Three Screens, Metro and a Cloud is the future

We lightly touched on the three screens dream of Microsoft back at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles earlier this year. CEO Steve Ballmer wrapped up his speech with a slide that showed the tight integration between products, seen above. For a good example of the "three screens" vision, check out the RC-AirSim demo.

Tim Carmody at Wired has published a superb write up of the integration we are starting to witness between Microsoft's product line. He spoke about the Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone that Microsoft’s Derek Snyder demonstrated. Derek created a scenario where you are watching an animated film on the Xbox but can't put a name to one of the voice-actors. The first call would be to get out a smartphone and search on Google or IMDB. With the Xbox Companion app, you can see all the relavant information about that film you're watching right in your hands.

"What’s more, it doesn’t just do this over Wi-Fi, if the Xbox and WinPhone are on the same local network. It can do it completely through the cloud, using the common Windows Live ID on both devices. If the Xbox had 3G/4G cellular data like the Windows Phone does, you wouldn’t even need a local router."

We're getting away from the central workstation with file browsing and one means of input. Metro will enable more intuitive ways to browse files, apps will integrate with each other to pull photos as well as other media, which will make the system appear less layered and more fluid. Why keep visiting Explorer to find files when apps can pull the content for you in one place?

There's no central hub with Microsoft's "three screens" philosophy. Windows 8 (tablet and desktop), Windows Phone, Live and Xbox will be connected, not only by service and information, but by interface. There's nothing different. Someone who's never used a Windows Phone before, but is on a Windows 8 desktop on a daily basis, will feel right at home with the familiarity of Metro. Personal information, contacts, social networking and everything the consumer needs is all synchronised between Live enabled systems.

And with Skype on board, this really is Skynet. Check out the full article at Wired, it's worth the read.

Source: Wired

The Guardian iPad app looks awesome like Metro

It seems that The Guardian has taken design elements from Metro UI after releasing their Windows Phone app and have applied them to their just-released iPad newspaper. Don't mistake this for a mere copy as the app looks superb on the big screen and does Metro proud.

I see this as well as future implementations with other apps on Apple's platform as a positive sign for Windows Phone.When Windows 8 comes along with the upcoming Xbox Dashboard refresh, we should expect to see more adopters for Microsoft's mobile platform with Metro making its way into competitor eco-systems.

MetroGridHelper: A visual aid for designers and developers

This is for all developers and designers out there who strive to produce only the best looking apps for Windows Phone. Jeff Wilcox, developer of 4th&Mayor and Senior Software Development Lead for Windows Phone, was discussing design principles with two members of the Windows Phone design team when he was introduced to a grid the team has been using on the platform. The grid is a set of squares 25×25px, offset 12px from one another, and all contained within a page padding of 24px.

Wilcox decided to create an overlay developers can use in emulator debugging to ensure text and content is aligned to perfection (see image above for example of misaligned text). This is best used with tweaking designs and the UI. Screenshots can be taken with the overlay active on the emulator and then shared with clients or the designer for feedback and critique.

MetroGridHelper can be installed with NuGet. For more information and installation details, head on over to Wilcox's blog (link below).

Source: Jeff Wilcox

New build of Xbox 360 Fall 2011 Dashboard Update revealed

We first showed you a video of the upcoming fall Xbox 360 dashboard update back in August. A new video leaked recently that better reflects what the final update will look like. The only catch: the dashboard depicted is set to French instead of English. Brave the language barrier and you’ll see how various sections of the dashboard like the Games Marketplace actually look, as well as Kinect controls.

The fall 2011 dashboard update is rumored to debut on November 15. The update’s design philosophy should be immediately apparent to Windows Phone users: it’s Metro. I’m excited about the clean, streamlined appearance. What about you guys? Do you think Metro will work well as a console interface?

Source: NeoGAF forums via Kotaku

New Windows Phone Mango advert [Video]

A new advert has been uploaded to the Windows Phone YouTube account that shows off the top features in Mango. The music is definitely familiar (from a previous video) and suits the platform well with the sleek look of Metro and the elegant device. This seems like the user-orientated brother to the developer advert we covered earlier this month. Still up-beat, still awesome.

