WinRT and business apps

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17 September 2011

At //build/ this past week I heard numerous people suggest that WinRT and Metro aren’t going to be used for business app development. That Metro is for consumer apps only. These comments were from Microsoft and non-Microsoft people.

They could be right, but I think they are wrong.

Let’s think forward about 5 years, and assume that Win8 has become quite successful in the consumer space with Metro apps. And let’s remember that consumers are the same people who use computers in the corporate world.

Then let’s think back to the early 1990’s, when most corporate apps were 3270 or VT100 green-screen terminals, and what people used at home (or even at work for other apps like Lotus 123 or maybe Excel) was Windows.

Users back then pushed hard for Windows interfaces for everything. Compared to the green-screen terminals, Windows was a breath of fresh air, and users really wanted to get away from the terminal experience.

Metro is to today’s Windows, what Windows was to terminals. A smooth, touch-based interface that encourages more intuitive and aesthetically pleasing user experiences. And the extremely popular iPad interface is similar.

In 5 years I strongly suspect that users will be pushing hard for Metro interfaces for everything. The old-fashioned, legacy Windows look (because that’s what it will be) will be extremely undesirable.

In fact I would suggest it is already uncool, especially in the face of iPad apps that exist today.

Windows computers are … computers.

iPad devices are friendly companions on people’s individual journeys through life.

(and so are Windows Phone devices – my phone is not a computing device, it is an integral part of my life)

Windows 8 and Metro gives us the opportunity to build apps that fit into something that is an integral part of people’s lives.

Because most people spend at least half their waking life at work, it seems obvious that they’ll want their work apps to be just as smooth and seamless as all the other apps they use.

In short, my prediction is that 5 years from now there’ll be “legacy Windows developers” still building stuff that runs in the clunky desktop mode. And there’ll be “modern Windows developers” that build stuff that runs in Metro – and a lot of those Metro apps will be business applications.

Will we make Jensen (the Microsoft keynote speaker pushing the vision of Metro) happy with every one of these business apps? Will they all fit exactly into the “Metro style”?

I doubt it.

But games don’t either. Metro games take over the whole screen and do whatever they want in the space. And nobody complains that they break the Metro style rules.

Some data-heavy business apps will also break the Metro style rules – I pretty much guarantee it. And yet they’ll still run in the Metro mode, and thus will run on ARM as well as Intel chips, and won’t require the user to see the clunky desktop mode.

In 5 years we can all check back on this blog post to see if I’m right. But I strongly suspect that 5 years from now I’ll be having a great time building some cool Metro business app Smile