So after taking a serious look at the Metro user interface in the betas of Windows 8 and Windows Server 8 I was about to launch into a "WTF Microsoft?" blog. Sure, there is a certain discomfort when major changes are made to any user interface. Discomfort like the way the texture of unfamiliar toilet paper feels. This is way worse. Think sandpaper worse.
As a developer, trends in GUIs are something I've had a keen interest in my entire career. Apple have typically set the benchmark for GUI design but even they fall short sometimes. Example, the ever expanding drop shadows used in the Aqua interface in each iteration of OS X (as if there wasn't the right amount of depth in the previous OS X versions). Russian author Vladimir Nabokov once described drop shadows as "a dishonest attempt to climb into the next dimension". In a GUI they do serve a purpose but these days Apple seems to be trying to get that topmost window to climb out of the screen.
In contrast, Microsoft have gone 180º (half an Xbox?) with Metro. It's like someone was sitting around in a Metro interface design meeting in Redmond and said "What is the opposite of what Apple is doing in their interfaces? That's what we should be doing!".
Everything is flat.
You can't tell what's a button, what's a list and what's just some static element on the screen. It's like some bizarre retro 2D world! I know these are beta releases and the full UI is yet to be revealed but come on.
Seems I've been beaten to the punch in voicing my incredulity. Michael Mace has a great piece including a video review of Windows 8 on his blog which pretty much covers it all. He sees three possible outcomes of a Windows 8 launch for Microsoft:
1. Windows users adopt Windows 8 enthusiastically.
2. Windows users cling to Windows 7 tenaciously.
3. Windows collapses.
I'm thinking somewhere between 2 and 3 is about right.
Microsoft might be getting the message. Today, they renamed Windows Server 8 Beta to Windows Server 2012 RC. That's a tell that marketing have realised this bird ain't got wings. They don't want the server version to be tarred with the same brush as the desktop version. I can see the signs now: Introducing Vista 2.0. Oh wait, that was Apple.