My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

I had dinner the other night with my good friend Josh Smith, and of course we started talking about Windows 8. Something he said was pretty much spot on: He said that Windows 8 feels as if it has split personalities. There are the WinRT “Metro-style” apps and there is the “classic” Desktop, which looks and feels like Windows  7++ (optimized for touch, and actually a real delight to use with my fat greasy fingers).

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Print | posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 11:04 PM

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# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by pedro at 9/20/2011 11:30 PM Gravatar
Good post, as usual.

I agree with on the start button, and it should'n be hard for them to do that.

Regarding the IE, i really don't think they should enable ActiveX and Extensions on the Metro IE. Keep it simple, fast and safe. Some reminder to change do desktop IE on a plugin is detected is a good ideia.

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by Jesse at 9/20/2011 11:51 PM Gravatar
I agree with a lot of your points although I think once we start to get more ""metro-style"" apps and lose the need for Flash, Silverlight etc this will not be as much of an issue. However my bigger concern is support for ""Metro-Style"" apps on multiple monitors.

Currently it doesn't seem possible to run two Metro-Style apps on multiple/different monitors at the same time unless I am missing something and this to me is a huge problem they need to address. I am sold on the new framework but if my apps cannot be run side by side on multiple monitors I will be very upset.

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by Graeme at 9/20/2011 11:55 PM Gravatar
I also agree. I know there are some great improvements in Windows 8, but so far I am finding the preview quite unpleasant to actually use. When I'm at work, for example, I have no reason to ever load the metro mode, and yet it keeps getting thrown in my face.

I don't think it's a big deal that you can't run plugins in the metro browser, but it is confusing that they have two browsers that are both named "Internet Explorer" but are completely different. I keep wondering whether their attempts to simplify things are just resulting in more complications.

It's just a preview though. Things could change.

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by bitdisaster at 9/21/2011 12:40 AM Gravatar
Yep, you are right. When I first tried Windows 8 on my non-touch notebook, the context switch when you expect a start menu was the most annoying thing. For now you can bring back the old start menu with a registry key or use this little tool here http://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/windows-8-start-menu-toggle-enable-disable-metro-ui-start-screen/.

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by Austin Dimmer at 9/21/2011 3:39 AM Gravatar
Laurent,

This is a good and thoughtful post. I agree with much of what you say. I think that it ultimately comes down to allowing the user to be in control of the device and experience. Hopefully Microsoft will live up to the no compromises sales pitch and deliver an OS that can suit multiple target markets. Let those who need and want fine grained control have it. And let those who need a fast and fluid, slightly simplified yet gorgeous interface have it also. We certainly should have a choice as to what plugins we choose to run, it seems like it would be easy to appease everyone simply by making it a choice. That way everyone wins, no compromises. The current experience is too jarring and disruptive and should not be forced upon us.

I'd also add that I would love the choice to have a more powerful keyboard with Tab, Function and Alt keys etc. That way the power users will feel more at home in desktop mode and those who prefer a dumbed down phone type keyboard will also be happy. Again win/win and no compromises. I hope the system designers really go the extra mile to make that a reality, it's crucial that they get it right.

All in all after having used the developers preview device for the last week I am very optimistic. This machine is already awesome, the upside for improvement is also very significant. Microsoft could just about sell these machines right now, there are a lot of compromised designs already out in the market and people seem happy to own them. The advantages of being able to run the legacy applications are fantastic and the excitement to play around with the newer UI paradigms will certainly keep me engaged for a long time to come. Tomorrow, I am going to load up the Creative Suite and also try to get the remote Visual Studio debugging up and running. Christmas has come early this year.

What Microsoft does not quite get right creates great opportunity for the rest of us developers/entrepreneurs to try and fill in the gaps. The opportunity is the most unprecedented in the history of software. Awesome sauce.

Roll on the build!

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by Alex LF at 9/21/2011 8:31 AM Gravatar
Good post.

But I have to say I disagree on your thoughts on IE not supporting plugins. I don't see any harm in this as we live in HTML5 world (we're talking browser here, not applications).

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by Francesco De Vittori at 9/21/2011 9:53 AM Gravatar
Your comments are spot-on and exactly match my impressions on the Developer Preview.

Regarding plugins in IE, it is utopic to believe that *at this point* we can get away with HTML5 alone. Despite all the hype, HTML5 development is still cumbersome and much more time+money consuming compared to Flash/SL/etc., at least for complex websites/web apps. For that reason plenty of websites will still require plugins for years to come. It's a shame to exclude them from the Metro experience just because "it's conceptually cleaner".

Maybe there are other reasons, but if the browser is technically able to run plugins, let it run them without switching to desktop mode.

Oh and I completely agree that calling WinRT apps "Metro" was a big mistake and a big source of confusion. I'm developing Metro-style apps in Silverlight for a while now, go explain that to customers :-)

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by Kakone at 9/21/2011 11:52 AM Gravatar
Totally agree. After trying Windows 8 on my desktop PC (I have no tablet PC), I find this new "start menu" not practical at all. In fact, I wonder if it's usefull on a desktop PC. The experience is not nice at all on a desktop PC. To my mind, I think they should have done this interface only for tablets PC and to be able to add Metro Tiles to the classic desktop of a standard PC.

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by ianicbass at 9/21/2011 7:46 PM Gravatar
Metro on desktop makes no sense at all... what were they thinking?! I know it's just preview but I hope they fix it before RTM.

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by Cesar at 9/21/2011 8:52 PM Gravatar
Somebody call him a wambulance.

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by Joe at 9/25/2011 5:26 PM Gravatar
I think the point of the metro-style start menu is to force through the adoption. It's no mistake that metro was also being referred to as 'modern' apps.

The problem is the perception that all apps can be migrated to 'metro style'. Should application developers really think of the classic desktop as legacy - or are there a class of applications that can never be ported?

The answer to that question is going to be pivotal to the success of Windows 8 and the new UX paradigm. Will the Office Metro app be an 'office light', or will it be fully functional. Will touch-first mean a comprimise in functionality. If it does, and the legacy desktop lives on, then Windows 8 doesn't provide the security sandbox, appstore or other modern features to support it. That could be a problem.

# re: My Windows 8 slate has split personalities–and what Microsoft could do to improve that

left by Kyle Ambrosas at 9/28/2011 3:38 AM Gravatar
Great post! I have not, unfortunately, gotten to actually use a windows 8 device 'in the wild' yet, but have read a lot about how it works and the different personalities you refer to. Your idea is actually pretty legit... I mean it would still seem to have the two personalities, but it would improve the extent to which the right functionality is delivered at the right time
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