What Has Microsoft Learned From Metro?

Since OS X 10.7, Lion, Apple’s approach to the desktop has been that OS X can be made better by including some of the features that make iOS so popular. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s vision for their phones, tablets and desktops is that everything should be Metro

The two approaches are distinct. Even though Apple has had years to see millions of users use iOS on multiple generations of devices, they are gradually brining items from iOS to the Mac. Microsoft on the other hand will be changing the Windows desktop to the Metro design language overnight near the end of this year.

Microsoft is making more drastic changes to their products than Apple, with less evidence to support them.

How iOS Found Its Way to the Mac

Not long after the iPad was introduced, Apple held an event on October 10, 2010 titled “Back to the Mac.” The key message was that the iPad and the iPhone had been hugely successful, and that Apple was going to start integrating some of the features that made them so successful to the desktop.

The features they brought to the desktop included:

  • Multi-Touch gestures
  • App Store
  • Launchpad
  • Full screen apps
  • Auto save
  • Apps resume when launched

The driving view in Apple’s ecosystem is that iOS is appropriate for mobile, while OS X for meant for the desktop. But that obviously hasn’t stopped Apple from deciding that certain parts of iOS could also work on the desktop. One of the nice benefits this had for consumers is that it built on consumers’ experience with their phones. What consumers learnt in one setting could now be applied in another.

Since last year when Microsoft revealed what Windows 8 would look like, the overarching message has been Windows, and Metro everywhere. Metro will run on phones, tablets, and desktops.

You have to ask: “Will Metro work on all possible devices, using all possible input methods, for all tasks?” It’s difficult to accept that the answer could only either be Yes or No. Surely there’s some nuance. Though to be fair it’s well known that Windows 8 will include a “classic” mode for when users would rather use applications and workflows the way they do now in Windows 7.

Regardless, Metro will be a major change for most Windows users because most of them haven’t used it before. The hurdle for Windows 8’s success won’t be whether Metro works everywhere, but rather it will be if Microsoft can do a good job of convincing consumers it does.

What has Microsoft learned from Metro?

Devices using Metro haven’t been in the market for as long as iOS, and they haven’t been as successful. You can count the Zune and Windows Phone 7 as two cases where Metro devices have failed.

Where is the learning Microsoft has gained from Metro’s six years in existence? I fear that the answer might be “In complete isolation from the realities of the market.”

Metro might have improved, but there’s no indication that Microsoft has improved the way it executes Metro with a product in the market, taking into consideration things like: Product design, price, promotion, and place.

Microsoft’s next opportunity, and the test of whether they can sell Metro to consumers will be when it releases Windows 8 on October 26 of this year. October will be a busy month, with Windows Phone 8 and potentially the MS Surface launching as well.

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