My take on Win8/Metro

I attended the Developer Camp at the Microsoft Malvern Office last week [Thursday].

Kudos to Dave Isbitski and Lindsay Lindstrom for putting on a superb presentation.

–  Metro, as a vehicle to display information is nice
–  The ability to pick between C#/XAML and HTML/JS is a plus
–  App suspension and O/S integration for shared features across apps is a plus
–  Very easy to consume Web API’s

– Metro requires Windows 8 (not that Win8 is bad, but requiring an O/S rev for an app is costly and often, not practical/feasible)
– I can write a metro-looking app today with the HTML5 stack
– Metro apps represent only one aspect of business computing: reporting/dashboards – with moderate-light data update requirements
– Not X-Platform
Many companies are just beginning their migration to Win 7. Many are still on XP.  IMO (In My Opinion), I see MS’s strategy as proposing that a problem exists and that Metro is the solution. The belief is that this will drive Windows 8 sales. From an OEM standpoint – I see it in the consumer/retail sector. I don’t see it in the enterprise for at least a few years.  As of today, as I understand it, Win8 will not connect to enterprise assets such as Active Directory. No doubt, this deficit will be addressed.

As nice as Metro-style apps are – as of right now – I don’t see it as anything more than a new way to consume information. The bashing of windows borders (chrome), min/max buttons, etc – is a bit of a  straw man argument IMO. Indeed, overlapping windows, multiple scroll bars, etc. is bad. That, IMO, is a matter of bad UI. As is usually the case, the problem is not with the tool, but how the tool is used.

We can build Metro-looking apps today. There is a distinction with Metro-style and Metro-looking. Metro-style apps are built on the WinRT, are integrated into the Win 8 OS, go into suspend mode, etc. The irony is that it is the look and feel of Metro that is being pushed. And given that we can build Metro-looking apps today, I seriously question if there will be a perceived need to migrate to a new OS for the sake of Metro when there are alternatives to get essentially the same look and feel. Never before have we had to have on the critical path – an O/S rev in order to deploy an application. As somebody who is part of a management team that runs a business, these practical business issues are what gets my attention and have me much more concerned. Not a day goes by where I ask myself “How can I sell this?” As consultants, we are, IMO, ethically obligated to serve the best interest of our clients. If asked today about the value proposition on Win8/Metro, given the current landscape, I’m hard pressed to be able to quantify or to conclude if the value proposition is in positive territory.

It seems to me that the WinRT was something that could have sat on the Win7 platform.  I very much like the calls to add Metro to Win7. Metro, as a UI/UX heuristic, is uniquely a Microsoft Contribution to computing. Why not facilitate it being more in the mainstream of open development?  It’s a conundrum.  Metro apps look great. They are very pleasing to look at. They emphasize the information and thereby enhance information consumption. Its implementation however, is very limited. It only covers a portion of what we end up needing to deliver to clients and it requires a specific O/S. It’s not X-platform  – in spite of the fact that you can use your HTML/CSS/JS skills to develop metro apps. I think it will be several years before Win8 gets traction in the enterprise. For the most part, O/S adoption has been something we have not had to worry about. We really don’t care whether they are on Vista, XP or Win7. But for a metro app – you need Win8 – and that entails costs that extend beyond any specific project budget. Let’s remember – O/S revs for the enterprise are a big deal. They don’t happen often. These are at least 5-year decisions. And again, many companies are just making their way to Win7.  Will there be leap-froggers who go to Win8? No doubt the answer is yes. Win7 was and is a compelling upgrade and that means for many, another O/S rev in the near future is not in the cards.

Bottom line, the issue has more to do with business, the business of computing and less do with the technical aspects of computing.