Source: Windows Phone (YouTube)

Windows Phone UK blog receives a Metro makeover

Microsoft seem to be going Metro and design crazy as of late (about time too) with the recent Windows Phone website revamp and the YouTube channel improvement. Now the Windows Phone UK (My Kind of Phone) blog has received a beautiful makeover that further enhances the user experience.

Can we ever have enough Metro? We think not!

Source: My Kind of Phone, thanks for the heads up Paul!

Windows Phone wins IDEA People's Choice Award and two others

We threw up a post not so long ago where fans of the Windows Phone platform could go through and vote for the team to win the IDEA: People's Choice Award. At the ceremony the WP team were celebrating with just not one award, but three. They acquired People's Choice, Best in Show and Interaction awards.

Thanking fans and voters alike over Twitter, the team have seen both investment and innovation of the Metro UI being paid off with implementation in Windows 8 and Xbox 360, as well as awareness by the industry for its simplicity.

Source: Twitter [@WPDesignTeam]

New Windows Phone 7.5 commercial nails it. Touts Metro Design, elegance. (Plus eBay Live Tile)

Microsoft finally looks to be hitting their stride. This new web-commercial for developers shows off the elegance, simplicity and drives home the Metro interface. We really like the look of this, even if it's for devs and not necessarily consumers. Still, we could see Microsoft editing this or redoing some parts for TV and they really should--it's a good start to show off their new UI. After all, it's going to be everywhere soon.

Oh and check out the eBay Live Tile at 0:36

Source: Windows Phone (YouTube); Also, thanks ousooner314, for the tip even though we were already working on it ;-)

Metro UI invades Windows 8

Microsoft turned its attention from the little screen of the Windows Phone to the big screen of the PC today and demoed Windows 8 at the 2011 BUILD developers conference.  And it looks awfully familiar.

Microsoft took center stage at the Anaheim, California event highlighting Windows 8 and the new Samsung Windows 8 tablet. Windows 8 is another major overhaul for a Microsoft OS and will offer focus on a touch-based UI that is optimized for tablets and looks really nice.

Steven Sinofsky, President of Microsoft's Windows Division stated in his keynote,

"We reimagined Windows. From the chipset to the user experience, Windows 8 brings a new range of capabilities without compromise."

Windows 8 follows the Metro user interface we all have become familiar with through our Windows Phone and the Xbox 360 console. It lines up the PC with the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem rather nicely and will connect the three through Windows Live and Skydrive.  Even the lock screen shares the same features of your Windows Phone by displaying the date/time, any upcoming appointments, and unread message summaries.

The Metro UI supports both mouse and keyboard navigation and if the Metro style isn't your cup of tea, you can revert to a more traditional Windows 7 interface.

Microsoft didn't share a release date for Windows 8 but it's our understanding that we should see it sometime mid-2012. A Developer Preview for Windows 8 is expected to be available later this week. It should be interesting to see Metro on the big screen.

Source: Microsoft News Center

More Metro UI on Android

It seems with every post we publish here surrounding Metro UI on Android we're getting closer and closer to a fluent solution. It was only a few days ago when we covered the latest attempt to get the look of Windows Phone on an Android powered device. In the video above Arjoma92 walks us through his Motorola Defy that appears to resemble Microsoft's Windows Phone in more ways than one. The list of apps used are as follows:

While it looks relatively accurate, the smooth scrolling and snappy OS is not present, plus you can still see Android elements throughout the video, but it's a damn good attempt.

Android users mix in some Metro to beautify their UI

"Come to us my children!" - Steve Ballmer, I/O 2011. All jokes aside, it's become quite clear that a number of Android users actually want something more than a grid packed full of icons, widgets and whatnot. something cleaner, sleeker and more unique (as does Google). Windows Phone features Metro UI that ticks all the boxes mentioned above and has been somewhat ported to Android in many forms (including a media player, oh and Bing).

We've now learnt of a full-featured Android ROM that's been modified up by Lifehacker reader MortemTuam and sports a Windows Phone like home screen with a Metro UI influence. What differentiates this from previous Android attempts we've covered is that this actually looks pretty damn good. Here's how he put it all together (and what was used for you folk who have Android handsets):

Seems like a lot of time and work, right? I'll always ask the question of "if you like it so much, why not experience the real thing?". Tinkering with the OS is fine but you'll never have the smoothness of WP7, something that goes hand-in-hand with the Metro UI. Sorry Android, you might be able to look like our OS, but you'll never behave like it.


