The missing piece in laptop Metro
At MWC, the first device I touched with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview was a tablet. Like most, I found Metro to be a breath of fresh air: it feels modern, intuitive, and exciting to use. However, half an hour later I sat down and started using Windows 8 on a laptop, and all of those superlatives faded away. Everything that had seemed simple and (for lack of a better word) magical less than an hour before was now clunky and a chore to use. Why? Because the Metro shortcuts that work so well through touch gestures just don't translate to a keyboard and touchpad.
I could go through each gesture separately, but let's focus on one for now: "To bring up the charms menu, simply move your cursor over to the bottom- or top-right corner of the screen." There's nothing simple about that. If (and that's a big if) I ever need to use the charms menu in a desktop environment, I don't want to move my cursor from one side of the screen to the other. "Windows key and C" you say, that's the answer! Well, no. People that use keyboard shortcuts to navigate around their system have no use for the charms. The rest of the world's populace — those that happily use their fingers to point and swipe around using trackpads and touchscreens — aren't going to learn the myriad of unintuitive shortcuts introduced in Windows 8. They're going to quickly get accustomed to one series of actions on a touchscreen, only to be frustrated when met with a completely different set on the desktop, and that's not going to fly.
I'm not one to bash a company without offering a solution, even if the answer is so obvious that I'm dismayed that I need to point it out: all Microsoft has to do is move the gestures to the touchpad. The edge swiping and pinching that comes so naturally on a tablet translates perfectly to a smaller surface. In fact, the criticism that you must move your entire hand around to separate sides of a large screen to navigate is moot when the surface is reduced to a small pad and the only things moving are fingers. In spending a few hours mapping gestures to the touchpad, I've yet to find one that wouldn't work.
The Windows 8 team has faced a difficult task in unifying an experience over two wildly different input methods, and the work it's done so far has been commendable. But if Microsoft wants to accomplish what Apple has done over two OSes on a single system, it has to do more. This is just a Beta though, and it's not too late for the company to see the error of its ways. Microsoft, take note.