One of the major lacking features in the newest Office: no Metro applications. In fact, the only reason Windows RT has a desktop at all is because the Office team was unable to create Metro applications in time for the release of Windows RT. I often thought this was a classic case of two important divisions within Microsoft not getting along and not being aligned, but now that I have my own Surface RT, I’m starting to realise that there’s a far simpler, and thus more likely, explanation: Metro is simply not ready for anything serious – or for anything at all, really.
Microsoft’s Office president, Kurt DelBene, attended Microsoft’s own TechForum event this week, and, of course, talked about the future of Office. One of the topics he discussed are the Metro versions of Office, and the opportunities the Metro environment – WinRT, technically – present.
“I think certainly the transition of the applications to the new environment, the WinRT environment, will allow us to rethink the applications and we have the benefit of the desktop applications still being present,” he said, according to The Verge. They’re apparently trying to figure out which features to prioritise during the move to WinRT.
Whenever the topic of the lack of Metro Office came up on OSNews, I always assumed that the reason we don’t yet have Metro versions of Office was because of classic internal struggles between the Office and Windows divisions. It’s no secret the two haven’t always seen eye to eye, and let’s face it, Microsoft has had its shares of new platforms and environments destined to become the future of Windows. None of them ever panned out, so it’s natural that the Office division didn’t exactly take Metro and WinRT seriously.
I changed my mind on that one a little bit, though. I bought a Surface RT recently, even though I knew full-well Metro applications would be – pardon my French – shit, I never expected it to be as bad as it is. Crashing, slowness, jittery animations, lagged typing – whether it’s third party or Microsoft’s own applications, it’s pretty clear that Metro and WinRT can barely be classified as beta, at best.
Having come to that realisation, I am convinced that at least part of the reason for the lack of Metro Office stems from the sobering fact that WinRT simply isn’t up to the task of forming the base of something as complex as Office. I mean, there’s a progress bar (!) when copying/pasting in the only Metro Office application (the OneNote preview application).
After a few weeks with my Surface RT, I’ve come to the conclusion that WinRT is more like the first few Mac OS X releases: slow, unusable, and only suited for the strong-willed. That’s why we have no Metro Office yet – but at least it’s good know they’re working on it, because that means WinRT is getting better as well.
And trust me – it needs to get better. A whole lot better.
At least the Metro apps look nice while they’re busy crashing, being slow, laggy etc. Who cares about usability when you have flat design?
As for early OS X, the only ‘unusable’ non-beta version was Cheetah. From Puma onwards it was more than usable. I have to endure Linux on an everyday basis for work so I think I’m a pretty good judge on usability.