Be mindful of the UI heuristics that are prescribed in Metro. There is a lot of merit to the science and thought behind Metro and that was one of my big take aways from last week’s developer camp. Much of what Metro prescribes can be adopted today in other areas. On one hand, don’t discount Win8/Metro because it is not available yet. Take time to learn about it. Get Win8 on a VM and play around with it. Eventually, it will be here and as Windows Devs, it’s something we will need to be familar with.  On the other hand, don’t start thinking of a Win8/Metro world just yet. There are apps to be delivered today and tomorrow that won’t lend themselves to Metro. For one thing – it’s very different and companies are often slow to adopt change. The key is to have the “Killer Application” for Metro. IMO, it’s in the area of dashboards/reporting – and general information consumption with some limited data update capabilities. Finally, don’t link the adoption of Dev 11 (Visual Studio with WIn8/Metro. While Metro apps can only be built and deployed under Win8/Dev 11 – Dev 11 will work just fine in Win7. There are a lot of nice productivity features in Dev 11 that make it a compelling upgrade aside and apart from Metro.

About johnvpetersen

I've been developing software for 20 years, starting with dBase, Clipper and FoxBase + thereafter, migrating to FoxPro and Visual FoxPro and Visual Basic. Other areas of concentration include Oracle and SQL Server - versions 6-2008. From 1995 to 2001, I was a Microsoft Visual FoxPro MVP. Today, my emphasis is on ASP MVC .NET applications. I am a current Microsoft ASP .NET MVP. Publishing In 1999, I wrote the definitive whitepaper on ADO for VFP Developers. In 2002, I wrote the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Databases for Que Publishing. I was a co-author of Visual FoxPro Enterprise Development from Prima Publishing with Rod Paddock, Ron Talmadge and Eric Ranft. I was also a co-author of Visual Basic Web Development from Prima Publishing with Rod Paddock and Richard Campbell. Education - B.S Business Administration – Mansfield University - M.B.A. – Information Systems – Saint Joseph’s University - J.D. – Rutgers University School of Law (Camden) In 2004, I graduated from the Rutgers University School of Law with a Juris Doctor Degree. I passed the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar exams and was in private practice for several years – concentrating transactional and general business law (contracts, copyrights, trademarks, independent contractor agreements, NDA’s, intellectual property and mergers and acquisitions.).
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  • Jason S

    As a consumer on Android, I found many demo apps and other rubbish on an Android phone I bought, that were installed and locked down by the phone company. To remove them I would need to gain root access to the phone and void the warranty. The vast majority of consumers don’t want to do that and / or they don’t have the skills.
    Based on this experience, all the shouting about how open Android is, means that it is not open for the end consumer but rather phone companies who can install whatever rubbish they want on there.

  • Yogiraj Aradhye

    Great post! There is a plenty to consider here.. Being a web developer,I am not sure if I am a fan of “walled garden” concept. You can definitely create a metro experience using jQuery mobile and HTML5. Microsoft is supporting that

    Then why spend on Win 8?

  • paper cup machines

    I must admit it ranks up there among one of the most unique blog ideas I have ever seen.

  • Anonymous

    Not sure about that. From a developers perspective, Android is known for bootleg and program theft, making it likely it will take a more controlled approach to actually be profitable. People buy phones and are left out as new OS versions are released the next couple years but not supported by the manufacturer. Many apps take liberal and unnecessary permissions with your device history and data by default.
    There are some good points and tons of potential, if you have tons of free time and don’t mind reimaging and fixing the breaks to get there, but definitely not for everyone, for just getting hings done.

  • SyadminDevEtc

    I’m using windows 8 from a domain connected client right now. It’s the ARM version that won’t have a directory client. It will have a management client, it just won’t be active directory. People should get ready for this…LDAP is about to be legacy in a big way.

  • Anonymous

    Very good point!! Besides, if Win8 was Win7+WinRT – then WinRT could be placed on top of Win7…right?

  • Bobc4012

    Have you checked out Unity in Ubuntu 12.04? Actually, Unity was implemented in earlier releases. IMO, Metro is not much different from what I have read.

  • asdfasdf

    Good article, but please… stop with this “IMO”

  • Anonymous

    Stuck in VFP land huh!! Are you going to SWFox? Steve Bodnar was at the Philly CC a few weeks ago.

    I don’t know if Win8 will support a multi-monitor scenario. The way they’ve made the “desktop” either/or really sucks IMO. I see a lot of prescriptive ceremony around Metro that really detracts and distracts from the benefits it provides.

