Windows 8 is trying to be all things to all people and it has a number of failings because of its ‘catch all’ approach. In fact Apple CEO, Tim Cook, revelled in calling Microsoft Surface a “fairly compromised, confusing product” as a result. The flip side of this is Windows 8 can be anything you want it to be: laptop, desktop, tablet or hybrid and we can’t see a Mac OS X hybrid being possible any time soon.
As such the Modern UI, in its current state, is a great way to consume content (particularly on a train or plane) and you switch to the desktop to get work done. Despite the jarring nature of the transitions between them suddenly they give the user a flexibility they have never experienced before and it justifies the gamble Microsoft has made in splitting its well established platform in two.
Another New Ecosystem
In some ways this is not Microsoft’s fault, but with the Apple App Store, Google Play and – to an extent – the Windows Phone Store all either having matured or gaining momentum it is extremely frustrating to be back at step one with the Windows Store. No doubt Microsoft has pushed developers hard and following its release we are sure momentum will pick-up, but the dearth of quality apps at Windows 8’s launch is shocking. It says it all that the most popular free app, ‘BBC News Mobile’ is a third party creation in which the BBC had no involvement.
Yes Kindle, Netflix, Wikipedia, eBay and (predictably) Skype apps are now available, but even as content builds there is no search system in place or charts, just ‘Spotlight’, ‘New Releases’, ‘Free’ and categories. It is almost as if the Windows Store is deliberately trying to hide its lack of content, which we suspect it is. If we are going to adopt the Modern UI long term widespread developer support is crucial much as it was to the success of iOS and Android. A potential user base of hundreds of millions, a 95 per cent compatibility with the Windows Phone platform and some Android emulation should mean this happens, but as we have seen with Android tablet apps so far, it is far from guaranteed. Until then the Modern UI is effectively a stupid smartphone with a big screen.