UI War

So right now I’m going back over the big Windows 10 event which beyond HoloLens had enough news to make one busy writing on it for at least a week. And while many are writing about Windows Holographic and whether Microsoft is cool, a potential fanboy rage event (FRE) could be lurking within.

Amongst the many things the software giant showed off were new applications based on the new Universal app model. Many of the apps shown were one’s available now on Windows tablets and Windows Phones like Mail, Pictures, Maps, and People. They all looked nice and they all seem to, even in this early stage, perform well.

But there is an issue with them.

One that will be a discussion point in fanboy flame wars….

It does not look like Metro.

Now what does that mean. In one sense the apps shown as demos and as motion studies don’t use the Pivot and Panorama controls introduced with the birth of Windows Phone. You don’t gesture over to another screen with your fingers. Settings are now no longer contained on the bottom of the screen or hidden when not in use. There is a certain level of chaos that has been injected into the uniformity that has been part of the Metro design language. The live tiles are there (and they may change) but other aspects are changing. On the PC side gone is the Charms bar; replaced by an overhauled Action Center. Sliding from the left brings up not a set of thumbnails of open apps, but the new task view which looks like webOS (card like). This along with the many little changes sprinkled in is making some wonder if this is the end of the Metro line.

Right now Windows 10 is in Technical Preview, meaning its available for anyone to use but it is not ready to ship. That means a lot of enthusiasts along with IT admins get to test it. Now I call this post a war but really I am just observing the reactions of people who took to the Metro language complaining about changes that make 10 look to them like another “me too” system. On the other side I’m also reading the views of those who thought Windows 10 would mean the death of Metro and a return to Windows 7 and Aero. At this point I could describe to you the level of rage and the invectives used by both sides but that is boring, mind numbing, and tedious; in condensed form there is must bleating and bitching.

Actually let me say this. There are a number of people who are Metro purists; people who take the design guidelines as rule of law. As much as I like Metro I don’t think it should be the last stop in the evolution of interface design, especially at Microsoft. Even the Office labs envisioning videos I still hold up as what I want in a UI shouldn’t be the end point (in fact it’s time to rethink them too).

For me what I see so far is intriguing. As much as I like Windows 8 and what it brought I also acknowledge it hasn’t been accepted by people. In order to move forward changes had to be made to make Windows accessible and acceptable to users who use laptops and desktops. On the other hand Windows 8 brought new features which honestly make Windows easier for people to use and manage. We can’t go back to the days of Windows 7 because those days are gone and users are looking for something modern.

And that is where Windows 10 comes in.

Now this doesn’t mean I don’t have issues. The new icons and looks could be construed that Microsoft is trying to make Windows look like iOS and Android. Also I still think the Start Screen needs tweaking to open it up more for customization beyond backgrounds; especially on phones and tablets. Lastly I think more should be done around making Windows work better on pure tablets.

But right now I think 10 is on the right track.

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