    The more I think about it, the more I conclude that it would have been better for WinRT to be something that could itself be an app that could run in Win7. You may not know this – but HyperV is baked into Win8. Part of me wouldn’t be shocked if the WinRT somehow, ran in a sandboxed environment that was courtesy of HyperV. May be a stretch. Who knows.

  • Anonymous

    As to conclusions that are based at least in part on opinion not fact – I’d agree with you.

    I’m actually quite astonished at the controversy stirred up over the use of IMO. I tend to use it to set apart conclusions that are really just my opinion, based on inferences I’ve made and where reasonable people could disagree.

    Regardless, I appreciate the comment.

  • Charles Cotton

    What does IMO stand for?

  • RicLloyd

    IMO if you wrote the article and you are not quoting another source, what is written is In Your Opinion

  • Anonymous

    No, I was in Hartford, CT.

  • WilliamF

    Thanks for the post John.

    One thing I’m wondering, and haven’t been able to get an answer to, is whether Win8 will support a multi-monitor setup with Metro running on one monitor and the traditional desktop running on other monitor(s).

    BTW – great to still see you around, I’m still stuck in VFP land…

  • Anonymous

    The assertion comes from the reality that desktop apps on Windows have receded in relevance, everything moving to the web. Windows apps are in a sick, sad state today. With Vista and Win7, Microsoft made it harder for regular non-admin users to even install software, and for good reason.

    WinRT changes this by making all apps run in a security sandbox. They can’t change your registry, wipe your machine, install keyloggers, or toolbars, configure your install directories, or any of that crap that’s associated with risky Windows app installs today.

  • Timothy

    Windows 8 has a TON of under the hood improvements. Honestly, a lot of people would be happy if you could get Win8 without WinRT, and just realize the OS improvements without the new UI.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right that the Windows Store changes that. But I’m also right that Metro changes that. Metro/WinRT runs in a sandbox that prevents it from, say, installing toolbars, touching your registry, or doing other nasty things to your system.

    A new sandboxed runtime that prevented such things was needed. WinRT/Metro is that runtime.

  • Timothy

    Downloading directly from the vendor is not the most elegant solution, but it is hardly a broken system. I agree it is hard for the novice to distinguish legitimate software from spyware a lot of the time, but being locked into a first party solution is too far in the other direction.

    There should be multiple markets, like how there are multiple web browsers. And users should never be disallowed from installing software outside the market.

    Thankfully it appears MS is not going to go Full Metal Lockdown mode like they did in Windows Phone. Hopefully they will stay way.

  • Timothy

    People have been afraid to install Windows apps for the last 10 years, and rightly so. Metro changes that.

    No, Windows Store changes that. Metro has nothing to do with that. The fact that Windows Store will only have Metro apps is PURELY a business/marketing decision to promote MS’s new UI becaue they think it will sell better against Apple.

  • Timothy

    In addition to the slower business cycle of OS adoption slowing down future W8 adoption, I think the force with which MS is pushing Metro is turning a lot of people off. Metro looks awesome for the Dashboard metaphor, as you stated, and there will be plenty of LOB apps created that look that way going forward. But MS is clearly trying to extend Metro-ness to every single app in the world, and it is just not working everywhere — nor should it!

    I think there are great lessons in Metro for every app. For example, high contrast iconography is such a simple enhancement but it makes such a huge difference. The ease with which you can distinguish widgets in a toolbar with “Metro-like” high contrast simple icons is amazing compared to the glossy highly rendered iconography of the Apple universe. But the fist-size buttons and forced full screen views make no sense in a lot of apps.

    Kudos to Microsoft for taking a risk. But they need to stop trying to force people into this new UI at every turn. It does not, nor should it, solve all UI problems. Despite that, it brings a lot to the table for everybody. Just scale turn the dial down from 11. Use the parts that make sense for the app you are developing and stop trying to shoehorn everything to fit it!

  • Anonymous

    Were you at Malvern too?

