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DanJ

Windows 8 Metro vs. webOS - How is Microsoft so far behind?

I have been playing around with the developers preview of Windows 8 this week, and am pretty amazed at how Metro is so far behind features that have been in the mobile webOS for years. These differences are especially bad considering that Windows 8 is meant to be put on large screens, and full powered desktop processors.

1. Windows Management
Multitasking is something that webOS has long been praised for, and to this day, I think its "card" paradigm is still by far the best multitasking UI of any mobile OS out there. That being said, it still doesn't have superior multitasking to desktop OS's. This is why it seems so crazy to me that Metro, takes such a large step backwards from webOS. I am using Metro on my 15" laptop, and it seems pretty crazy to me that this desktop OS is filling the screen with 4 rows of big tiles, and a lot of blank space around that. It seems like it would be so much more useful to have 2 rows of tiles at the bottom of the screen with "cards" or windows, or whatever yo want to call them, sitting above that. Again, especially considering the fact that this is a desktop OS, it seems crazy that I don't have any ability to manage multiple windows of running apps.

2. App switching
Another key part of multitasking in Metro is the app switching ability that comes from swiping from the left of the screen. This is an interesting idea, but the core functionality is actually very limited. You can only cycle through one app at a time, and it only goes through reverse chronological order. Comparing that to the app switching in webOS, going to card view, you have so much easier access to all you apps, that you can switch to whatever you want. Amazingly, you actually have more control, and easier visualization of app switching, in Windows Phone, than you do in Windows 8.

3. Search
This is a relatively small thing, but I think speaks to the core of the issue, that Microsoft continues to lack the skill and emphasis on design that they really need. In webOS, as with most OS's, you have a universal search function. webOS is the best comparison to Metro however, because all palm devices had built in physical keyboards, so it is possible to simply start typing on the keyboard to initiate search, without having to click on a field first to activate the software keyboard. Metro does the same thing, but while webOS puts a field on the homescreen telling you that the search functionality is available, Metro only has the functionality implied, and gives the user no visual information to tell them it is available.

There are certainly some things that Metro does well - the snapping ability that allows you to have multiple full-screen apps side by side is pretty cool, and the live tile idea is still a good one as well. So it is a real shame that Metro is dropping the ball on such simple core functionality that you would expect a desktop OS to have.

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10 replies
andrewkalies

To be fair, I think webOS and Windows 8 are two completely different things. Yes, they have their differences and certain things could be better in the Metro UI, but they are ultimately built for different things. It seems here like you are specifically talking about the Metro part of Windows 8 and how it's multitasking isn't perfect, well no, but you have to keep in mind that it's attached to an actual full on desktop OS with great multitasking (Windows 8 regular desktop). I see the Metro UI addition to the OS as a way for the OS be more accessible on tablets and other touchscreen devices, and while the Metro UI can't multitask 10+ programs at once like webOS' cards feature, I think most users will be perfectly content using the regular Windows interface with a bunch of windows open with a Metro app on the side of the screen. Thanks just what I think though. Anyone agree?
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DanJ

I'm a bit confused by your comments. You say that webOS and Windows 8 are different things (and I agree), but then say that Metro is a way to be more accessible on tablets. That was my point of comparing Metro and webOS, rather than comparing windows 8 in its entirety to webOS.

All I am trying to say (and I may not have been as clear as I should have) is that when I am using a touchscreen tablet, I want it to be good. I'm not saying Microsoft should just give up and stop developing Windows. I'm just saying that as a windows user, it is upsetting, that my windows tablet is going to be so much less fun and functional than a 3 year old OS that is now dead.
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andrewkalies

I suppose I wasn't as clear as I could have been either, when I said Metro is a way to be more accessible on tablets, I was agreeing with you. But I was just saying that the things you're complaining about, such as full on multitasking in the Metro UI start menu, may not be a problem to some people (such as myself) since a click away is a full on desktop OS with full multitasking capabilities that also allows Metro apps to run alongside it. For that reason, that's probably why they didn't add the multitasking feature to Metro.
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DanJ

OK yea - I think that is a great point.

Actually it really just underscores a problem of Microsoft PR - that they have not well conveyed the purpose of Metro in Windows 8. Is it just a start page and app launcher? Is it suppose to be a complete touch environment? Something in between? I don't really know, and I think that is the biggest problem at this point.
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andrewkalies

Hopefully they'll produce some videos like the amazing Windows Phone 7 ads they've been pumping out lately. That'd be great. At least someone at Microsoft PR knows how to get things done!
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gbaenre

You mean the ones that STILL misuse the concept of "I'm a PC"? responding to ads from five years ago is embarrassing, to say the least.
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SonofNun

I agree. It is just that metro doesn't present the multitasking in the best way.
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frankspin

You have to remember Windows 8 is still a year away from release and while they did state there wont be any major overhaul to the OS based on user feedback it is after all a developer build. There may be elements that get refined over time.
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gbaenre

"You have to remember Windows 8 is still a year away from release"
Many of us are DEFINITELY aware of this, and this fact is a HUGE problem. Microsoft isn't skating to where the puck was, they're anxiously skating to the rink hoping there's still enough time left in the first game for them to even enter the tournament. Be it a severe lack of vision or pathetic execution, Microsoft is scrambling for its life. If anyone in Redmond had half a brain they would have developed a version of Office for iOS in order to secure their ultimate bread and butter. They were tenacious enough to stay behind the Xbox long enough to get it out of the red. Unfortunately the novelty behind their Kinect is already eroding and users are bored with the limitations of this hardware gimmick. It will be interesting to see if Redmond can truly muster the blood and guts necessary to overcome their fading heist.
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gbaenre

"True colors, shining through"
-Cyndi Lauper
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