Windows 8 Metro Interface

A view from both sides of the fence

It’s not often I’ll write a post on Microsoft and Windows but after recently purchasing a ThinkPad S430 notebook computer I have changed my views on Windows 8. There appears to be a divided reaction to the Metro interface for Windows 8 with half of the reviews stating that Microsoft have taken a step backwards simply by copying the mobile device methodologies while the other side state it’s a step forward. Oddly enough these reviews come from people testing Windows 8 on a variety of platforms, some of which just don’t suit what Microsoft is trying to accomplish.

While on my desktop computer I find that Windows 8 isn’t optimal (but usable), it excels on my laptop to the point that I question the Gnome 3 and Unity approaches. My desktop beast has two large monitors which have no touch ability and is generally used for large amount of multitasking such as coding and processing data. Sometimes as a test lab with multiple virtual machines. The combination of the hardware and the tasks makes Metro interface useless and more of a hindrance. I think Microsoft have done an OK job of having the same OS over both use cases. It does fall apart in a few places such as when you want to use the desktop and a metro app at once, or a Metro app over two screens.

If you swap this scenario with a laptop computer, touchpad and general purpose computing which I define as browsing, email, social media and various other tasks that do not require multitasking as a core concept then the Metro interface is very appealing and useful. The Metro interface and Metro apps allow for distraction free use, easy application switching and general ease of use. The gestures for getting to “stuff” are fairly straight forward, and only took me a couple of seconds to work out from experimenting.

I haven’t had a chance of playing with a touchscreen monitor and Windows 8 but I find the premise odd. Putting in effort to stretch arms to perform gestures seems like far too much effort for me.

The Windows Store also makes it easier to install applications which is a feature Windows has been missing for awhile. It’s actually one point that amazed people at work was that I could install applications on Linux distros without manually finding the source. I can see that this part of Windows is really going to take off and will hopefully solve some issues with people installing virus infected software.

Where I have trouble predicting is Windows 8 in the enterprise. Oddly enough I always thought of Microsoft focusing on the enterprise and not consumers but Windows 8 shows this is now the reverse. Currently I can’t see Metro working well with current business apps but I can see that if developers but some effort into it the apps could shine on Windows 8. What I do think enterprise will like is EFI and secure boot features of Windows 8 however this causes issues with the lovely open source community.