Microsoft: The Schizophrenic Windows 8 Interface Will Offer the “Best of Both Worlds”

One thing that has vexed industry watchers for quite a while now is how Microsoft plans to integrate its flashy Metro interface for tablets and phones with its upcoming Windows 8 interface. Today, Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky cleared up some of the confusion about this in one of his regular updates about the state of Windows 8. While the tablet-focused Metro interface, after all, looks quite nice and is a major departure from the default Windows style, the screenshots of the new Windows Explorer Microsoft showed just a few days ago were the exact opposite: cluttered and unnecessarily complicated. According to Sinofsky, Microsoft can’t just start with a clean slate but still wants to offer users “a design that truly affords you best of both worlds.”

Windows 8 metro interface

Two Separate Interfaces = The Best of Both Worlds

The question, of course, is if Microsoft’s somewhat odd approach to the Windows 8 user interface will really offer the best of both worlds or if it will just offer two completely disconnected experiences. Microsoft argues that “Windows 8 brings together all the power and flexibility you have in your PC today with the ability to immerse yourself in a Metro style experience.” Both Microsoft and Apple, though, have tried this same approach with their media-focused Media Center and Front Row experiences in the past and both didn’t succeed in convincing users to switch between these two interfaces.

According to Sinofsky, Windows 8 will let you “seamlessly switch between Metro style apps and the improved Windows desktop.” But will users really want to switch between two completely different user interfaces? While Sinofsky says that the design goal for Microsoft is “no compromises,” it’s hard to see how it’s not a compromise to add two completely different user interfaces to an operating system.

You can find more of Sinofsky’s reasoning here.

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12 Replies to “Microsoft: The Schizophrenic Windows 8 Interface Will Offer the “Best of Both Worlds””

  1. Another layer of UI = another layer of clutter, no matter how well-designed it is. An analog question: I’m curious how many Lion users are genuinely using Launchpad to start apps instead of dragging things to their dock — I know I haven’t touched Launchpad outside of experimentation since I installed Lion.

    MSFT, if they really believe in the Metro paradigm, needs to demonstrate this loud and clear to its customers and developers, bite the bullet and aggressively transition away from Explorer. Windows 8 doesn’t look like the version where that will happen, but it is probably a really good bet the hybrid approach won’t survive to Windows 9. If they want Metro to succeed, it can’t. Imagine if Microsoft ran Program Manager and Explorer simultaneously in Windows 95, actively giving users a choice to enable it upon first run (or as a prominent item in the Start menu); had that happened, we very well may still be transitioning away from Program Manager today.

    I’m surprised Sinofsky, the man who brought about the Ribbon in Office with no fallback, would take such a conservative approach to Windows. (Maybe the initial criticism of the Ribbon got to him?)

  2. I hope MSFT is able to execute this will. What it will do is that differentiation of Slate Vs Desktop will move to software rather than hardware. One device call it what you may will be a tablet/slate and a desktop.

    Personally this sounds really cool. The fact that we carry a device (slate or tablets) which only satisfies part of our needs is a failure of technology. If in a year or two I can pick up a slate device which has all the advantages of slate and has user experience for it but I can hook it up to a dock and connect it to a monitor and a keyboard and get a fully functional desktop, that will be just great. Remember hardware will only get better with time.

  3. I think the idea is that when you sit down and dock your phone/tablet and are using it as a workstation you simply turn on the desktop. When you undock your phone it runs Metro. Allowing one device to run as your PC and Phone/tablet.

  4. “According to Sinofsky, Windows 8 will let you ‘seamlessly switch between Metro style apps and the improved Windows desktop.’ ”

    Microsoft has no choice. They need a tablet OS to keep their gamer geeks happy, but those geeks don’t want to lose all the software they worked so hard to pirate.

  5. Schizophrenia != multiple personalities.

    you mean no harm, but some more sensitivity in title choice would be much appreciated.

  6. I thought I would hate Launchpad, but I actually use it all the time on my iMac. It’s great for getting to applications (like games) which I don’t want on my dock but don’t want to dig through Spotlight/Finder for every time I use them. I only invoke it a couple times a day, but with the trackpad gestures it’s pretty painless when I do. I actually like it so much I uninstalled Quicksilver.

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