Microsoft would be crazy to drop modern UI

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Last week, we heard a rumor – please note this was a rumor – that Microsoft was planning on ditching Windows RT and combining it with Windows Phone 9. Awesome right? But this rumor also said that Microsoft was also going to be getting rid of its metro modern whatever-you-call-it interface in favor of something new.

Lolwut?

Now, it’s true that the Windows Phone hasn’t taken off as well as many would like. Windows Phone is still a distant third in the smartphone race (though we did kick Blackberry’s butt) and gaining ground via baby steps, rather than the leaps and bounds Microsoft may prefer. But, it has been doing so largely because of the user-friendly interface and customizable simplicity. I have often called Windows Phone the happy medium between iOS and Android, with enough simplicity a three year old can (and does, often) use it, and yet customizable enough that the geeks can geek out and make the phone theirs.

trek_uiThere’s definitely room for improvement in the platform, but the UI is not one of them. A refresh? Absolutely. Maybe the color picker that Taylor Martin has been calling for since forever. Anyone interested in some new shapes? I could definitely go for some octagon love on my home screen or make it all Star Trekky with some rounded rectangles.

But to completely throw out the UI would just be disruptive for disruption’s sake. And it would anger a lot of people, which is not something you want to do when trying to build something.

Developers for one would be annoyed. You remember those live tiles you put some much time and energy into? What info will it display when it’s small or medium or large?  Should I make it flip? What will it show when it flips? We’re probably not talking about blood, sweat and tears here, but that would be a whole lot of wasted effort put into a feature that’s no longer available on newer devices. And speaking of newer devices.

Remember the controversy surrounding the release of Windows Phone 8 and it versus Windows Phone 7.8? Can we have another slice of that pie please? No thank you. There were a number of issues that spawned from that including app compatibility (let’s just go ahead and build this ecosystem once more from the top..annnnnd Action!) that went largely unaddressed after Windows Phone 8’s initial release. Of course that was mainly because of kernels and other complexities that are beyond my comprehension. But I can’t imagine a new UI will be insta-compatible with older technology.

wp78

Did someone say Insta? Hey Instagram, Vine, and all you other folks nice enough to write for us. You umm wouldn’t mind putting out another app would ya? Hey thanks. ‘Preciate it.

VineInsta_WP8Of course a UI change doesn’t necessarily mean there’ll be a complete OS revamp. Maybe it’s just that – a UI change. But this is the UI that Microsoft has been pimping for several years now, and lest we forget this is the UI that Windows 8 uses. So if Microsoft plans to kill the modern UI on the phones, it almost has to kill it on tablets and PCs as well. But of phones and PC’s only one of those categories has received the modern UI poorly, and it wasn’t the phones.

I don’t know Microsoft. If you’re considering pulling this UI off the shelves and relegating it to mothballs, I’m not sure where you go from there. The UI works, and it’s fun and informative. I like the Modern UI, but that’s not the only reason I’m advocating for it to stay. If Microsoft changes direction on this point, to many eyes it will be seen as having no will to maintain a long view of its core strategies. Frankly, Microsoft will look wishy-washy for lack of a better term.

It’s one thing for Samsung to throw dozens of devices against a wall and sees what sticks. Those are devices that may have a product cycle of a few months or a few years. We’re taking about an operating system (or at least the UI which is the part of the OS that everyone uses). That’s messing with the fundamentals of how most smart machines around the world work. That is not something to take lightly or to “see what sticks”. Windows 8 is a major departure from the 15 years of operating systems that came before it and to shake that up – again – would be borderline devastating to any kind of business plan Microsoft might have going forward.

Microsoft, you’re allowed to play around a little – building an 85% market share in the PC industry gives you certain freedoms like that, but just remember, the more you have, the more you have to lose. Stick to your guns. Don’t go all silly on us now. Baby steps.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs.Read more about Adam Doud!