back to article Charge of the Metro brigade: Did Microsoft execs plan to take a hit?

"Tiles to the right of them, Tiles to left of them, Tiles in front of them"   - Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Metro Brigade (1854) It's fair to say that the typical reaction of pundits and analysts to Windows 8 is quite different to yours or mine. Our misgivings are shared, I have discovered, by many Microsoft employees …


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  1. Michael M

    Good stuff

    An excellent analysis. Slight error - the 2nd and 3rd punctuation marks of the user's quote have been transposed.

    1. dave 93

      Re: Good stuff

      And well done for pointing out the annoying black strip of nothing. This also seems to be a 'feature' of Windows phones that has always puzzled me. Real estate on small screens is precious - why waste it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good stuff

        On wp7 it's an area to scroll your thin up and down, without covering any content on the screen.

  2. Tzael


    I said it before Andrew, why upgrade a computer that doesn't offer touch-input with an operating system that is primarily focused at touch-input devices?

    Alternatively you can turn the Metro UI off altogether if that's your main beef with Windows 8. You did know that right?

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Why?

      You can turn it off by turning off the machine, correct.

      Can I borrow your brain, Tzael? I want to build an idiot.

      1. amanfromarse

        Re: Why?

        Haha. Brilliant!

      2. Vic

        Re: Why?

        My god, I've just upvoted Orlowski,

        I need a lie-down...


        1. nexsphil

          Re: Why?

          I'm also reeling from the Orlowski upvote I just gave. I've noticed a definite change in him recently actually - maybe he's come back to the light side... *ewok dance*

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why?

            I agree with adamwill (and for some reason the reply button doesn't work for his comment). Possibly Mr. O has changed his meds - I know I haven't changed mine and it is the second time I upvote him...

      3. BorkedAgain
        Thumb Up

        Re: Why?

        "Can I borrow your brain?" - I'm having that. Thanks Mr O. Have an upvote. :)

        (We need a popcorn icon...)

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Why?

          A pint for anyone who can correctly identify the source!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why?

            If google search is correct, it was a spectator at one of your strange sports -

          2. Tzael

            Re: Why?

            Andrew, that's not cricket.

            You managed to dodge my question and build yourself a bit of street cred with your immature insults. Simply _why_ do you feel the need to install a touch-centric OS on a device that doesn't support touch input?

            As for disabling the Metro UI it's easy. As another commenter has pointed out it was a registry modification in the developer preview, now it's simply a case of adding a custom toolbar to the taskbar that points to your start menu folder. Once done you never need to switch back to Metro if you don't want to.

            Now where's my pint? (cricket)

            1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

              Re: Why?

              @Tzael - touch centric OS

              You say that Windows 8 is a touch centric OS. What version, then, is to be released for non touch screen devices, and when can we get a look at it? All reports I have seen so far state that this is the version for both types of device which is, for me, useless. This OS is going nowhere near my desktop or laptop devices unless it changes radically from what it now is. A touch centric OS is, by definition, never going to be more than a compromise on a non touch screen device, in the same way that traditional mouse and keyboard windows was never more than a compromise on a tablet. Better stock up on Win 7 now. I think MS will be supporting that version for a long time to come.

          3. Ilgaz

            Re: Why?

            Dutch admin friend of mine said "pinky and the brain" right after I pasted it.

      4. Tom Maddox Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        In fairness to Tzael, it was possible to disable Metro in the Developer Preview with a registry hack, which has now been disabled, so s/he may be operating on outdated information.

    2. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      How do I turn off Metro?

      I did a search and tried the method given and it didn't work. Is there another way in the preview edition?

      A link would be nice.

    3. Richard Bijster

      Don't worry

      The Metro UI CANNOT be turned off in the Consumer Preview of Windows 8. It could in previous builds.

  3. flying_walrus

    Wtf indeed.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So why isn't this a major story?

    Almost every site on the internet can't afford to upset Microsoft and their advertising money and luxurious reviewer benefits packages...

    Microsoft have a hard enough time trying to get buisnesses to upgrade from XP to Windows 7, they won't stand a chance in hell of transitioning them to a less productive Windows 8.

    Consumers are also not impressed with Windows 8 preview.

    I think this is going to bomb bigger than Microsoft Bob, bigger than Windows ME, bigger than Vista, bigger than Xbox..

    1. Groaning Ninny

      So what if Win8 fails? Win9 wins....?

      Regarding the assertion that this will fail (a la MS Bob, ME, Vista...)

      Ah, it may well be a failure, but haven't you noticed that seems the be the way MS do things?

      NT4 : great

      Win2k : okay

      WinXP : great

      Vista : awful

      Win7 : great

      ... so Win8 : fail sets the way for Win9 for be fantab.