Microsoft shows off new Metro Start Menu for Win8

We all know Microsoft is embracing Metro UI on Xbox and the upcoming Windows 8--the question is what form will their iconographic, non-chrome UI take?

In a video posted on Microsoft's "Building Windows 8" blog, we can clearly see their newly designed Start Menu, which is completely flat/non-3D, uses our familiar Metro icons along with simple text using a high contrast color scheme. In addition, we see some type of gadget to the left displaying the time, date and various system stats.

Compared to the Start Menu on Windows 7, the new Metro-style Win 8 screen looks simple and elegant--exactly what we're expecting from Microsoft now on.

Source: Building Windows 8; via WithinWindows

Microsoft granted patent on Metro UI? (updated)

Good news for Microsoft as their patent for the Metro UI, filed under "Visual motion for user interface feedback", has been approved by the USPTO. The patent was originally filed in early 2010 but finally approved on August 18th. We're still waiting on the official patent number to appear, which we're told usually takes a few days to be generated and listed--for now we have the issue date within the application itself. From the application abstract comes a very abstract description of the UI:

"Aspects of a user interface that provides visual feedback in response to user input. For example, boundary effects are presented to provide visual cues to a user to indicate that a boundary in a movable user interface element (e.g., the end of a scrollable list) has been reached. As another example, parallax effects are presented in which multiple parallel or substantially parallel layers in a multi-layer user interface move at different rates, in response to user input. As another example, simulated inertia motion of UI elements is used to provide a more natural feel for touch input. Various combinations of features are described. For example, simulated inertia motion can be used in combination with parallax effects, boundary effects, or other types of visual feedback. "

This is of course a welcomed approval as Microsoft gets to use Metro on the Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows Phone without fear that someone can come along and just lift it. This extra protection is especially important in this case since one could argue 'Metro' is the new look and feel of Microsoft and with it being so successful for them, it stands that they would want it protected. All we know is we're glad we don't have to write up patent applications. Eghads that's boring.

Source: USPTO (patent application) via; Thanks, Sander G., for the tip!

Update: We did a little more digging on this based on your comments.  The patent process is about as confusing as the way the some of the applications are written.  The August 18, 2011 date could have meant two things, approval or publication.  A delay between approval and assigning a patent number is not uncommon and it appeared as if the date was an approval date.

In discussing this with a patent agent, we have confirmed that the date is the publication date.  The application has now been docketed for examination and prosecution.  The USPTO will review the sixteen claims from Microsoft and basically rule whether or not Microsoft has a legitimate claim on these inventions.  There is no time frame on the examination and prosecution but it is usually lengthy and solely at the discretion of the USPTO as to how fast things roll.

So, for now, Microsoft hasn't been awarded the patent on Metro UI but is one step closer on what could be a very lengthy journey.


Windows Phone wallpapers with that Metro look

Deviantart member CookieMonster21x has created two sets of Windows Phone lock wallpapers based on the metro look. The two designs come in the stock accent colors of your Windows Phones (blue, red, mango, green, magenta, purple, lime, teal, brown and pink).

Each zip file will contain all ten color patterns and I'm not sure if I like the conservative version or the more colorful version two. Feel free to share which you like the best in the comments section or share your personal wallpaper favorites in this WPCentral Forum discussion.

You can find the Metro Lock Wallpapers Version One (the black background) here and Version Two (the colorful backgrounds) here.

via: 1800pocketpc

Metro inspired UberMusic Android app released

We previously covered the Metro UI inspired media player for Android when it was still in development. Federico Carnales has now released the app to the Android Marketplace and is readily available for download and installment. So, how accurate is the design to the real deal on WP7/Zune? Check the above video.

As one can see it's a very well crafted look-alike. The animations, positioning and pivot menus are pretty much identical and if the chrome wasn't present at the top of both devices, you'd have a fairly hard time deciding which was the fake. The app is fully customizable so this is merely a single theme, third parties have the ability to 'skin' the media player as they so see it - even the widgets.

