Microsoft Metro on Xbox and PCs: Good or Bad?

Sometimes, companies like to make changes just for the sake of change without offering any real improvements. Sometimes, there are real improvements, but it takes a while for the masses (unwashed and nicely groomed, alike) to see these improvements because they get hung up on the aesthetics of the changes. Indignant outbursts like “What was wrong with the way it was before?” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” echo noisily in the void for a short while before dying down and people learn to cope with such changes — whether they’re made to Facebook, Twitter, or Xbox Live. Life, as they say, goes on.

The day before last, I logged on to my Xbox dashboard with the intention of watching a movie on Netflix, and patiently waited for it to update. And waited. And waited. At long last, the little status bar filled and I was surprised at the very different-from-expected interface that greeted me. At first I was puzzled, and hoped that learning to navigate wasn’t going to be a counter-intuitive experience. (I like to watch a little TV with my meals, and dinner was already getting cold — yes, I know. First World problems.) As it turned out, everything was just as easy to find as it was with the last design; in fact, I think the new interface utilizes space with better efficiency so that features are more easily accessible than they were before. (In my experience so far, it seems that there’s much less aimless scrolling necessary).

Microsoft Metro on Xbox and PCs: Good or Bad?Now that I’ve seen Chris Pirillo’s video (included below), it all makes sense. This is the much-discussed Metro UI that Microsoft has been working on for its Windows Phone and what we’ll see in whatever the company decides to call Windows 8 (which developers have been allowed to tinker around with for a while). So Microsoft seems to be slowly preparing the world for its Metro interface one little step at a time. While Microsoft Metro is obviously being forged as a response to the popularity of the tablet and mobile touchscreen markets, it makes sense that Microsoft will do its best to make this effort as cross-platform and cloud-friendly as possible. Adapting Metro’s features to play nicely on an interface that requires a keyboard and mouse (such as a PC) or one that works with controllers and voice control (such as the Xbox) is a daunting challenge, but if successful, Microsoft could really reassert its dominance in the industry.

In this video, Chris responds to a viewer’s question:

“What do you think of Microsoft taking Metro to PCs and Xbox? I would love to know how Metro works with a keyboard and a mouse.”

As a comment to this video in Chris Pirillo’s Google+ stream, Justin Moore makes some observations about his experiences so far with Metro on his Windows Phone 7, and brings up some excellent points about how people are quick to bash anything new that Microsoft brings to the market without even trying it. (Read up, iPhone and Android fanboys and fangirls!)

I like it so far, and, fingers crossed, my WP7 has yet to crash or lock up on me (this was a daily occurrence with my previous phone an Android). The new phone is definitely more responsive; my Droid had noticeable lag between clicking an app and the app actually opening.

I do not understand how people blast Metro for its appearance when my Droid was, most things considered, similar — the only differences being that the icons were “unique” to their apps in Android and the screen was swiped left to right to show more apps instead of the up and down direction for WP7.

Would an app that looked like an actual alarm clock help me identify my alarm clock any better than the red square that says “alarm clock” with an alarm clock drawing on it? I have currently had no issues locating my phone’s alarm clock.

Personally, I think the UI of Metro looks a lot more uniform and, therefore, is cleaner in appearance. My Droid looked cluttered with different icons everywhere, and I have never owned an iPhone, but my coworker’s looks similar to what my Droid did with apps showing up everywhere.

And the “number of apps available” argument that gets thrown around a lot is ridiculous. Often, WP7 is disregarded in reviews because its app marketplace has relatively few apps compared to Android and iOS. My Droid must have brought up several hundred Facebook apps when I searched, but I downloaded the highest rated one, which was at the top of the list, so I did not bother to scroll down. A hundred *$#&%$^ apps are pointless when you only need one!

Why is it an admirable thing to be considered an Apple fanboy or an Android fanboy, but if you like an MS product, you are considered to be a moron? I went to my carrier’s store, tried out the new Android phones, the new iPhone, and the WP7 phone, so I bought with my money what I felt was the best: the HTC Trophy.

