Microsoft Trainwreck Edging Towards “Modern UI” to Replace “Metro”

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It’s like a train wreck, but in slow motion. It edges forward ever-so slowly, horrific and chilling. You know what’s going to happen, but just like yelling “Stop! No! Don’t do it!” at the movie screen when the girl splits off from the main group in a horror film, your shouts and protestations fall meaningless, echoing off of deaf ears.

And just like a real-life train wreck, you simply can’t look away. The train continues pumping forward, creeping towards its eventual doom. Destruction is its fate, and the only question remaining is finding out if anyone survives. At this point, I fear the answer to that question is no.

Microsoft Trainwreck

That’s what I feel like when watching Microsoft’s efforts to drag itself into the 21st Century with Windows 8 and Metro/Windows 8 Style UI/Modern UI, the last being the latest incarnation of how Microsoft is trying to brand the touch interface for Windows 8.

It started for me with Windows 8 itself, when Microsoft announced that the tablet was nothing more than a small PC. The company said that software that ran on Windows 8 tablets would also run on Windows 8 PCs, with the caveat that there would be a touch interface called Metro.

This is insane, to me—and I once had medium-high hopes for Microsoft being able to leverage its assets to come up with a tablet that could compete with the iPad. The company has a massive footprint in the living room with its Xbox console gaming platform, and that’s the hook the company should have hung its tablet hat on.

Instead, Microsoft just can’t let go of Windows, the world’s largest PC platform (by a long shot). The company seems determined to turn Windows into an anchor draped around its neck like some kind of depressed, nautically-obsessed alternate universe version of Flavor Flav.

I still give Microsoft props for coming up with a UI that didn’t rip off Apple. The Windows 8 Metro Windows 8 Style UI Modern UI interface is original, it’s interesting, and potentially useful. In fact, it’s biggest shortcoming seems to be that nobody cares about or is interested in it.

It got worse earlier this week, however, when Microsoft apparently agreed to stop using the “Metro” name for the touch interface version of Windows 8. The company was sued by Euroasian retailing giant Metro AG, who, it turns out, has a trademark for “METRO” that covers consumer electronics.

As a sidenote, whoever is in charge of vetting trademarks at Microsoft should probably get sacked. If not that person(s), then whoever it is that should have listened to that person should be sacked, and on up the line.

In the wake of that initial news, Microsoft put out a placeholder name for the interface formerly known as Metro, calling it Windows 8 Style UI, a name whose awfulness would best be measured with a yardstick of Biblical proportions.

Microsoft was able to dig deep, however, and find something even worse. The Verge reported on Friday that Microsoft has begun referring to the interface as “Modern UI,” “Modern UI Style,” “Windows 8 Modern UI Style apps,” and even—and I am not making this up—“Modern UI-Style UI.”

What the holy frak does all that crap even mean? “Modern UI?” That’s a marketing descriptor, not a name that anyone outside of Redmond, WA is going to embrace. It’s wishful thinking, not branding. It’s equal parts self-delusion and desperation.

It’s bloody awful.

And for the love of all that Bill Gates built, pick one and stick to it! All those names I mentioned above? They’re all referenced in one form or another in the same document, meaning you can’t even blame this on different teams scrambling to implement a hasty change as fast as is humanly possible.

I still give Microsoft all kinds of credit for having the guts to do its own thing, even though the company should probably be sued for breach of fiduciary responsibility for canning the Courier project. The truth, however, is that the only thing worse than calling an interface “Modern UI” is not understanding the living lesson that is the iPad: media tablets aren’t PCs.

For the sake of not having legions of temp workers rendered jobless in the Washington State area, I hope that “Modern UI” is merely another placeholder on the way to something badass, like “Espresso,” or “Curry,” or even “Windows Touch.” There is no shortage of names that are more appropriate and better than “Modern UI.”

Image made with help from Shutterstock.

Comments

mactoid

“...measured with a yardstick of Biblical proportions.”

Would that be a “cubit-stick”????

Bryan Chaffin

I wish I’d thought of that, mactoid. smile

Partsmutt

You’re missing what is obvious to everyone outside of the Mac media.  And for some reason it seems no one in the Mac media can see this. It doesn’t matter what Microsoft does or what they call it. The masses, and all the fortune 500 companies with their legions of employees will buy it! The tablet is a just small PC…ok. May not work worth a flip, but it’ll have all the hooks to fit in with the corporate enterprise, so it will be adopted. I didn’t say liked, but adopted. That means sales, that means user base, and that means success to MS. Unlike Apple, MS success is about maintaining what they have.  They haven’t been a growth corp in a long time. If PCs are losing ground to tablets, they only have to sell enough to make up the margin and stay profitable. Corporate IT managers will actually gain from having a new microsoft device.  It means bigger budget, more employees, more power, without the need to change how things work within the enterprise. Sad but true.

