It’s a little more than a week after //build/ and now I’ve had time to let more of the announcements, changes, and future technology sink in.
Users: Windows 8 and Metro
I’ve tried to spend the last week using the //build/ tablet and metro almost exclusively. It helped that I was at a conference toward the end of the week, and I traveled with only the tablet.
Forcing yourself to live in the new UI for almost a full week was an eye-opening experience. After a short time, I stopped comparing Metro to the full desktop. I stopped wanting the desktop experience. It’s very efficient. It’s easy to use. I’m totally addicted to the instant on experience.
In short, I did everything I could in the Metro shell, and became a sad panda whenever I needed to use the classic desktop.
Users: Working with Desktop Apps
Working in the classic desktop using the //build/ machine is clearly a compatibility play. It works, It does what it’s supposed to do, which is to ensure your existing software investment works on tablet, but it does feel second-class. It’s not the same experience. The performance feels wrong. The crispness is missing. The ease of use is missing.
I found I liked the Metro UI so much better, and had gotten so accustomed to it that I found myself trying to manipulate my desktop as a touch screen once I returned home.
In fact, that’s the single biggest lesson as I close this section and move to the developer section:
I firmly believe that once Windows 8 is out, Metro apps will destroy classic desktop apps in the market. The only desktop apps that will survive in the long term will be those that don’t have Metro alternatives.
Of course, not every application is applicable to Metro. Let’s talk about developing software.
Developers: The future experience
Just like we don’t develop software for phone devices using a phone, We don’t develop for Metro using the Metro UI. You’ll use the desktop experience (and whatever your favorite IDE is) to build Metro apps. This speaks to the difference between the developer tablet given at //build/ and the consumer tablets that I think will dominate the market when Windows 8 releases.
The developer tablet from //build/ is not the right price point to compete with competitive platforms. End users will buy hardware that is more streamlined for their use, at a lower price point. As you design and develop your applications remember that: Your users will likely have a more painful desktop experience with their tablet devices than you do. They’ll want to spend even more time in Metro.
That’s why I believe it makes sense for you (and I) as developers to spend as much time as possible in Metro. The more time you spend in native Metro apps, the more you’ll understand what makes a great Metro UI.
By the time Windows 8 becomes released, I hope to have Metro versions of every non-developer application I use. Unless I’m developing code, I want to be in the Metro UI. It will feel like an earlier time when we often used cross-compilers and the development hardware was not the same as the deployment hardware.
Developers: Your next Hardware
But hey, you’re a developer. You (like me) will spend long stretches of the day in Visual Studio creating applications. For this, I really like the //build/ hardware. I put it in the dock, hook up my external keyboard, mouse, and large-screen HDMI monitor, and get to work.
This sets the Windows 8 developer experience apart from many competitive platforms. On Windows 8, you can develop for the metro platform on a Metro device, as long as you plug in some accessories. The beauty of that is you may be able to travel lighter, with only one device.
I am hoping that I can continue to find what I’m calling a “developer class tablet” once Win8 is released. It would be a great experience to carry a smaller form factor device, and still be able to do all the developer work I need to do.