(This article was originally published on Feb 24th, 2014.)
Let’s face reality, there’s just no way Microsoft is going back to the old ‘classic’ Windows look that we’ve grown so accustomed to. The Metro UI is here to stay and is probably going to be improved upon when Windows 9 gets released in 2015.
Of course we’re looking forward to more new features, and in this post, we’re naming 10 things we want to see in Windows 9.
Much like how groan-inducing Windows Vista was quickly replaced by a relatively successful Windows 7, Windows 9 is set to be the peacekeeper for Windows 8. There weren’t many ground-breaking changes in Windows 7, just lots and lots of improvements. Let’s see some of the things that could help make or break the newest OS for Windows.
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1. Separate OS For Desktop & Tablets
Windows 8 had a 2-in-1 thing going on, in an effort to try to work for both Touch and Click. In trying to be a Jack of all trades, it became master of none and Windows 8 merely irked users because it basically didn’t and couldn’t work properly for either. Although laptop hybrids are hot in the market today, the idea to combine a desktop OS and a mobile OS into one may be alluring but impractical.
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You would never catch Apple packaging iOS and Mac OS into one; they are both two totally different environments. Apple however, does make them work extremely well with one another.
Microsoft should probably separate the hybrid OS they have come up with and allow users to easily switch from a desktop mode to a tablet mode. This will be great for laptops with touchscreens giving them the choice of both worlds without one getting in the way of the other and also good for desktop users who would probably never use the tablet features.
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2. More Metro Apps
One obvious reason why app developers are paying less attention to Windows apps is because its market share is very weak as compared to Android and iOS. Right now, the Microsoft Store doesn’t have the quantity to even talk about the quality of the apps. It’s unfortunate that the growth of Metro apps, which wasn’t that strong to begin with, is actually slowing down over time.
(Image Source: Computerworld)
Microsoft can afford to have fewer mobile apps because thanks to its hybrid OS, users can use full-fledged desktop programs instead of slimmed down apps. Then again, these programs were built for Click, not for Touch: the buttons are too small for fingers, and navigation that isn’t intuitive is just downright horrible. Perhaps in Windows 9, Microsoft can make a clean break between desktop and mobile and revive developer interests on Metro apps.
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3. Windowed Metro Apps
Multitasking on mobile is still a few steps away from effective and practical use but in terms of environment, Windows 8 already has the real estate required — they just need windowed Metro apps. When established in windows, the situation effectively allows several Metro apps to run simultaneously, letting you multitask like you would on desktop.
There’s already a paid third party program to that now, but it should come as an option to begin with. A full screen Metro app isn’t only overkill as it underutilizes screen space, it also reduces productivity. Time to break the rules, Metro.
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4. Metro That’s Out Of The Way
On Mac, the Launchpad can be "summoned" with a simple gesture when it is needed. It doesn’t get in your face when you start up your machine but if you need it, it is still there. Metro could work like that rather than being a constant pain, forcing you to navigate through it to get to desktop mode.
If Microsoft is not down with the idea of splitting the desktop from the tablet in their OS, they should at least allow users to hide the Metro mode, particularly for those who are there to use the device as a laptop, not as a tablet. Let users choose to start their Windows in desktop mode instead of forcing them to face Metro everytime they start up the computer.
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5. Customizable Metro
Metro’s live tiles give you plenty of information without having to run the app to get it. The idea is brilliant; its interface however, leaves a lot to be desired. It lacks customizability as it is stuck on a strict grid that can turn otu to be messy because of different-sized Metro tiles.
Although there are tweaks like OblyTile to change the tiles of installed programs, it’ll be nice if Microsoft had a native way to customize the look of individual tiles. Not only does it look way better than the small program icons, the tile space gives Metro a way better experience.
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6. Reduced OS Size
Windows tablets in the market today suffer from lack of storage space because Windows 8 takes up about 16GB. This means when you buy a 32GB tablet you are left with only 16GB free space for all your other apps.
Although Surface tablet storage can be extended with external hard drives, USB flash drives or microSD card, selling a 32GB tablet when only half of it is free is simply a bad sales pitch. If this cannot be fixed by reducing the OS size, then perhaps a revised marketing strategy is at hand.
7. Return Of Vertical Scrolling
Intuitive navigation is black or white, there is no in between. When Metro UI was first shown to the world, everyone was stumped by the scrolling of the mouse wheel up and down to see the screen move horizontally. Despite Metro being built for tablets, even in that environment, horizontal scrolling is pretty alien compared to what we are used to.
The good news is that horizontal scrolling is limited to just Metro and its apps, and while it probably takes only a while for users to get used to it, perhaps developers can put a bit more thought on the navigation and not try to go against the grain so much.
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8. Organized Search & App Management
The Windows 8 search is quite powerful, allowing you to search for keywords (within apps) and indexed files stored in your computer. Although powerful, it is also quite messy and disorganized. Installed desktop programs are hard to find because it’s existing in an interface made for tablets, not desktops.
It would be nice for the search results to be a little more organized. A great example would be Apple’s Spotlight search that gives you a ‘Top Hit’ which is the app or file you’re most likely looking for, followed by a clean list for files, apps or folders that have the keyword you’re searching for.
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9. Integration With More Services
Since Microsoft has their own email provider, it doesn’t play nice with other services like Gmail. Gmail users who want to use the live tiles on the Calendar app within Metro couldn’t do that because there isn’t the option to add a Gmail account calendar.
The Mail app also does not support POP email although IMAP is superior, and yet something this basic should be supported for the benefit of users. If Microsoft can solve these little issues and support a wider user base, chances are more people would be interested.
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10. Better Notification Delivery
Windows 8 now supports notifications for its apps but unlike Mac OS it doesn’t have a notification center — a norm on platforms like Android and iOS. On Windows, the notifications you will see will only be on the app tiles, and you only see them if you are looking. A centralized notification center would deliver the message more efficiently.
Windows 8 in Microsoft’s most powerful OS yet, but these improvements on top of others will probably encourage more users to upgrade to Windows 9 and hopefully still keep Microsoft in the running in both the tablet and desktop platforms, for the long run.