Non-Windows alternatives to the Metro interface
Can we replace the Metro interface and Windows 8 by another operating system but with the same kind of interface?
Several scenarios can occur when Windows 8 will arrives on computers. Users can ignore the Metro interface and return to the traditional desktop interface. They may also massively adopt the new platform which will create an opportunity for developers (if their software is accepted in the appstore).
Another possible scenario is that tablets are gradually replacing desktop computers. In this case the Metro style is the right one, but if we must equip ourselves with new software, we can change also the system and replace Windows 8. But by which system? And first what functions must it offer to replace Metro?
Metro immerses you in an application
Metro is a touch interface. It is better suited to tablets, but we also have it on desktops to not be disoriented and in this case, it is used with a mouse. However, users do not find convenient to use it in this way.
Applications are immersive in Metro, the interface disappears completely and we directly interacts with objects of the application by gestures.
Windows do not overlap, they share the screen and you can see several applications operate in multiple windows. It's like gadgets taking more importance on the desktop. Moreover, gadgets themselves are removed in Windows 8.
KDE Plasma Active: Immerse yourself in an activity
Gnome and KDE support another concept of immersive applications for Linux with an interface based on activities. Immersed in a task, the user sees on the screen only objects related to this task, programs and documents.
Plasma Active is based on Qt, a universal framework of user interface for mobile or office, which ensures that the OS can be used on all types of computers, such as Windows 8.
But Metro uses HTML or XAML, the declarative language Quick Plasma used by KDE is adapted from QML.
Chrome and Native Client
Native Client allows to use native code in the browser, and WebGL is an interface to the 3D API of the système in the browser, it is clear that the opportunity to free completely from Windows becomes realistic for most users.
In fact, game publishers are beginning to implement NaCl versions. And game is the main selling point of Microsoft to personal users, compatibility with Windows makes this system indispensable. This dependency will cease with NaCl as Chrome can run on Windows or other systems.
The Metro interface which consists of HTML 5 + native API can be replaced by Chrome + NaCl + WebGL. Remains the XAML Interface for more professional applications.
Android is a Linux system and can run big local applications. Originally for mobiles only, Android has become since version 4 a system for tablets, and Google said that its intention is even to unify the OS for the mobile and Chrome OS for office. It supports the same Chrome browser used on desktops.
Intel's Tizen: HTML 5 and beyond
Supported by Intel and mobile manufacturers, Tizen is still a Linux system whose interface is based as Metro on HTML 5. Just as Microsoft strengthens HTML 5 with an API providing access to system resources (Windows only), it has an API to access Tizen system's resources.
We are finally faced with a universal interface, but a plethora of API when it comes to creating software, especially since Mozilla also highlights WebAPI, its interface for all devices connected to a computer. This is destined to become a standard and is already working in Firefox OS, the mobile system from Mozilla Gecko-based. WebOS meets the same principles and integrates Node.js by default which facilitates the creation of universal applications.
- Mosaic. In this case it is to achieve a desktop organized in tiles, each corresponding to a widget. It's as if Windows widgets occupied the center of the screen. It remains under the same OS.
- Webian Shell. As the web-ian name suggests, wants to run Web applications without the need for an operating system. This is more like Chrome OS.