      1. Sporkinum

        Re: So what if Win8 fails? Win9 wins....?

        I like how everyone says Vista is awful. I have been using it for years and it has worked fine outside of an occasional driver issue in the early days. I use 7 at work and Vista at home and there is hardly any difference, to the point of 7 not being worth the money for an upgrade.

        1. Chika

          Re: So what if Win8 fails? Win9 wins....?

          I don't believe, after all these years, that Vista was necessarily "awful". It was, however, resource hungry and bloated. Given that Windows XP has survived so long, partly thanks to the good grounding it had from Windows 2000 days, and given that Windows 7 is such an improvement on Vista (I've used both too, and there's a difference!), I still believe that Vista was a mistake, much as Windows ME was. I know of folk who used WME quite happily too, but it doesn't make it any less of a mistake.

        2. Turtle

          Re: So what if Win8 fails? Win9 wins....?

          "I like how everyone says Vista is awful. I have been using it for years and it has worked fine outside of an occasional driver issue in the early days. I use 7 at work and Vista at home and there is hardly any difference, to the point of 7 not being worth the money for an upgrade."

          I am on XP - and there I shall stay, it seems - but of the people I know using Vista, not only do they have no complaints, they all say it's great. It seems that the bad reputation that Vista has is current only among non-Vista users.

          1. Sweaty Hambeast

            Re: So what if Win8 fails? Win9 wins....?

            "It seems that the bad reputation that Vista has is current only among non-Vista users."

            Allow me to disillusion you. We've got it on the other half's laptop (pre-installed, Acer) for his "program that'll only work under Windows" (sigh) and it's a right pig. I had all the std. problems that were mentioned in the fora. It's awful.

        3. richard 7

          Re: So what if Win8 fails? Win9 wins....?

          Vista out the box *IS* awful. There is no debate, its slow, bloated, full of bugs and 'oops not finished in time for RC' style shortcuts.

          Vista with all updats, SP2 and some tweakage is quite useable. But thats power user territory, without someone to do it for them the great unwashed rightly hate Vista.

          About half a dozen registry tweaks and little cheats will make it steam along quite hapilly, funnily enough one of the biggest wins is killing off readyboost.

          1. PeteA

            Re: So what if Win8 fails? Win9 wins....?

            There's an SP2 for Vista? I thought they'd just called the service pack "Windows 7".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So why isn't this a major story?

      > uses Microsoft Bob again

      > claims XBox is a failure

      Hi Barry.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So why isn't this a major story?

        Xbox IS a failure.

        $12bn sunk into it in total, and only a fraction of that back in profits.

        65% failure rates.

        Both those measures stink of failure to me.... Or do you measure success on some lame selectibe NPD "news" on Eurogamer or Joystiq, or some Microsoft press release telling you so.

      2. Chika

        Re: So why isn't this a major story?

        Microsoft Bob? Well, I can see why. Microsoft Bob was an attempt to foist a dumbed down interface on the ordinary home user using a patronising interface that nobody in their right mind would be caught dead using. I'm not sure if Metro sinks down to quite the same level but a similar mindset is apparent in its design.

        The thing is that the interface we see on Windows 7 is an interface that has been developed over many years. OK, it didn't always get it right but we all know where the menu is, what the buttons do and so forth. This, however, is far removed from when Windows 95 first came out and we all had to get used to the "Start" button rather than play around with Progman. Another point made elsewhere is that the current interface was designed around the traditional three box solution. It can be used in a touch screen environment but it isn't perfect by any means. That doesn't mean that it should be thrown away!

        No, I believe that the Metro interface is an unwanted mess - an attempt to ape such front ends as the latest GNOME or Unity to try an push Windows users in a direction that they don't necessarily want to go. So yes, I can see it being snubbed as much as Vista. Possibly more so.

        XBox a failure? Well, I'm not a keen fan of it but I believe that the jury is still out on that one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So why isn't this a major story?

          I believe XBOX was a failure, while XBOX360 was/is reasonably good.

          Though I'm not a console guy so could be wrong.

    3. JustWondering

      Re: So why isn't this a major story?

      Upgrade from XP? Why?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So why isn't this a major story?

        Surely you meant DOWNGRADE from XP ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So why isn't this a major story?

        Surely you meant 'DOWNGRADE from XP' ;)

    4. Killraven

      Re: So why isn't this a major story?

      I thought it was a major story from two weeks ago?

  5. dogged


    Took me less than a week, I suppose, to completely get used to it.

    Some theming, some rejigging of the main Start screen to show only what I regularly use, hit the Windows key and start typing for anything I don't regularly use (mind you, I do that in Win7 anyway). Custom shortcuts on the Start screen for Shutdown and Restart, proper groups for Office, VS11 et al, a few ("serious", not "casual") games and some utilities.