And that’s really what technology’s supposed to do for us, right? Improve our lives while appealing to our personal tastes? People are different, and people will have different tastes, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Rather than judging someone for the hardware and software they prefer to use, we could all probably review one of the most important lessons that we learned from Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: Just be yourself; if we can agree to disagree, we’ll be wonderful neighbors.

Chris Pirillo really sums it up nicely when he says:

“Good on Microsoft for embracing alternative platforms and getting [its] software out there. After all, isn’t that [a big part of] the company? Software? Who cares where [it's sold]?”

As a consumer, it’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft’s endeavors with Metro (and how other companies react) will play out. Change for change’s sake is easily spotted, but real progress will win out and benefit everyone — no matter what corporate logo your tablet, smartphone, desktop, laptop, gaming console, or e-book reader happens to sport.

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Our resident "Bob" (pictured here through the lens of photographer Jason DeFillippo) is in love with a woman who talks to animals. He has a fondness for belting out songs about seafaring and whiskey (arguably inappropriate in most social situations). He's arm-wrestled robots and won. He was born in a lighthouse on the storm-tossed shores of an island that has since been washed away and forgotten, so he's technically a citizen of nowhere. He's never killed in anger. He once underwent therapy for having an alien in his face, but he assures us that he's now feeling "much better." Fogarty also claims that he was once marooned along a tiny archipelago and survived for months using only his wits and a machete, but we find that a little hard to believe.

  • dielan 44

    Amen.

  • http://www.zunecards.net/index3.php wetworker

    Using metro since zune 30 back in 06.
    …The brown one.

  • Anonymous

    6 weeks now with my wp7 (used htc mozart, previously iphone4 and has an android) and still loving it

  • http://twitter.com/jamvng James Ng

    Metro wasn’t “in response” to touchscreen UI, I think WP7 was in the works long before iPhone became so mainstream?

    • http://twitter.com/mrpakiman adam

      metro was a mixture of Microsoft’s media center and the zune, they then developed it further, they then came up with the kin, it had some similarities with wp7 today but it was pretty bad. the design of metro wasn’t named metro until wp7 but the idea of ‘information first’ was made long before wp7

  • Kerns Phoegon

    I think the metro for window 8 dev preview handled GREAT with a keyboard/mouse, granted it does far better with touch.   I’d love to see it be an option for windows 8 (replacing the start menu, I really like the pictures over the start menu)  and having *easy & quick* access to a 100% flash free browser is insanely good and alittle more secure for dling things. to the system.

    I hope to see it take off honestly.

    *edits*

  • Tobias Sörensson

    i HATE the Metro in Xbox i really do. i want a easy to use UI but no. as far as pc i dont think its going to be a hit for me i like the style in W7 i hate metro UI.

  • Pt Gildersleve

    not a fan metro, have it on xbox and will not getting windows 8, windows 7 is fine as is for me

  • http://twitter.com/JohnTheUTuber John Mosuela

    I like the simplicity and easiness

  • Robert Fletcher

    I like the metroUI on the xbox. I have already forgotten the previous UI and can not imagine xbox any other way. :)  Seems pretty easy to use and its to verbally shout commands at the TV and it respond. Best feauture i have found so far is when i am using Netflix, i say “Xbox Next Episode” and it plays the next episode. kinect makes it just work alot better too. 

  • Robert Fletcher

    I like the metroUI on the xbox. I have already forgotten the previous UI and can not imagine xbox any other way. :)  Seems pretty easy to use and its to verbally shout commands at the TV and it respond. Best feauture i have found so far is when i am using Netflix, i say “Xbox Next Episode” and it plays the next episode. kinect makes it just work alot better too. 

  • http://goldarkrai.blogspot.com golD

    I love Metro, it’s not as bad as it sounds with mouse&keyboard