft are all too aware of the importance of the smartphone and tablet market, so they are putting it high priority that they get an improved market share. By introducing people into the metro interface through Windows 8 and the new Xbox 360 style, Windows Phone should immediately benefit through people becoming much more comfortable with the new UI. I think this is the main reason Windows Phone hasn’t taken off – people are afraid to step out of their comfort zone, it is only when they are forced due to lack of alternatives in the PC OS market (Macs are very pricey and Linux is not for the mass markets) that they will become better accustomed to the style and this will surely benefit Windows Phone. I am not expecting many users to be negatively affected by the Xbox 360 interface, but it will further help spread the awareness of this new Microsoft style. It is clear to me that Microsoft are viewing Windows Phone as a crucial part of their business, or they wouldn’t risk alienating their loyal customers by forcing them to upgrade to something they might not want to.
But this could well beat Apple at their own game – the tablet market. Many desktop and laptop users can now realistically switch to a tablet as a permanent computing device, and this will have a huge impact on the industry. Microsoft will have gone from being a last mover in the market to being the leader because of the maturity of the OS – it will be capable of more and most tablets will be so much more powerful than the iPad.
Of course, there will be some people lost on the way to the likes of Apple and Google, but Microsoft is betting the increase in Windows Phone users and the long term benefits of streamlining all their services to the same metro theme will offset the few users lost from Windows 8. Furthermore, I expect many people to continue to use Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP. When people didn’t like Vista, they stuck with XP and this allows Microsoft to maintain market share even though people aren’t adopting their new products. But I expect there d will come a time when all Microsoft products are so well integrated with one another, in terms of compatible apps and the like, that few people will be able to resist upgrading – and if they do, they may just upgrade to both Windows 8 and Windows Phone, because of synergies between them.
I don’t think that Windows 8 is targeted at business or school users, but personal ones who have a little extra time to explore the new software. In the coming years, Windows 8 will be integrated into businesses as the workers become accustomed to using Windows 8 and the metro theme from home. The more people using Windows Phone, the better they will be able to use Windows 8 when it finally becomes part of their business, and so Microsoft very much have a long term plan for metro, and for Windows.
But as a final point, I believe that people are blowing the changes out of proportion a bit. Yes, there have been changes, but without changes Microsoft would be criticised of being outdated and of not taking appropriate risks. They’ve certainly taken a big risk, and for some reason people are incredibly reluctant to adopt it. Windows 8 isn’t completely different from 7, it’s just taken in a new style that helps it spread to other devices easily, and there is still of course the classic Windows 7 style desktop. I fully believe that given time, the reluctant Windows users will come around to this new interface, as it’s really pretty good, and when they do, Windows Phone will succeed.