For the past few months I have been reading and looking at Windows 8, the next version of Microsoft Windows featuring the Metro theme applied to their desktop systems. Today, I went for a learning event at Navy Pier in Chicago.
I really like the Metro theme and I think that if Microsoft can get its act together and deliver a consistent message to its developers and clients, it has the potential to challenge Apple. But Microsoft still lacks in one major area compared to Apple: marketing. But I see improvements in this area and, in the end, consumers can only benefit from additional competition in the market.
At the core of Metro is this idea of a chrome-less design, the idea that content is first and foremost. Mostly this applies to the apps but Sara Summers was kind enough to talk about how it can be applied to the web as well. These apps are, quite simply, gorgeous and, in my opinion, completely outdo anything I have seen on the Apple or Android.
I really feel like the designs most designers tend to create today are born out of many older design principles, principles that may be starting to grow stale given the greater levels of interactivity we are able to attain with modern devices. Metro just feels so much more vibrant and alive versus other UI themes. I really think that once people start to play with this new generation of applications the difference will become obvious.
A recurring theme in many of these events is the question regarding XAML and HTML5, which one will it be. When this question was brought up today it was answered that both will stay because both target very different things. For developers, it really is about options. You would rather have too many options then not enough, though too many options can also cause design paralysis. Microsoft regards HTML5 and XAML as addressing two different areas, each of which are capable of solving different problems, thus both are supported by Windows 8.
What I am most impressed with is how much help Microsoft is giving developers in terms of templates and pre-baked controls. I will attempt to build a very simple Twitter Reader over the course of the next couple dates.
Some things I didn’t like, I am still not sold on Windows 8 as a client desktop OS. As a tablet and phone OS I think it is gorgeous and incredibly usable. But put it on a machine without a touch interface and I am not certain it works very well. While its true that touch is becoming extremely pervasive in our industry, I don’t know if we have quite reached a point where people believe their normal workstations should be touch enabled. But this is the exactly the thinking that put Microsoft, and a slew of other companies, behind Apple, who did believe people were ready. So maybe this is the catalyst to put Microsoft back on the map. Only time will tell.
Bottom line though, it is a great time to be a Microsoft developer.