    To begin with, Metro annoyed the living crap out of me. Now, it's just a Launcher. Most of the Metro apps that are currently shipping might good enough for tablets but are a huge bag of crap compared to proper desktop applications.

    With just the launcher and a little familiarity, I'm starting to appreciate the improvements in the actual OS. It's pretty good. It's certainly quick and inbuilt utils have way better functionality. I could use it over 7, although it's not worth the standard upgrade price.

    The Metro launcher? Might be nice on a tablet. I rarely see it, to be honest.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Metro

      Spot on my friend, i feel the same.

      I use Metro like another application, its my quick view of all things important, one click, i see the lot, a single glance and i get a snap shot of anything i setup, another moment latter im back at work. Its amazingly efficient using it like this.

      I have a concern over desktop clutter and metro clutter but i hope that will get sorted out in the RCs

      As you said, you need to get used to it, you need to work differently but there is a very clear benifit to it once your there.

      As to upgrades, id love to know the percentages but i suspect that most licences sold are to OEMs building new computers, whilst im sure upgrades are a large part of their business i dont think Microsoft are stupid to the fact that businesses are like oil tankers when it comes to change.

      As for the metro launcher as you put it, it is actually quite good on touch screens, and is firmly its home ground, but after some time i dont have an issue with a keyb and mouse and as you say, i hardly see metro for more than a few seconds, but within those seconds it provides a shed load of info which will only increase as more programs support it.

      In essence, what metro brings to the computer is your mobile phone, you probably dont use a mobile to do serious work, its a bridge to your data, it opens a window to allow you to peek at it but thats about as far is it goes, thats what metro is about, quick and effecient, you then have your desktop programs to get stuck in to the serious work

    2. jason 7

      Re: Metro

      A week eh? I'd go with that.

      I guess you would class yourself as an experienced or advanced user? That's fair enough.

      How long will Michelle in Accounts take? Times that by 5000 and you see the issue.

      1. dogged
        IT Angle

        Re: Metro

        I'll try to answer as honestly as possible.

        I'm a professional developer. As such, I guess I probably count as "advanced" although I'd remind readers that the "advancement" in this case is specialized - I don't know about things I have no reason to use such as CAD packages or DTP or spreadsheets.

        A further point of order is that it took me a week to get to the stage of "okay, I was probably wrong, I can not only work with this but I actually like it". That time period is going to be different for every user. In some cases it will be shorter, in some cases it may take past the heat-death of the Universe, I don't know. What I do know is that from a USB install to fully capable of being productive - ie, install Office 2010, download and install VS11, put Firefox on it, set up my media shares, install about 40GB worth of games - took probably two evenings worth of non-concentrated fiddling. The Win8 install itself from USB took about 15 minutes, which shocked me since I don't have an SSD on this box.

        Given a ghosted or Admin-controlled standard build, Michelle from Accounts would skip all that. And it's not like you can't find Michelle's things in the Metro launcher, barring Shutdown and Restart and custom shortcuts installed as part of a standard build would sort that.

        To be honest, I expect users to piss and moan about any little change. That's what users do. That doesn't, however, mean that Win8's not usable almost immediately given some clever config by the IT folks.

        What surprises me is that we, the IT folks are here bitching about Metro and feeding the Apple trolls and those three guys who insist that Desktop Linux is very nearly workable now (and one of those is me) while gleefully proclaiming the death of Microsoft when... when we should be pleased by this.

        It keeps us in work. It gives us some new toys to tinker with. It'll get us paid to make Michelle's life easier.

        I mean seriously, how come Reg readers - devs and sysadmins, supposedly - are all out here bitching like a bunch of schoolgirls or fifth-rate first-line support drones? It's bizarre.

        1. Ilsa Loving

          Re: Metro

          Why? For one very simple reason. We have enough experience to know that it's us poor sods that will have users right left and centre, day in day out, screaming bloody murder at us for "forcing" this change upon them.

          You say you're a developer. I strongly recommend you give technical support a try. In fact, I strongly recommend to anyone who has even a shred of faith in humanity, to do this. One week should be enough to burst that little bubble.

          Unless you're going to quadrupal my salary and, even more importantly, quadrupal my vacation time and add psychotherapy to my benefits plan, I'm really not interested in taking that hit. My cardiac health and sanity is just too important to me.

          1. jason 7

            Re: Metro

            Yeah I remember this support call I got about 10 years ago from a user that had been using windows PCs for a few years.

            User: I cant do such and such.

            Me: Okay click on the start button.

            User: What do you mean start button?

