Windows 8: The Future Is Touch Technology
Windows 8 with the Metro user interface.
Microsoft first used the Metro user interface in full with the Windows Phone platform, which first started with Windows Phone 7, which was a replacement for the aging Windows Mobile platform, that was far behind the competition; primarily being Apple, Google and Research In Motion (which has their BlackBerry mobile products and operating system platform). Metro is a very interesting user interface and fun to use. It has the simplest user interface elements possible, while being incredibly slick, in addition with the smooth and consistent animations when scrolling, opening and closing apps.
Metro is coming to Windows. And that means, the Windows for computers.
Windows 8 was first unveiled with the Metro user interface last year. It looked evidently strikingly similar to Windows Phone, and it looked great. And while it is definitely a massive paradigm shift for Windows, with the user interface primarily switching to Metro, which is a radical change, what is interesting is the fact that Microsoft is also allowing you to switch to the conventional desktop, primarily to run applications that aren’t Metro apps. And Metro apps are also only going to be available via the Windows Store as well, which sparks a debate as to whether it is too Apple-like. While I like that my iPad is secure and there is a vibrant App Store with tens of thousands of great apps, I don’t want to have to rely on Microsoft approving apps to be allowed to install them in the first place. Unless Microsoft has clear and concise requirements for Metro apps to be submitted and made available in the App Store, with at least some form of democratic process among developers, it begs to be concerned as to whether eventually, with future versions of Windows, you won’t be able to run traditional Windows applications that aren’t made using and with the Metro UI.
However, positively, Windows 8 is a massive shift for the entire product and it makes sense what Steve Ballmer referred last year as the “riskiest product bet yet”. It is incredibly risky, and kudos to Microsoft for taking a bet to innovate with Windows 8 that hasn’t been seen for many years. Of course, Windows 7 was and is a great version of Windows; but Windows 8 seems like the riskiest and most exciting upcoming release of Windows for a long time. And it has the innovative Metro user interface that primarily is interacted with using touch-enabled computers.
Going onto the Metro user interface with Windows 8.
As I had said before, it is interesting as to why Microsoft is allowing you the option of also going to the traditional desktop user interface, alongside Metro. It seems as if most apps that we will have installed will be traditional apps using the traditional Windows desktop environment, and when we upgrade computers, all of those apps will be installed. Switching between traditional apps and Metro apps seems cumbersome; but I am sure from the start Microsoft will make sure there are plenty of Metro apps available by allowing developers to submit Metro apps to the Windows Store before Windows 8 is released to the public.
However, that said, I hope there will be a wealth of free apps available in the Windows Store, and that open source software will also be allowed in the Windows Store, because there is plenty of open source Windows applications we may likely use every day that I hope those developers can make available with the Metro UI for submission and availability in the Windows Store.
So, what is the issue with Windows 8?
Microsoft has promised that they will make using a keyboard and mouse easier throughout Metro, because in the developer preview, if you have a lot of apps open, it is cumbersome switching between various open Metro and traditional-desktop apps, and it feels incredibly unnatural to use a keyboard and mouse to use Metro. However, with that said, I do think as Windows 8 is released, new form factors of notebooks and desktop computers (such as monitors and all-in-one computers) will come out from various manufacturers under partnership with Microsoft, alongside pure tablet computers as well, that can perhaps be docked to use with an external keyboard and mousefor those times where using the touchscreen is inadequate.
While the only input method for the iPad is the touchscreen, I think for proper computers, the primary input method will likely be touch, but for the times where touch technology is either inadequate or unprecise, then a mouse can probably be connected (or either if the mouse is used via Bluetooth technology, for example). I think people can have the best of both worlds, and this is what Microsoft is trying to push with Windows. Already have a computer with Windows 7, with a keyboard and mouse? No problem, use Windows 8 with solely your keyboard and mouse – it’ll work just as perfect as would a touchscreen-enabled device.
I think Windows 8 could be a winner. And I think it’ll come before Apple has anything similar, and I do think Apple has the same vision in mind – that touchscreen-enabled devices of sorts are the future of computers. People are concerned that mobile-based UIs will come in future versions of Windows and Mac OS X, and while this is the case with Metro, where it feels more like a mobile UI (because it is Metro), I think the iPad is locked-down and uncustomisable in part because it is purely a mobile device. Whereas Windows 8 is for proper computers, and I think Microsoft are keenly aware of this.