Thursday, January 17, 2013

Window 8 Metro DOES Suck

In my last post I described how I had installed Windows 8 on several of my systems and I really like the way the desktop behaved. I had heard a lot of bad things about this operating system and I realized after playing with it that all the bad things had to do with the Metro interface. Technically, since Microsoft has decided that Metro is not the real name for this interface and has yet to supply an alternative, we should call this "the interface formerly known as Metro" but I will simply call it Metro.

Metro is version 1 from Microsoft and as all version 1 products, particularly from Microsoft it is very bad. Many of the bad behaviors have been described in great detail by others so I will not go into them. There are many little things like when you scroll the mouse you expect things to scroll vertically but in Metro they scroll horizontally. Why, who can say but presumably you are supposed to use a touch interface which most existing computers don't have. Metro has no concept of a right-click and many places where you would reasonably expect a menu to pop up for you click in fact the menu pops up somewhere else on the screen forcing you to click and then moved to deal with it. The icons on the Metro interfaces come in only two sizes: square and roughly twice the width of a square at the same height. The number of rows of icons seems to be independent of screen size. Having a fixed size is only one of many limitations for Metro apps which end up making them essentially toys on a system like my desktop.

 Metro is a response to a problem that Microsoft has. Microsoft has no presence in the huge and rapidly growing phone and tablet market. Virtually all of the phones and tablets being sold in this country either run Apple's operating system will Google's. Microsoft is coming to the party about five years too late and is desperately playing catch-up.  The only way that Microsoft can establish a credible presence in the phone and tablet market is by exploiting its virtual monopoly on the desktop in order to cause developers to write applications that will work well on phones and tablets. If developers see a huge Windows market and develop cool applications that will also run on Windows tablets and phones then Microsoft can establish itself as a major presence in this market. The conclusion is that it is a good thing for Microsoft to have your computer behaved like a tablet.

The problem is that consumers do not want their computer to behave like a tablet, they want their tablet to behave like a computer. I recently took a five-week trip to Europe in which my only computer was a very sophisticated android tablet, the Asus transformer. The transformer looks a lot like a laptop with an attached keyboard loaded with batteries. What I discovered in using this as my only system for five weeks is that a tablet in many cases thinks more like a phone than a computer. Selecting text if you were typing or simply wanting to copy a string in Polish from a webpage into a search engine is extremely difficult with touch but totally trivial with a mouse. My tablet would not let me select multiple files to include in an email message with a single multiple selection nor would it let me send an email to a group of users. There is no good reason why either of these operations is not supported except that the tablet software was originally written for a phone.

Many websites treat a tablet as if it were a phone rather than a laptop even though the space available is similar and the experience can be quite disappointing. My conclusion at the end of this was that I wanted my tablet to behave more like a computer and not the other way around. Metro's view of the world is very very different.
   Others have described metro as a train wreck.

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