I’ll preface this by saying that I have no aesthetic complaints about the Metro Interface. While I still find it rather unusual, the choices make a lot of sense given how vital it is for Microsoft to unify their user experience across multiple platforms. That said, it has taken a lot of time to figure out exactly why the interface is being forced on people.
The obvious answer is simply exposure. Microsoft wants people to get used to seeing the Metro style, so you’re going to see it whether you want to or not. I don’t think that’s it exactly. Somewhere in the OS, maybe buried deep and requiring some real understanding to safely manipulate, there would be a way to disable or at least minimize the impact of Metro if that was all that was going on.
I think that they’re being a bit more clever. What we see with Metro, especially given what we can see now in the Windows 8 Release Preview, is Microsoft combating the decline of the PC by realizing what was causing it.
As hard as it is to believe, the new interface is almost as easy and intuitive to navigate with a mouse and keyboard as with a touchscreen. People might not like that option since they are already used to a different PC experience, but the complaints generally have little to do with function except in rare cases of confusion or (hopefully) beta-related shortcomings.
As a result we find ourselves with two completely distinct, yet equally usable operating system interfaces bound together in one package. What works in Metro will generally not apply to what works in the Desktop, nor will skills transfer the other way. Most people are concentrating on the tablet marketing as motive, which makes sense, but I believe it is fair to say that this could be misdirection.
I’m noting increasingly that the split in interface works as a break between work and play.
More specifically, I’m talking about a break between casual and serious computing. All of the things that you likely have loaded on your desktop for quick reference are still there. For example, I have gone from having a handful of notes, a couple twitter feeds, the weather, my email client, and various other assorted clutter in my desktop to simply having those apps available to flip between as needed.
This seems at first to be an inconvenience. Why would I want to have to swap focus every time I need information when I could just have everything in front of me all the time like I’m used to? Admittedly this is my experience and as such anecdotal, but I genuinely haven’t missed it. If anything, having separate screens for things like notes and news feeds improves the overall experience in any number of ways.
The trick is the responsiveness, I think. The one thing nobody can say about Metro is that it’s slow. Anything I want to have available is always there, just a swipe away. When I need to get down to work, whether it’s making use of Office programs or doing research, then yes the Desktop is going to be the way to go. Because all the usual distractions are back in Metro, I find I can even get more work done in general. The flip between your Desktop and Metro is still quick, but not something I find pleasant enough to do all the time.
Basically, Microsoft seems to have seen that casual computing such as tablets was becoming the norm. More serious tasks still need their place, but when you just want to pick it up and use it, so to speak, the experience is better. I don’t think we’ll be seeing Metro sidelined. I don’t even think a “Boot to Desktop” option is on the way. Honestly, the more I use the Release Preview, the less I want one. It may be more about mindset than function.