I don't know anyone who likes Windows 8, not even dyed-in-the-wool Windows loyalists. It's a terrible collision of two decent operating systems -- Windows 7 and Metro -- that people have been loudly complaining about since the Consumer Preview release this past winter. Yet Microsoft has ignored the ongoing and widespread criticism in the final version released this week to developers and PC makers. (Users won't see it until Oct. 26.)
But there's a case to be made for Windows 8 that may be getting lost in the rightful anger and disappointment over Microsoft's mishmash.
[ Understand how to both manage and benefit from the consumerization of IT trend with InfoWorld's "Consumerization Digital Spotlight" PDF special report. | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Consumerization of IT newsletter today. ]
In a word, that case is all about Metro, the Windows Phone-derived portion of Windows 8 whose Start screen greets you each time you start up your PC. Microsoft is all but certain to call it something else, but whatever its final name, Metro is Windows 8's bright spot. Metro is simple, clean, and elegant in a Zen-like way. It forces its apps to be the same.
Those of us who are geeks want as much capability as possible. The other 90 percent of the world just wants it to work. If you do tech support for family and friends, you know this is true.
That's the appeal of Metro: It's dead simple to navigate among a screenful of tiles, which is all that most people would have. One right-click or swipe from your choice of the top or bottom edge opens any app options not onscreen for the app. A keyboard shortcut or swipe from the right side opens the charms that accesses search, sharing, and settings. A shortcut or swipe from the left side switches among open apps. Click the Windows key or button to switch back to the Start screen.
That's all you need to know to use Metro and its apps. And Metro apps do what most people need -- simply and without distraction.
That's the Windows 8 that can succeed. And it's why Windows RT should be the Windows 8 version that most people adopt -- it's the version of Windows 8 for ARM-based tablets that has just the Metro part of Windows 8 (plus a stub of Windows Desktop it uses to run Office 2013 in sort of a special mode invisible to the user). A Windows RT tablet could be the simple PC that people want, simpler even than an iPad.