How to Explain Metro UI To Someone In 60 Seconds

There is so much crap out there with some people (usually bloggers) freaking out over the new UI in Windows 8.  I really don’t get it. 

Headlines flew all over the net earlier this week on every IT news site about Gartner allegedly saying Windows 8 was “bad”.  I only saw PC Pro (UK site) carry the story where Gartner corrected that.  The media love controversy and negativity but I guess corrections and positivity don’t get the same numbers of hits.  I was just forwarded a story by an executive from Steam (the online game distributor) saying Windows 8 was bad.  I’m sure the fact that the Windows Store will make his business irrelevant had nothing to do with forming his opinion.

Although my production machines (work and home) are still Windows 7, I use Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 a lot and am doing that via touch and via traditional keyboard/mouse.  Yes, it is different.  No, it did not take me 3 days to get used to.  Sure there’s some muscle memory stuff in mouse navigation but you get over that.

So how do I explain the new Metro UI?  Simple:

  1. The pinned area of your start menu now fills the screen.  That’s called the Start Screen now.  It’s bigger, and has lots more information on screen to show you what’s going on in your apps without having to open them.
  2. You can get to anything that was in All Programs by hitting search or starting to type the name of the thing you want from the Start Screen.  I use the typing approach – Windows Key + Type, e.g. Windows Key + ISE finds me the PowerShell ISE in less than 2 seconds.
  3. The right side of the screen finds things, configures settings, and shares data.
  4. The left side switches between apps.
  5. The top/bottom of the screen interacts with the app that is open.

How many iPhones and Android handsets and iPads have been sold over the last 5 years?  This stuff is not alien to people.  I just don’t get all the negativity from the vocal minority on this one.

The last time I saw this level of anxiety was when Windows XP was released.  It was soooo different.  Many took to calling it Windows FP (Fischer Price) because of the kiddie-like interface (we thought) and we admins hated that everything had moved.  I remember having to deploy it one night in a small government office and dreading going in the following day when people had logged in.  It was my first deployment and I was sure that unhappy users would rip my head off.  They loved it.  In fact, businesses loved XP so much that we’re still trying to get them off of it.

I’m not foolish enough to thing enterprises will leap into Windows 8 straight after finishing still on-going Windows 7 deployments.  But I don’t think Windows 8 is the black death for business either.  I think some of the features in there are quite compelling for business:

  • Built-in BitLocker and BitLocker-To-Go in the Pro edition: something I wished for as a customer, but now I wish it was Enterprise edition only now I’m in the sales business Smile
  • Much better DirectAccess, with a server piece that really is SME friendly
  • Windows-To-Go for BYOD and working from home
  • Improved BranchCache
  • An app development platform that will be common across PC, laptop, tablet and phone – I actually think this is the one that will drive businesses to Windows 8.

And my Windows 7 machines?  My work PC will be upgraded ASAP, and my ultrabook will be upgraded when it fits a current project schedule.

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3 Comments on How to Explain Metro UI To Someone In 60 Seconds

  1. I’m not quite as comfortable in Metro as you are just yet, but I’m finding that I can easily avoid it in Windows 8. As soon as I boot, I press Win+D to get to the desktop, and I can work just like I did in Win7 without any trouble. Every once in a while I’ll need to press the Windows key to find an app, but as you wrote above, you can easily type to find the app and it will jump you right back into the desktop. If it’s an app I’ll use again frequently, I can pin it like I used to.

    I still find it a bit jarring to jump between Metro and the desktop, but I’m getting more used to it. I remain very skeptical that Metro will actually be a preferred UI for standard keyboard and mouse users, but I now realize that it doesn’t matter, and that overall Windows 8 feels snappier and has the features you highlighted above, such as BitLocker, so I’m more open to introducing it to my employees at my company.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I’m not sure why all the negativity. In a nutshell, it’s Windows 7 expanded. I’m not sure how all these “I’m less productive” claims are valid.

  3. For me, Metro UI is just fine. But what I don’t get is the need for Windows Server 2012 to also have metro UI, not the entire UI but rather the removal of start menu which is quite difficult to get along with. But I think in due time, just like how ribbons were introduced in office, people will learn on how to use it because what’s happening right now are just plain rumors spread mostly by people who used Windows 8 for several hours.

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