    Thank you very much for your comments.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with your comments, and I would like to add some of my own. I was at a Metro Developer Boot camp last week. While I was watching the demonstration of Metro and the new OS, I was excited. The possibilities for improving the look and feel of our software were flooding my mind…until someone asked about deploying the new applications. The presenter said apps can ONLY be distributed from the Windows App store. Well, for my company that doesn’t work, nor does it make sense. We manufacture our own equipment, and load software directly on to the machines we ship out of our factory. Because we provide our customers custom solutions, we frequently are changing and debugging the software on site.

    To distribute an application through the App store, your app has to go through an approval process. Which could take a week or more for approval. How is MS going to approve an app which will only work when its installed on a machine, which is part of a system linked to databases? Sometimes, we get a bug report which has to be fixed at that moment. I don’t have a week to get out a hot fix.

    To be fair, I did learn afterward that there is a process to install metro style apps without the app store, but they weren’t advertising this. They were, however, pushing the app store process.

    At the Developer Camp, I asked during a break about deploying Metro apps during the manufacturing process. Without knowing anything about me, or my company, or what we do, the presenter said with an attitude “The days of crapware are gone.” Does MS believe programs not approved by their committee are crap? Is this how they feel about their developer customers who use their tools and push their software?

    My supervisor has often said to me (when I’ve talked about non-MS solutions) that we are in a sense married to MS APIs and software. However, when I told him about the answer I got at the conference he said “Well, if we have to rewrite a lot of code to work on Windows 8, then we will be open to looking at other development tools and software options from other vendors”. Meaning as radical a change as the Windows 8 experience is going to be, why not be open to other development tools, APIs, and software?

    Honestly, feels like a shakedown: I’m boxed into using development tools which only works on Window8. I’m stuck distributing apps which can only be distributed through an app store, where MS gets a 30% cut; and worse, my customers delivery is delayed because of an approval process. For a garage development shop, where the whole company is 1 person, this might be ok. However, for a company like mine, being boxed in like this won’t work.

  • Anonymous

    My appologies. It means “In My Opinion”.

  • Mark Hughes

    Have you seen, it sets a good example for how all download sites should behave imho.

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  • Marc B. Poblet

    “Do we really want the wild west that is Android?”
    Yes, we do.

  • Marc B. Poblet

    In my oppinion, IMO means “in my oppinion”. Why someone would risk not being understood for the sake of ten keypresses is as incomprehensible as microsoft’s strategy with windows 8, IMO.

  • leventemihaly

    People have been afraid to install Windows apps for the last 10 years, and rightly so. Metro changes that.
    Candidly, I don’t understand where this assertion comes from? And even if the primary assertion was true, I don’t see how Metro changes the equation.

    The install experience in Windows is broken. In Windows 8 there’s the marketplace, you can search and install apps, and be sure they won’t harm your system (sandbox, marketplace check) and be happy.
    In Windows 7 what can you do? Google the app, select from a bunch of links the appropriate one. Find the download link, get redirected to another page with least 3 download buttons, usually the smallest one is the real one, others are adverts. When running the installer you have to make sure to opt-out the adware (toolbars etc) included in the package. How’s that suppose to be good??
    A marketplace/appstore with sandboxed environment will clean that up.

  • Frankvanbokhoven

    Very nice and honest article. this really puts the windows development into perspective.

    What the hell is IMO???? You dont explain this abbreviation anywhere

  • Anonymous

    People have been afraid to install Windows apps for the last 10 years, and rightly so. Metro changes that.

    Candidly, I don’t understand where this assertion comes from? And even if the primary assertion was true, I don’t see how Metro changes the equation.

    Microsoft needed a new sandboxed runtime to make that happen.

    You mean the WinRT? Perhaps. I presume WP8 will have the WinRT baked in. At least, I hope so. There have been reports that there will be little to no compatibility between WP7 and WP8. How much veracity there is in that, I don’t know.

    but Metro lets me make some money on consumer apps.

    iOS? And…we’ve been able to build WP7 apps for a while now.

    The gist of my point was not based on mobility per se or any specific technical issue. Again I’ll say, I like the Metro apps. But for all that liking, there are a number of business, financial and yes, technical hurdles to getting the new Win8 Platform in the enterprise.

