Why Microsoft Should Not Be Pushing Their New Metro UI Onto Their Other Products [Opinion]

Ads by Google

With the introduction of the Windows Phone platform in 2010, Microsoft unveiled the Metro user interface, designed to make accessing information quick and easy. Rather than litter their new mobile platform with endless rows of icons, Microsoft’s tile-based interface proved that there was another way to make mobile phones functional.

Such has been the critical acclaim for this user interface that Microsoft has since opted to roll out Metro across its other consumer products. First was its introduction on the Xbox 360 and later this year it will play a big part in Microsoft’s story as a key element of the Windows 8 operating system. But is this the best use for the UI? Surely a mobile phone user interface should stay on such a device? After all, don’t computer users want to be able use their mouse and keyboard and quickly launch their chosen apps rather than scroll through tiles?

What Is Metro? Microsoft’s Signature UI Explained

From a personal point of view, I’m a big fan of Metro on the Windows Phone. It is fast, slick, functional and logical and it has been instrumental in turning Microsoft’s mobile fortunes around. Additionally it has provided the mobile industry as a whole, a much-needed kick in the rear to pull it out of the mire of iOS cloning into which it was readily sinking.

A design language established initially for use with Windows Phone, Metro features the uniform use of the Segoe WP typeface, tiles and a general grouping of similar functions and features under a single tile. For instance, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are grouped with contacts under the People Hub on Windows Phone devices. The tile-based Start screen interface on a Windows Phone can be adjusted to suit your preferences, with users typically placing their most-used apps and hubs at the top.

Almost all Windows Phone apps use the Metro look

Additionally the fresh approach to presenting information, available by scrolling left and right, enables app designers plenty of space with which to present menus and options and discards the need for a dedicated menu button. All in all, Metro works well on Windows Phone and you can see why Microsoft is so enthralled by it. But is it suitable as a “signature user interface”?

Ads by Google

Success On One Platform Does Not Guarantee Success On Another

The beta release of Windows 8 demonstrated how the Metro UI had been redeveloped for use on larger devices, specifically tablets. While Microsoft’s focus in this area is admirable – after all, they started the tablet computer market, yet thanks to Apple’s iPad find themselves several years behind – it can be argued that most Windows 8 users don’t want or need a finger-friendly user interface.

The new Start screen in Windows 8, powered by the Metro UI

After all, Metro is intended for use by fingers rather than a mouse and keyboard. While it might be an ideal UI for the rumoured ARM-based Windows 8 tablets, the presence of Metro as a key element of Windows 8 for desktops and high-end tablets is puzzling.

While it is possible to navigate around the tile-based Start menu in Windows 8 with a mouse and keyboard, it is a little unwieldy, much like playing a piano while wearing gloves. There is also the matter of just how important using a touch-focused user interface is to the standard user.

As things stand, Windows 7 is a perfectly good operating system that is enjoying strong user take-up and has a good reputation, particularly among corporate users. Conversely Windows 8 is being designed specifically for business users and yet there seems to be a gap between what users want from a UI and what Microsoft is planning to offer in 2012.

The Metro UI has recently spread to Xbox

Although there is the ability to switch to a version of the traditional desktop view in Windows 8 – ideal for legacy and office applications – office-based users are likely to discard Metro entirely, reducing it to little more than an overlay UI. Overlays were great for Microsoft 3-4 years ago when they needed to extend the life of Windows Mobile, but we really should have moved away from that era.

Too Much Metro Too Soon?

Why does Microsoft want to replace Windows 7 so soon? More importantly, why is it pushing Metro as a user interface so heavily?

Some might argue that Microsoft’s reputation has improved in recent years and that Metro is an embodiment of this change. While their great rival Apple has grown into a monolithic retirement fund for lawyers, Microsoft has been embracing user communities, for instance helping them to set up ways of legally unlocking its new phones.

This positive pull is mirrored in the clear typography and ease of use found in Metro, but to spread the UI across all of Microsoft’s consumer platforms is potentially dangerous. Windows 8 could founder based on its very presence; so soon after the Vista debacle this is something that Microsoft could well do without.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Join live MakeUseOf Groups on Grouvi App Join live Groups on Grouvi
Windows Hacks & Customization
Windows Hacks & Customization
91 Members
Windows_10
Windows_10
79 Members
Windows Troubleshooting
Windows Troubleshooting
57 Members
Best Windows Software
Best Windows Software
54 Members
Ads by Google
Comments (23)
  • GodSponge

    Metro may be useful on a touchscreen but it’s still super ugly and worthless in my opinion. Putting it on a PC without a touchscreen is also crazy. I mean the whole lockscreen slide to unlock thing might be ok on a touchscreen but it and the rest of the metro UI is really clunky and annoying when using a mouse.

  • zeeshan khan

    From the start I have been a fan of apple mac, even though I have never used one. This style of Windows 8 was good only in phones but why did they have to do this to an os? I think Microsoft is getting off track. At this point, I think that windows 8 is not even needed!

  • ipad screen cover

    Wow, awesome weblog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The full look of your web site is great, let alone the content material!

  • Hunter Watts

    Don’t be scared of change. Too many people are (looking at FB here).
    W8 still has the classic desktop anyway.

  • Christian Cawley

    Some great comments here. I once postulated on another site that Microsoft only succeeds with every other desktop OS released, so given the success of W7 it would be like that the Metro-bound W8 would fail…

Load 10 more
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.