            Me: The start button that appears on the desktop bottom left.

            User: No, I don't see anything like that.

            Me: Well you are on the desktop with the icon so bottom left should be the start button.

            User: No I don't have a start button.

            Me: (voice now up two octaves and 20dB) There must be a start button its a standard feature on XP/NT (whatever we were using then).

            User: Nope.

            Me: (thinking they are taking the piss) Okay so you have the only windows PC without a Start button? How did you access your programs?

            This goes on for another minute or two and by now my throat is as tight as a gnats chuff and I want to kill this person and their whole family.

            User: I just know there isn't a start button, and don't get ratty with me!

            Me: Sorry but I'm finding it hard to believe you don't have or cant see the Start button!

            User: (slight pause) Oh you mean this thing called Start down in the bottom left corner? Oh yes I have one of those!

            Me: (sound of gunshot)

            Yep that was a true support call and that was when we had V-I-S-U-A-L C-L-U-E-S on the screen. Have 20 or so of those a day and you age quickly.

          2. dogged
            Thumb Down

            Re: Metro

            I strongly recommend you give technical support a try

            No thanks, I have actual skills.

            1. kain preacher Silver badge

              Re: Metro

              Try having some that is blind as a bat so they set the resolution to 800x600 on a 24 inch monitor. Yes sir can you click on the button on the lower right hand of the screen.

              Customer god damn it it;s not here, it was not here yesterday and it wont be here tomorrow.

            2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: Metro

              Clearly they don't include reading conprehension or anything in the social sphere, or you would have realised that the suggestion wasn't intended as careers advice. Try technical support and find out how those without your skills get on when they use the systems that your genius has produced. Then have a think about whether you need to broaden your skills base.

              1. dogged

                @Ken Hagen

                I have of course done tech support - my own and other people's code needs to be supported by somebody who knows how it works. Nothing is perfect and I'm (probably) no genius. Is there any actual non-IQ (which can be gamed) way to tell these things anyway?

                But supporting Metro as a hard job is a bit of a stretch, despite what people have posted here. You just change the tech support script.

                "Have you tried clicking on the bottom left of the screen"?

                "Press the WIndows Key and Tab key at the same time"

                "Press the Alt key and the Tab key at the same time"

                "Click on the square with the word "Excel" on it"

                "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

                There you go, first-liners with your cardiac health concerns. I have just done your nightmarishly difficult job for you in under thirty seconds. Perhaps you'd like me to code a text-to-speech widget as well so that you can be unemployed?

                1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                  Re: @Ken Hagen


                  That's kinda the point. "Click in the bottom left corner of the screen".

                  "Why? There's nothing there!"

                  "Trust me, just click there"

                  "I tried and nothing happened."

                  "All the way into the corner. Move the mouse down and left until it stops."

                  "My mouse fell off the table."

                  That's even before the fun and games of multiple monitors - if the "primary" isn't bottom-left then you're well and truly ****ed.

                  It's quite difficult to click on a single visible pixel. A single, invisible pixel is...

                  We've spent the last couple of decades making things look 'clickable', as if they are physical buttons. Even making them change colour to announce "Click me! Click me!" if you hover the mouse over them.

                  Metro removes all that. It takes away all the visual clues that every desktop interface has given users since the dawn of pointing devices.

                  That's painful.

            3. accountant

              Re: Metro

              "I strongly recommend you give technical support a try

              No thanks, I have actual skills."

              The expected arrogance of a developer. Anything to run away from the end-user, a refusal to face up to the shit that the developer throws right into the face of the user!

              A developer is worth nothing until they have tested every aspect of their creations on a single-monitored desktop without a mouse. That's what Michelle in Accounts uses, and that's all she cares about.

        2. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: Metro


          The point you, and many other whizzy fans, appear to be missing (at least, it's missing from your detailed comment) is that, it's not that we cannot adapt to change, it's that we don't want to; certainly not for change's sake. We're not going to buy an OS because it's oh, so whizzy and has this really cool feature set that we don't need and can't use. We buy an OS because it supports the applications we use on a daily basis, and then gets the fsck out of our way. Metro, for all its creamy goodness, doesn't do that (on a desktop), and apparently has no intention of ever doing that; it's in our face, causing us to have to work around it to get our stuff done. Remember, a tool is supposed to serve us, not the other way around...and no matter what else you want to make Metro out to be, at the end of the day, it is a tool.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Metro - reg readers

          I suspect that many of our so called IT pros are probably more closely related to 15-20 year old kids. or at least thats their online alta ego where many of us lose all sense of rational thought whilst being able to hide behind the wonders of net neutrality, i suspect that were our online IDs actually linked to say our facebook pages an by association people we know face to face things would probably sound very different....


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