Over the weekend, I read this post “6 ways Microsoft is Killing the Traditional Desktop in Windows 8”. Like many headline hungry opinion writers, there’s a large share of hyperbole in this article. The headline also implies an incorrect motive. I won’t speculate on whether or not Microsoft wants to kill the traditional desktop. However, I think I’m on safe ground when I say Microsoft wants the Windows 8 Metro desktop to succeed. If you market and sell applications on Windows, you should rephrase each of his 6 ways as motivation for getting your applications on the Metro platform:
Your Users Start in Metro
Do you want your application front and center in your users’ cognitive space? Do you want them starting and running your application everyday? Once Windows 8 comes out, that means running as a Metro App. If you want your application visible on a daily basis, using live tiles to update status, and enticing customers to launch your app, your application must be in the Metro start menu.
Modern Apps win
You have a choice of environments in Windows 8: “Modern” (meaning Metro) and “Desktop”, meaning, well, not modern. If you’re competitors are more modern than you are, they will win.
Touch First wins
The Modern interface is a touch first experience. Chris Hoffman is not the first author to mention the phenomena of wanting to use touch on his windows 7 machine after using Metro. It really is compelling. Once your users have a touch-first experience, they will gravitate toward those applications that work for them in the touch environment. If your application is the competitor with a solid touch experience, you can successfully take marketshare from competitors that have not made a touch investment.
Desktop applications are not first-class apps
The Desktop is a Metro app. That means desktop apps do not show up as individual apps in the task bar, or in task switching. They have limited features for sharing, standard metro menus, and more.
Metro apps will be more fully integrated into the Windows 8 experience than any legacy desktop applications.
Metro Apps have greater market reach
Windows 8 runs on Intel x86 and i64 processors. It also runs on ARM processors, used on tablet devices where battery life is a key driver. Traditional desktop applications will not install on ARM devices running Windows 8 (exceptions may be made for Office, Windows Explorer, and a few other Microsoft applications. If you want to reach the greatest market, you must create Metro apps.
The Windows App Store sells Metro Apps
The Windows App store makes it easy to install apps, try them, rate them, and purchase enhanced versions or add ons. It makes it easier for customers to try new applications safely, and purchase those apps they like the best. The App Store keeps track of the apps a user has purchased, and automatically installs any updates and bug fixes. That lowers your support costs: users will be automatically upgraded to the latest released version.
OF course, those business features are only available for Metro apps. If you’re trying to sell legacy desktop mode apps, you must still manage this entire process yourself. Once again, Metro apps incur lower costs, and gain new benefits from the ecosystem.
Some closing remarks
Windows 8 is a big change from Windows 7. When it is released, existing Windows 7 apps will look as dated as Windows 3.1 applications looked when Windows 95 released. That change drastically modified the marketplace at the time. Those companies that were ready to ride the wave of Windows 95 started a very impressive growth curve. Their competitors that bet against change slowly faded from relevance. Regardless of the platform, the software industry has proven time and again that betting against the latest upcoming release is a bad idea. Stay close enough to the leading edge to stay relevant.