Microsoft is poised to release the commercial version of Windows 8 for laptops, desktops, and tablets, and Windows Phone 8 for smartphones this fall—blurring the lines between personal and mobile computing. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 will also receive a software update, referred to as the fall 2012 Dashboard update. All of these operating systems will share a similar look, feel, and navigation, utilizing the company’s touch-friendly “Metro UI,” now known as its “Modern UI.”
Elements of Metro were first used on Microsoft’s Zune MP3 Player, but the UI became official with the introduction of Windows Phone 7. At the time, Microsoft credited "Swiss-influenced print and packaging" and "way-finding graphics found in transportation hubs" among its sources of inspiration when designing the Metro UI.
The most standout characteristic of Metro is the homescreen’s signature “live tiles,” which act as shortcuts to apps. What makes them cool is that they display real-time information from the source app. For example, a live tile for a weather app can display current temperature, and a calendar app can display an upcoming appointment. (Click here for a demo).
"Metro style apps are designed to be touch first," Microsoft says. The company has put such a strong emphasis on touch navigation, so it’s likely we’ll see many more Windows 8 computers equipped with touchscreens—not just limited to tablets and mobile phones but extending into desktops and laptops. Even the Xbox 360 offers a virtual touch experience via the Kinect accessory. Beyond hardware, Microsoft revamped its free Outlook.com email client, online storage service, Skydrive, and Office 15 with new Metro elements.
To experience the Metro UI on a smartphone, click here. To try it on your home computer, download the Windows 8 Release Preview for free by clicking here.