Is Windows dead?

With the announcement of Windows 10, we really have to ask ourselves: does Windows provide anything we need?

First off, I’m most probably highly opinionated: I have rarely used Windows through my professional career, and nearly never in my private life. I was always using different linuxes, and since 2005, I’m a mac user. I also happen to have an iPhone.

I was trained to develop and design for Windows however: I liked the original WinAPI design’s brutal productivity-oriented approach. It might not be beautiful, but an enermous energy went into it, and it works surprisingly well.

Then Metro appeared.

I should have had some suspicion when Ribbon came out: although touted for easily discoverability, I just… I just never found the stuff I was looking for. Of course, if I only modified basic font settings in my documents, I would have been happy with it — but by the time Ribbon arrived, I was already a power user of the Office suite.

And that’s exactly where my problem lies with Metro as well.

See, I use my desktop for productivity apps: Axure, Omnigraffle, Word, Powerpoint/Keynote and Excel are my day-to-day companions, with ocassionally Photoshop, InDesign, or even GIS software coming into the mix.

I usually design administrative applications: for HR people, for tech support, for sport organizers… This is my field of expertise: business apps.

Business apps come in a lot of shapes and forms: some are meant to be used everyday, and it’s fine to have a training with it, for others, you have to be proficient with it on your second workday freshly out of college Other apps, since you just use them occassionally, they’re like proverbal Christmas tree decorations: you always forget how to handle them by the time comes again.

For everything else, there is the web.

Metro offers a lot of features: universal applications meant to run on Mobile and Desktop, battery safekeeping, by not allowing background processes, desktop notifications, automatic updates, apps in windows. This is all great,

Except all of this is possible in 2014 with a stock web browser

Sometimes I have the feeling that someone in Microsoft downloaded an abilities_of_web.htm file in 2009 to their desktop and forgot to update.

What Metro doesn’t offer however: it doesn’t offer multiple windows handling and “crowded” UIs.

It doesn’t offer the features which are the essence of a productivity app.

Simply, I can’t imagine SAP running on Metro: I can’t imagine any kind of tasks which need a quick overview of what’s happening on a small 15" laptop screen possible with this UI.

And altough touch is great,

precision graphics needs precision pointer devices —
your finger is not one of them

Artist have drawn with long sticks since the age of dawn: pens and pencils, brushes, chisels are and were always the artist’s tools. Our fingers need that indirection. It can come in the form of a mouse or a touchpad, a trackball, a joystick or a nipple: direct finger manipulation is not natural in creative fields.

The original Windows 8 UX guidelines didn’t even mention non-finger interactions.

So, all in all, I would say I’m skeptic with the Modern UI: sure, it is a possible way to build mobile interfaces, but it contains nothing me or the users I usually design for use Windows for.

Web is catching up: a lot of administrative applications are already on web even in the financial sector. Sure, their apps need to be IE 6-compatible, but if they ever get to write new UI for it, which web developer would do an IE-only web application today? I bet 100% of all people who actually know JavaScript use either Chrome/Webkit or Firefox.

Sure, the old Windows Desktop is still great, but it was designed to its current form in the first half of the 90s. Things have to change, but Metro is not and was never the direction productivity apps could go.

This looks like a dark future for Windows, but well, we will see.

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