So the Microsoft Surface tablet has just been announced. It’s a very good, innovative idea; the hardware looks well designed and it seems the hardware specs will be up to scratch too. But is the software up to scratch? Microsoft have named the ARM version of Windows 8 ‘Windows RT’ – a name many feel is confusing and rather ugly. We don’t yet know what the ‘RT’ part stands for, and I personally feel that Microsoft could have named and branded this a lot better.
Microsoft have another product based on Windows – Windows Phone. This was, and is, the replacement for the now defunct Windows Mobile. Generally, it’s a well designed, nice operating system – it uses Microsoft’s ‘Metro UI’ as the Ui – as does Windows RT. However, I also feel, as with Windows RT, that a better name could have been used by Microsoft.
Metro is a brilliant UI, in my opinion – it’s sleek, good looking and fast. What Microsoft should have done is focus a lot more on the word Metro – namely, naming devices that use the Metro UI (primarily Windows RT and Windows Phone) ‘Metro’. This was first suggested on the Vergecast by The Verge’s editor-in-chief, Joshua Topolsky.
The reason I feel Microsoft should have done this is because I feel Windows, while theoretically a strong brand, seems like it is quite weak with consumers. Consumers feel that Windows is a heavy OS that is quite ‘old’ – the only thing keeping them on Windows is the expensiveness of Apple products (let’s face it – no normal consumer buys a Windows ultrabook as they cost too much) and the technicality of Linux (I doubt many normal consumers even know about Linux). The reason Windows Phone’s are not selling is because ‘Windows’ is in the name – again, consumers looking to buy a smartphone associate Windows Phone with Windows computers because Windows is in the name. (This is exactly what my dad did – I said ‘why don’t you buy a Windows Phone?’ and his immediate reaction was ‘Ughh, Windows’. He eventually bought an iPhone).
If Microsoft named every device running the Metro UI ‘Metro’, they’d get away from this stigma the name ‘Windows’ has. Windows RT and Windows Phone would simply be called ‘Microsoft Metro’.
Now, Windows RT and Windows 8 – Microsoft made another mistake here. On RT, they’ve included the classic Windows desktop – the interface you’d normally see in previous Windows releases. I don’t know why they’ve done this – the Metro UI appears to do everything the desktop interface can do, apart from maybe managing files. The desktop interface might work on a normal desktop or laptop PC – but on a ‘post-PC’ device it has absolutely no relevance or use.
Windows 8, on the other hand, goes in the opposite direction – it includes the Metro interface on the desktop. Again, a mistake that may prove to be Windows 8’s undoing. I’ve been using Windows 8 extensively over the past few weeks, and I’ve generally found that the Metro interface simply doesn’t work with a mouse or to a lesser extent, a keyboard. But Metro does work with a tablet or a phone – it works excellently on these devices, in fact.
If I was Microsoft, I’d have realised early on that Metro simply doesn’t work on a mouse or keyboard, and scrapped it from Windows 8 (but not Windows RT – as I’ve said before, it works well on tablets, which is typically the form-factor RT is loaded on), and put my effort into re-designing the classic Windows desktop to be generally more Metro-like. There are some nice things in Windows 8, don’t get me wrong – the Charms bar on the right hand side is a particularly good addition. That link that I embedded a sentence or two back is a very good example of what Microsoft should have done with the desktop version of Windows 8.
Metro’s a cool interface, Microsoft, and Surface is a interesting device – even as an Android and Google fan I say that – but Metro doesn’t work everywhere, the same as the brand ‘Windows’ doesn’t work everywhere.