Bryan Chaffin

Partsmutt, you make a great point, at least in historical terms. I believe, though, that we have crossed the tipping point where the logic that has been borne out time and again is no longer true.

To wit: Windows Phone 7.x. It has not been adopted by the Enterprise, and is all but irrelevant in the smartphone market.

I believe the same will be true for Windows 8 tablets. Microsoft may sell more such devices than it has smartphones, but it still won’t make a dent in Android tablet sales, let alone iPad sales.

Or so I fear. I really wanted Big Redmond to give Apple and Google a run for their (hoards of) money. I wanted Microsoft to push the market because it would benefit all of us. What we’ve seen so far isn’t going to cut it.

mrmwebmax

+

The masses, and all the fortune 500 companies with their legions of employees will buy it! The tablet is a just small PC?ok. May not work worth a flip, but it?ll have all the hooks to fit in with the corporate enterprise, so it will be adopted. I didn?t say liked, but adopted.

Not necessarily true. Despite having a lock on the Enterprise, Vista was a disaster. And, as Bryan points out, Windows Phone 7.x also hasn’t been adopted by Enterprise (or anyone else). I’ve yet to see a single one in the wild.

Also, remember that ARM-based Windows tablets won’t be able to run Microsoft Office, which pretty much eliminates any MS advantage in the Enterprise. That leaves Intel-based tablets, plus a lot of questions: Battery life? Performance?

Then there’s the interface formerly known as Metro. This is a huge change, which begs the question: Does Enterprise like change? No, they do not. Change requires training. Change slows down productivity. And in this era of reduced budgets, if employees are so eager to bring their iPads to work—and use them effectively—who in their right mind is going to sign a purchase req for a bunch of untested Microsoft tablets?

It used to be no one ever got fired for buying IBM. That didn’t last. Likewise, the last thing Microsoft can do right now is count on history.

Matt Taylor

So you don’t like the name so it’s a train wreck?

Great article, so insightful.

Bryan Chaffin

If that’s all you got out of this column, you should probably try and read it again, Matt.

wab95

Microsoft was able to dig deep, however, and find something even worse. The Verge reported on Friday that Microsoft has begun referring to the interface as ?Modern UI,? ?Modern UI Style,? ?Windows 8 Modern UI Style apps,? and even?and I am not making this up??Modern UI-Style UI.?

What the holy frak does all that crap even mean? ?Modern UI?? That?s a marketing descriptor, not a name that anyone outside of Redmond, WA is going to embrace. It?s wishful thinking, not branding. It?s equal parts self-delusion and desperation.

It?s bloody awful.


Well…yes, it’s bloody awful. It’s like getting a new puppy, and naming it, ‘My new puppy for whom I’m too daft to devise any name but puppy’; and expecting everyone to call it such.

As your article suggests, it’s not just the name, it’s the full monty of MS’s handling of Windows 8 that’s the train wreck. Once more, I’d like to take a step back and away to an arial observation of MS and Apple, and the former’s spectacular dominance over the latter in desktop PC marketshare.

Two more different businesses one can scarcely imagine, and the concept their direct competition one of the most successful artifices of popular media. Apple is a tech company, in its rebirth, that competes on multiple fronts. MS, which never had a rebirth or even near-death experiences, continues in its original incarnation as desktop PC software company that occasionally dabbles in hardware, but primarily strays from its PC desktop software roots in response to Apple, for whom it has a curious, if not misplaced, obsession.

Any of Apple’s competitors may be able to give it serious competition for any one of its many products or services, and even gain the upper hand in relative terms. No company comes close to challenging Apple on every front, nor do they even compete in all those fronts.

That a company with the limited repertoire of MS, and not just limited repertoire, but creativity, vision and innovation should outcompete Apple so one-sidedly remains an historical anomaly, and should not be seen as MS’s relative competitiveness, en toto, against Apple.

Johnathan Hebert

Also, remember that ARM-based Windows tablets won?t be able to run Microsoft Office, which pretty much eliminates any MS advantage in the Enterprise

MS Office will run on the ARM arch… and it will be bundled in with the device

http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/16/microsoft-office-bundled-with-windows-rt/

mrmwebmax

+

MS Office will run on the ARM arch? and it will be bundled in with the device

http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/16/microsoft-office-bundled-with-windows-rt/

My bad. Note, though, that ARM-based Windows RT tablets can only use Office 2013 RT, and Office 2013 RT can’t run macros, Visual Basic scripts, or third-party add-ons, all of which pretty much (IMHO) still dooms it in the Enterprise:
http://www.zdnet.com/office-2013-for-microsoft-windows-rt-tablets-wont-support-macros….

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