UberMusic sitting on the Marketplace shelves at a pricey $3.49 (wait, you didn't think everything on Android was free did you?) and a free version is apparently on its way with in-app advertising support. With how Google is advancing with Metro UI implementation, I wouldn't be surprised with adopting this media player as the default for Android. What are your thoughts? Should we feel flattered or concerned that other platforms are slowly turning in WP7 wannabes instead of fully migrating to the platform?

Source: UberMusic, via: Engadget, thanks John for the heads up! 

WeatherLive v1.3 now forecasting in the Marketplace

We revealed the new v1.3 of WeatherLive the other day. It brings some great new customizable features to the Live Tile and find your location based on city instead of coordinates.

The good news is it's now available in the Marketplace -- still the same deal as before: free with ads, or $0.99 with no ads, either one gets you a swanky Metro Live Tile. Get it now right here.

Google lifting more UI stylings from Windows Phone?

We're not shy about calling out Google and more specifically Android on their terrible UI--it lacks coherence, style and underlying philosophy of what it should be. It looks like it was designed by computer nerds and not, well, designers. In that sense, it's nice to see Google overhauling their Android Market which always looked like it was beaten with an ugly stick.

Still, we've received quite a few emails noting that their new Marketplace seems to take some liberties with Windows Phone's Metro UI: text based, no chrome, pivot controls, etc. We're not prepared to say that Google sought to make a copy-cat UI here, but it is clear that they are moving in a more minimalist, text-driven direction that seems to becoming popular these days. It's not as bad as their ad that completely ripped off a few weeks ago, but it does show that they're taking their cues from Metro or at the very least, they know they have a UI problem and need to spice things up a bit.

For years people said that the incremental changes to Windows Mobile was just "lipstick on a pig". Well, here's looking at you, Android.

Source: Google; via Android Central; Thanks, Carlos, dtboos and others

The future of Microsoft: 3 screens and Metro

Just a few minutes ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrapped up his speech at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles. Most of the talk was focused on Windows 7, Windows 8, InTune and some other Microsoft technologies.

However, this slide came up and while it reveals nothing new (the Windows 8 UI, Windows Phone and the next Xbox Hub) we finally get to see Microsoft's "Three screens" vision (e.g. RC-Air Sim) including matching UI come to fruition.

We have to admit, it looks sharp and awesome.

Is Google going Metro/Tiles on us or are we seeing things?

A few days ago we reported on the KLM-Metro connection (yes, evidently we had it backwards, KLM has had that style for "years", forgive us, we don't fly Dutch). Regardless, it seems Google is liking this whole Tile/Metro approach to design as well (see the Windows 8 UI demo).

Last month, Google held their famous IO conference, where all-things-Google happens, including Android news. They have the "sessions" page up, where you can go watch all the keynotes and talks that went on during the meeting, which is similar to Microsoft's MIX.

Or how about this below, which looks like flat-out copying to us. The one of the left is from Microsoft's WP7 page, the right, Google Wallet. (Thanks, Spindel, in comments):

Now, this is all probably old news to some, but darn it those tiles and UI design look a little familiar. Then again, this too has probably been around forever and we're just becoming aware of aesthetic design in general, seeing tiles everywhere. All we know is we can't wait till Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360 all have this same UI design, t'is gonna be beautiful.

And Google? It's a good look for you. Heaven knows you need all the UI help you can get.

Source: Google IO; Thanks, Abhishek, for bringing this to our attention!

KLM Airlines lifts a page from the Metro UI design book

There's no doubt that Microsoft is doing the right thing by recognizing how brilliant the Metro UI is and incorporating into the next Xbox update and Windows 8 desktop OS. So perhaps it is of little surprise to see others starting to snag some deisgn cues from Microsoft's groundbreaking UI by incorporating Metro-esque themes into their products.

Reader Florian (Disinto) recently flew on KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) and couldn't help but noticing something as simple as salt & pepper packets had an all too familiar look to them. There's no confusion here either--those are exactly like the Metro tiles from Windows Phone. Odd seeing them on such banal items as disposable spice packets and still looks great, no?

Hey, we can't speak for Microsoft, but we're cool with Metro UI/Tiles taking over design aesthetic. So long as Android and Apple stay away, they've already copied enough.

Thanks to Florian for the sweet pic and observation, not to mention good taste in music.