Windows 8: is ANYONE making apps for the Modern UI?
So I’ve had my Lenovo ThinkPad Helix for almost a week now and it is truly fantastic hardware. The first day I really struggled with it though, because in my mind what I thought I’d bought was a really fancy version of my old ASUS Transformer Prime. Once I wrapped my head around the idea that the Helix is an ultrabook laptop PC, not a “tablet” in the sense of Android and iOS, then I really started to love the Helix.
My initial frustration was based around trying to find “apps” as if I was using my old Transformer or my 3rd generation iPad. I searched the Windows 8 Store for all my usual apps and found almost none of them. The few I found, such as Dropbox, were so useless I just ended up deleting them (what’s the point of a file manager that doesn’t let you do anything with the files but view them?).
Everything about Windows 8 drives you to the Start screen, as if everything you’ll need to get anything done will live there. Nothing does, unless its a shortcut to a Windows 8 Desktop program. But because of my familiarity with iOS and Android on tablets it took me almost a day to realize my salvation was the Windows+D key combination, which drops you to the “normal” Windows PC desktop. And then you just do everything like you normally do, be it a program or, as is more the case in our cloud world these days, via a browser.
Once I got desktop Chrome as a shortcut on my Start screen my experience flipped 180 degrees from frustration to “wow, I can do everything I need to do the normal way, I don’t need a special app to do it”. I know that sounds crazy, but it shows how Microsoft Marketing at least had done there job in having me believe the Start screen was really Windows 8.
Its just amazing how few apps there are in the Windows 8 Store that are useful and take advantage of the new Modern UI. The beauty of the Helix is I can use it as a powerful ultrabook PC and then rip the screen off, kick back on my couch and use it as a (large) tablet.
Except I can’t - I have to use it as a touch PC, because there aren’t any worthwhile apps that work in the “metro” mode (at least compared to the 100+ iOS tablet apps I have loaded on my iPad). The few Win 8 apps that are there are severely crippled. Take the Comixology app as an example. Comics actually look great on the Helix’s 1080p panel, but the app itself is frustrating to browse my catalog with thanks to the Modern UI’s endless horizontal scrolling and the lack of anyway to organize my comics by series (that I can find, anyway). I have over 300 books “in the cloud” and the only way I can browse them is in the order I purchased them in.
There are a few apps that are OK; I like the metro email client, and Yahoo has a nice email client for the Start menu as well. The Twitter app is similar to the iOS one and works well enough, Zinio is OK but has terrible library management, the Amazon app is OK, but all of them leave you feeling like you should have just gone to Desktop mode and run “the real thing”.
Given that, what incentive is there for developers to either improve their Windows 8 Start screen apps or make them at all? Why should Comixology spend any time on improving their Metro app when I can just go to their website (which, by the way, defaults to showing my comics organized by series)? I’d love to have a Directv app on the Helix with all the functionality of the iPad app, but why should they divert resources from their website development since that will work for all PC users? (Although it’s horrible, Directv, you really need to work on that). The same goes for Slingbox. Or even something as simple as Open Table. If Microsoft can’t drive any adoption in the developer community for the Start screen they might as well junk it.
Lucky for me my Helix is an ultrabook powerhouse. I can run anything on it in desktop mode and will be loading my Adobe tools (Lightroom and Premiere), have already installed the full Office 2013 Pro suite, and will be putting fun stuff like my Traqmate GPS data acquisition analysis software that I use for racing on it. Now that my brain is back in full PC mode I’m really enjoying the Helix as my daily driver at home and in the office, and it’s cool to be able to pop the screen off the keyboard and use it as a PC tablet.
How do people get anything done on a Windows RT tablet?