Shane O’Neill has a blog posting where he outlines Microsoft’s future UI plans for Windows and beyond.
At its Worldwide Partner Conference last week, Microsoft strongly implied that the Metro user interface that adorns its Windows Phones will become the standard design across the PC, phone and Xbox 360 when Windows 8 arrives.
Microsoft did not formally announced this as such, but showed an image at WPC 2011 (below) that has the tile-friendly Metro design plastered on a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone and on an HD television via Xbox 360.
At WPC, CEO Steve Ballmer referred to the image above and alluded to Metro as the new face of Windows.
“We’re moving in a great direction in terms of a common and coherent design language and user interface across phone, slate, PC and TV.”
This is a terrible idea, but not a surprising one. Microsoft is trying to redefine itself in a world that is rapidly moving away from the PC as the primary means of computing, but still hold on to the powerful Windows brand. The end result is something that will be less than great on every platform.
The Metro UI is largely considered to be a fresh and innovative approach to touch-based smartphone operating systems, one that’s a clean break from the legacy code that was based on Windows CE. But if you take that paradigm and drop it on top of Windows for the desktop, what happens? The intuitive tap and swipe behavior now needs to be interpreted by clicking and dragging a mouse pointer. You will have Metro touch based apps and traditional point and click apps living side by side. Sure, there have been Windows “slates” around for a decade where this will make more sense, but the one OS fits all approach just invites fragmentation far beyond what Android users face today.
I have similar feelings about LaunchPad for OS X Lion- it feels bolted on as an experiment to see if it gains any traction with users who come to the Mac for the first time from an iOS device. It’s an application launcher, essentially just an app itself, that’s not at all crucial or required to the computing experience on the Mac. If this blog post is on the mark, Microsoft wants Metro to be the Windows experience.