Over the past week I have spent some time playing with Windows 8 and the Samsung Windows 8 Developer Preview Device (SW8DPD). If you’ve spent any time lurking around the Start page or trying out the Metro apps you’ve likely come to the same conclusion I have. There are only five (5) Metro style application types. All of the Metro style app samples in the Windows 8 Developer Preview fit pretty nicely into one of these five categories, which leads me to assert that these are the five intended categories for Metro style apps – anything else is meant for Desktop mode.
In my earlier post (I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong.) I talk about Visual Studio as a Desktop mode application – some applications just aren’t metro sexual style. So if Visual Studio is—as an example—not meant to be Metro style, what is? What are the five application types.
First let me inventory the Metro style apps (I am excluding Windows resources and tools, including Control Panel, Alarms and Store).
- Internet Explorer (obvious)
- Build (a Build conference schedule and experience app)
- Tweet@rama (a Twitter client)
- Socialite (a Facebook client)
- Stocks (a stock market data viewer)
- Headlines (an RSS feed aggregator)
- Weather (a weather data viewer)
- 5 (a tic tac toe like 2-D game)
- Piano (a piano simulator)
- picstream (a picture feed viewer)
- Zero Gravity (a 2-D game)
- Measure It (a measuring tool that uses pictures and relative sizing)
- PaintPlay (a free-painting tool)
- Tile Puzzle (a 2-D puzzle game)
- Near Me (a location-based data viewer to find activities near you)
- Tree House Stampede (a 2-D spelling game)
- Labyrinth (an accelerometer based maze game)
- Mopod (a podcast viewer/player)
- Tube Rider (a 2-D game)
- Memories (a magazine/scrap book style photo and video viewer)
- Sudoku (a 2-D puzzle game)
- CheckM8 (a 2-D chess game)
- Air Craft (a 2-D game/tool to design and create paper airplanes)
- Word Hunt (a 2-D Scrabble-type game)
- Copper (an immersive/3-D video game)
- Flash Cards (a children’s educational game)
- Ink Pad (a note taking app for the stylus)
- Bit Box (a music creation app)
Whew! That’s a lot of Metro style.
Let me group these apps into the five types I believe there are. Consider this your guidebook to Metro style apps. If its not in this list, don’t Metrofy it.
- Near Me
Data Snack apps enable users to consume small chunks of information in a hurry as time permits. These apps are used regularly and repetitively by users during “down-time” (e.g. waiting in a lobby, on the metro (pun intended), before a meeting, etc.).
Social Networking / Mash-Ups
If you want to know where people spend their time on a computing device (PC, Phone, iPad), its here in the Social Networking / Communication / Collaboration category. More often than not consumers are using one of the many social networking client apps available (e.g. Twitterific) and in some cases those client apps bring-together (or mash-up) multiple social networking APIs (e.g. TweetDeck) or other unique options.
Content / Media Applications
Consumers, and especially device users, are expecting more out of content than simply text. More often than not content is being delivered in rich ways, more like well produced magazines (e.g. Flipboard) than just content feeds. The magazine-style applications are evolving to deliver more richness thorugh integrated media (e.g. Memories use of photos and videos).
- Zero Gravity
- Measure It
- Tile Puzzle
- Tree House Stampede
- Tube Rider
- Air Craft
- Word Hunt
- Flash Cards
- Ink Pad
- Bit Box
Based on the proportion of apps in this category, it feels like this is where Microsoft would like to succeed (it also happens to be where iOS is killing it).
Games are the king, and probably will be. If you haven’t played Angry Birds, then you live on an island and are likely reading this off a print out that floated to you in a bottle because you don’t have WiFi, an iPad or power. It is ridiculous how much time we all spend playing games. But not XBox games…casual, easy to play games…like Angry Birds, or Mafia Wars, or CityVille (over 20-million users).
This category is about highly graphical, fully immersive games. These are typically produced by game studios and include racing games, first person shooters, and other fully immersive, highly interactive games. These are games that would be most likely built for Windows 8 with DirectX and C/C++.
…and I’m Out
So there you have it, the five types of Metro apps – Data Snacks, Social Networking/Mash-ups, Content/Media, Casual Games and Graphical Games. Two things are missing – the Build app (maybe this is a content app, but mostly it’s a tax – how could Microsoft give out devices at Build without a Build app), and Line-of-Business (LOB) apps. Frankly, unless you are building a touch-centric app for agents using 3G devices in the field, Metro style is no style for LOB. Stick with Desktop mode and Silverlight/WPF for LOB apps.