Why Microsoft’s Metro UI could slowly kill Android


Microsoft’s effort to merge the Windows Phone look and feel with Windows 8 will pay off in the form of causing Google Android to “fade away.” So says Ville Aho, a European follower of the mobile industry, on his blog. There’s merit in Aho’s perspective as I’ve noted that while Apple and Microsoft are moving towards a user interface merger between desktop and mobile systems. Google, by comparison either isn’t or is taking its time in doing so.

Aho explains it this way in his thought piece, which if I found by way of the All About Windows Phone enthusiast site:

“Apple is approaching this challenge by adding elements from iOS to OS X, whereas Microsoft has boldly decided to revamp Windows in its entirety. Like it or not, but the new Metro UI with its colourful tiles is what you will be using in the future. This is the way 90% of people will be using their computers from now on. If you are a PC or an Xbox user there will be no escaping the tiles. Microsoft will tile up your life for good.”

Having used all of the systems Aho points out, I’m in general agreement with him. I found that using the Windows 8 preview edition on netbook is very intuitive and simple for me, as I’ve also used a number of Windows Phone handsets in the past 1.5 years. There’s little to no learning curve for Microsoft’s Metro UI on a desktop if you’ve experienced it on a smartphone, or even on an Xbox 360. The device you’re using isn’t in the way of the experience when the user interface is the same from desktop to mobile to home entertainment console.

I’ve seen the same on OS X as I’ve been running the 10.8 developer preview of Mountain Lion. The overall experience between iOS and OS X isn’t completely the same, but common elements and apps — such as Messages — abound while iCloud pulls together important data (think Reminders and Notifications)¬†between Apple’s mobile devices and its desktops. In February I noted this commonality could help blunt Android’s momentum because it’s an effective value-add for end-users.

On a related note, I suggested just yesterday that PC makers should be concerned that 1-in-4 new iPad owners made the tablet their first Apple purchase: The positive, intuitive experience from iOS can help convert more OS X hardware sales. That could happen with Windows Phone smartphone or Windows 8 tablet purchases as well, due to the similar experience and UI, but we won’t know for sure until the final Windows 8 computers hit the market.

Unfortunately for Google, it doesn’t have the same luxury as Apple and Microsoft to work with: Yes, Android is heavily adopted mobile platform, but on the desktop, ChromeOS doesn’t have nearly the same following. I hit upon this point recently when pondering what Google might yet do with Motorola Mobility if its acquisition goes through. Motorola offers a LapDock that runs a custom version of Linux, but the hardware is actually powered by an Android handset. Google can attack two problems at once by using the LapDock concept with its ChromeOS, helping to boost its user base, while also bringing a merger of sorts between its mobile and desktop environments.

While I agree with Aho in general, I think there’s still time for Google to react; either through my LapDock suggestion or some other method. The thought that Android will “fade away” is only likely if Google can’t find an answer to the mobile / desktop integration that Apple and Microsoft are bringing to the table. And even if Google fails to find that solution, Android won’t disappear overnight, mainly due to the mobile broadband contracts tied to Android handsets and tablets.

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