  • Anonymous

    The value proposition for consumers is not that it turns smart phones into business computing devices. It’s that apps are now safe to install again. We don’t have to use web apps for everything. Also a bonus for end users: apps are now easy to discover, install, upgrade, and uninstall.

    People have been afraid to install Windows apps for the last 10 years, and rightly so. Metro changes that. And yes, Microsoft needed a new sandboxed runtime to make that happen.

    In the end, Metro is somewhat appealing to me. In my former life, I was a big Windows developer, having learned all the Windows UI tech from MFC through Silverlight. I’m a web developer now, but Metro lets me make some money on consumer apps. It’s appealing to me.

  • Anonymous

    Good points about chrome being in metro-looking apps. I for one don’t see the big deal with chrome. Windows apps have been around for about 20 years now. Apple apps have chrome and I’m not aware of any complaints in that eco-system.

    As far as the Win8 not requiring metro only – that’s true. But the fact is, without metro, there is no differentiating characteristic between Win8 and Win7. That’s not to say threre aren’t some handy features in Win8 – there are. Again, the fact is – Metro is used as they lead-in to Win8. In other words, Metro is being pitched as the “Kill App” for Win8. I don’t necessarily disagree with that. I like Metro.

    At the end of the day, if you want to deploy a Metro app – it necessarily means that you will need an O/S rev to do it. I’d be careful about analogizing O/S rev’s at the phone level as compared to the desktop. As pervuasive as smart phones are, they are still not full-fledged business computing devices. They are information consuming devices that have found application in the business world.

    A while ago, MS tried to take the windows desktop experience and transport it to the phone. That strategy failed. I dare say that trying to take the phone experience and transport it to the desktop won’t work either. Metro on the desktop isn’t quite that – but it’s close. And IMO, that’s OK because it’s about information consumption – something Metro is well suited to doing.

    a true Metro app.

    Interesting…what is a “True Metro App.” Are we talking look/feel or functionality. Even a “Metro looking” will not behave like a “Metro Style” app. Microsoft invented it – so they get to define it. And as far as I can see, a “True Metro” app is a “Metro Style” app – one that can only be on WP 7, the XBox or Win8.

  • Anonymous

    The value proposition for developers is that you can make money off consumer apps.

    That however, is not the value proposition I am interested in. To sell it, there needs to be a clear value prop to the customer. In this case, the business customer (read as non-consumer).

    I agree there is a clear value-add in apps that help to turn smart phones and the like into business computing devices. I would contend that we can do that today – sans Win8/Metro. To achieve that implies an architecture that again, has nothing to do per se with Win8/Metro.

    As for your bigger issue of freedoms….I’ll say this – when a corp owns the app store – they get to set the criteria. There needs to be some standard. Whether it is Apple or MS, they get to call the shots. Do we really want the wild west that is Android? I actually think an app certification process is good. Perhaps in the future, there could be an industry-led consortium. That however, will require time.

  • panesofglass

    I disagree about needing a specific OS rev to build apps. Windows Phone, iOS, Android, and any mobile platform require an OS rev to target certain features. Win 8 doesn’t require that you build a Metro app; you can still build Win7 apps that run in the Desktop mode. However, Win7 on a tablet isn’t as convenient as a Metro app. Also, a lot of the Metro-looking apps (github for Windows) still have chrome, search, menus, etc. that should be missing in a true Metro app.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t believe that is the case. I’ve never heard Win8 classified as such.

  • Anonymous

    The value proposition for developers is that you can make money off consumer apps. That hasn’t happened in many years, thanks to the internet setting the price of everything to zero.

    The value proposition for consumers is this: you can install apps without fear. You know, like you do on your phone or tablet. You don’t have to worry the app will install toolbars, malware, or whatever. Consumer confidence in Windows apps is restored.

    The bigger issue, one that transcends developers and consumers, is the issue of restricting freedom. I hate to sound like RMS/ESR, but when a single corporation is the arbiter of whether your app is acceptable, you’ve lost the freedom to publish controversial content, disruptive technology, or apps that compete with the native apps.

  • panesofglass

    As I understand it Win8 is Win7 + WinRT. Is that incorrect?