Friday, September 23, 2011

Is Windows 8 a modern day Janus?

In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions. He is depicted as having two faces on his head, facing opposite directions. Symbolically Janus looks simultaneously into the future and the past. Windows 8 represents the most major transition in Windows since Windows 95. Part of it hold on to its past and rich store of applications. Part of its looks to the future, giving a nod to modern touchscreen devices.

Windows 8 adopts the new Metro interface, from Microsoft's own Windows Phone 7 devices. But it is more than that. It is like having two different desktops with their own apps running on one operating system. One example is Internet Explorer. You have Internet Explorer for Metro and the desktop version of Internet explorer. Here is how the two look like displaying the same information.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer for Metro

I really do not have a problem going from the desktop apps to the Metro apps, but I spend so much time going from one operating system to another, I am pretty much OS agnostic. With the desktop apps you have your menus, minimize, maximize and close controls on the right side and the familiar task bar at the bottom for multitasking. With Internet Explorer for Metro all the control are hidden and are revealed (on a non-touchscreen device) via a right mouse click. You get fewer options than on the desktop version but get nice big finger friendly buttons.

A user could use Windows 8 with the traditional desktop apps or in the future rely fully on Metro apps. But I think many will use both not realizing which are Metro apps and which ones use the traditional interface. Does Microsoft have a firm eye on its past and its future, or do you think this will just cause confusion among Windows users?

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