Bing Maps goes 'Metro', not everyone's happy

It’s not every day that someone makes a bold move in the world of user interfaces. Let’s face it; people like to resist change – have you seen how many “We want the old Facebook back” groups appear after every Facebook update? But as Microsoft’s revolutionary Ribbon UI proved when it launched in Office 2007, sometimes these changes are for the best and can make a user’s computing experience easier and more productive. Microsoft is hoping it’s on another winner with ‘Metro’ – entirely basing its new phone operating system on the ‘Metro’ UI principles.

A description of ‘Metro’ from the Windows Phone 7 / Metro Book.

Along with Windows Live Wave 4, Bing Maps have now gone ‘Metro’. Liveside describes the new look as “pretty”, praising its “lavender”-colored roads and “muted” look. But others, such as istartedsomething’s Long Zheng, have been far less impressed with the direction that Bing Maps has taken. His article’s title “Bing Maps looked ugly before, now looks like s***” clearly sums up his feelings towards the update. As above, Microsoft's own description states that ‘Metro’ is “modern and clean”. However, to Long and others, the following image is far from clean.

Bing Maps: Sydney

As many have complained, the new-look map is visually confusing (although readable), with overlapping names and muted tones. By further zooming into the area of interest, the map quickly becomes clearer.

Bing Maps: Sydney CBD

According to John O’Brien, Windows Live Services MVP and Liveside writer, a perk of the new map design is that it allows developers to create easy-to-see layers over the top of Bing Maps – a feat that’s always been hard with brightly-colored maps. As Microsoft is integrating Bing Maps into the heart of Windows Phone 7, this may be a wise move – allowing developers to design Bing Maps-based applications that neatly fit WP7’s UI. Microsoft has also been pushing the Bing Maps API for some time, yet many web developers still choose to use Google Maps.

Like it or hate it, only time will tell if the new look will drive more users and developers into the arms of Microsoft, or if it will send them back to Google.

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