Microsoft has been making a lot of waves this year with their push towards cloud services, Windows 8, mobile devices, and fun in the living room. The introduction of their new design is, if memory serves, the single-most cohesive attack they've made across all of their product lines ever. Metro is not for everyone, but it's certainly unique. It's also being forced down a bunch of people's throats in the near future as people are kicked off Hotmail and directed towards Outlook.com, Microsoft's new mail portal.
As Reiko is still a heavy Hotmail user, I decided to dust off the old Windows Live account and take a look to see what's new in Outlook. The tech press has been saying that it's relatively decent, and Microsoft is billing it as a new way to look at email. As someone who is thinking about new ways to use email, I would love looking at what a bunch of people much smarter than myself might produce. So let's take a look.
Here's the current version of Hotmail in all it's glory:
It's certainly been a while since I last logged in, but the design hasn't changed in the least. Light blues, concise formats, and boxes ... lots of boxes. This sort of design works on almost every screen at almost any size.
How about Outlook.com?
Oh my. The boxes have moved, and it looks a little bit like a Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Series Interface ... without the side-split text telling us that there's more to the immediate left or right. This is certainly a little different from GMail, but a "whole new way to look at email"? I don't see it. Regardless ... let's poke around. Where can I find the calendar? I think the Metro interface would be perfect for showing a calendar, as everything is square.
Ah, there it is ... in a #000000 black pop-over. That's some monster contrast, but it's certainly easy to find the calendar.
Ah ... that's not Metro. Heck, that's not even in my preferred language. Both Hotmail and Outlook showed me stuff in English. Why is the calendar showing me stuff in 日本語? Very strange. Perhaps this is the next area that the Microsoft web development team will tackle.
The wife's initial reaction to the Metro interface was a solid "Yuck" followed by a "Now where will I check my email?". While my initial impressions of Metro were positive when I had the chance to play with a Windows Phone 7 Series Phone last summer, I don't think I would feel comfortable looking at this style of interface all day every day. It's just to ... antiseptic.
That said, I'll take Microsoft's personality-free design over the faux leather and faux wood stuff that Apple is putting out.