Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

Summary: Here is an image that Microsoft has been showing to delegates at this year's Worldwide Partner Conference ... and it disturbs me.

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TOPICS: CXO, Microsoft
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Here is an image that Microsoft has been showing to delegates at this year's Worldwide Partner Conference ... and it disturbs me.

Here's the graphic:

Here we see a notebook (or possibly a netbook), and tablet system, the Xbox games console and a Windows Phone device all featuring the tiled "Metro UI" look that people using Windows Phone handsets will recognize. What Microsoft is showing here is plans to unify the entire ecosystem.

Ugh ...

See, i don't have anything against the Metro UI personally. It's an interesting take on an old problem of how to present information to the user. I happen to think that it's fresh and interesting and is ideally suited to small screen devices like smartphones ...

... yes, ideally suited to small screen devices like smartphones. But smartphones aren't tablets and netbooks/notebooks and games consoles and such. Why is Microsoft once again going for this 'one size fits all' approach to UI design. Why push a design paradigm designed for the small screen onto systems that aren't limited by screen size? It makes no sense. But we've got to remember that Microsoft is the company that for years has been desperately trying to shoehorn the the desktop UI paradigm onto devices that have small screens.

I'm surprised that there isn't a Dell desktop in the background featuring a 30-inch UltraSharp display also featuring the Metro UI. What better way to feature a UI designed for the small screen than to shove it onto a 30-inch screen.

Note: Rumors circulate about how Microsoft might actually unify the entire OS, and even go as far as to drop the 'Windows' name, but I'm not even going to bother linking to anything discussing this as it's nothing more than pure speculation.

Now, Windows 8 will come with the classic UI, and it'll be there for people to use, but I'm concerned by the way that Microsoft seems to be plastering this Metro UI onto every screen it can. The Metro UI seems to be the new Aero UI which we saw everywhere before Vista hit PCs (albeit only on largish screens). Just because the Metro UI is new and shiny, it shouldn't be something that's shoved onto the bigger screen. But that's what we're seeing. And from what I can tell, the only reason Microsoft wants to see a tile-based UI like Metro on notebooks, netbooks, tablets and desktops is BECAUSE IT'S NEW AND SHINY.

So Microsoft, learn something from Apple. There's a reason why Mac OS X has a different UI to iOS on the iPhone and iOS on the iPad. They're different devices, and different devices have different usage scenarios. That's the point of having different devices in the first place. Shoving the same UI on devices that are used in different ways is either lazy or hubristic ... and it disturbs me.

(Image via WinRumors)

Topics: CXO, Microsoft

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  • Interesting points...

    Without going into too much depth, you'll notice that even the OSX ecosystem is becoming more and more like iOS. Microsoft is making a smart, preemptive decision based on how users are using their computers and devices; most of the time it isn't to get work done?so why not optimize for the most used functions.

    Power users still get the core Windows shell so I think its a win-win for everyone. Looking at OSX Lion, the integration of iOS with OSX seems to be cluttered, slightly less intuitive, list goes on. I would much rather a shell much like Windows 8.

    You should have some content to assist in proving your point in your articles rather than "new and shiny". Try focusing on the why's and you'll find you get more comprehensive articles.
    thejellymon
    • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

      @thejellymon
      Well said. I'm looking forward to getting a Windows 8 tablet. I want to be able to do roughly the same stuff that I do with my windows pc on a tablet. I have an ipad, but it doesn't have Microsoft Office or a number of other programs I have on my pc.
      Don't you get it. I want the same structure across my pc, tablet and phone. So I can use everything across everything.
      Blogsworth
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @Blogsworth I generally agree with what you say except for the fact that MS Office not being available for iPad is in Microsoft's hands, not Apple's.
        smulji
      • Adrian Kingsley-Hughes wants to know why MS thinks ...

        ... people prefer to have to learn one interface rather than several. Is he kidding? The author wants to know why people would want to apply one set of skills across a spectrum of devices, instead of having a maze of devices requiring different skill sets? I don't know, maybe MS has this wacky idea that people like it when you make things simple and coherent.<br><br>MS makes a bold move, and in one swoop, brings relative simplicity and coherency to several ecosystems, making them one. Now a developer can write an application, and adapt it with relative ease to a spectrum of devices, significantly enlargening the size of his market. If Adrian Kingsley-Hughes and others don't see the brilliance of MS' move, they are either in denial, or are not very smart.
        P. Douglas
      • Reducto ad absurdum...

        @P. Douglas<br><i>"The author wants to know why people would want to apply one set of skills across a spectrum of devices, instead of having a maze of devices requiring different skill sets?"</i><br><br>Alternatively, when was the last time you changed TV channels on your washing machine?<br><br>Different devices have different use-cases, and so require different interfaces.
        Zogg
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @Zogg
        yes washing machines are totaly different. It's like having one remote to handle your DVD, DVR, TV and cable. Would you rather have 4 remotes. People want functionality and simplicity. Phones, tablets and PC's have a lof the same functionality. washing machines do not
        Turd Furgeson
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @Turd Furgeson - I'll one up you. I DO have a single remote that controls my HDTV, Game Console, DVD, Satellite, DVR (PVR), Stereo, CD player and VCR. It's called the Logitech Harmony. Took a bit to set it up but works great.
        The Danger is Microsoft
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @Blogsworth
        That's the problem mentality. Why would you want to do everything from every device when each device is designed for a different purpose?
        The tablet design is for consumption of media, the smaller screened phone design is for connecting with people and the larger, PC design is for creation and collaboration.
        Use each in its own place and design for each in its own right and your electronic world will live in harmony.
        Don't think I'm right? Walk into any restaurant and notice that not all workers are doing the same exact tasks. Each works in the area which best fits and the restaurant is better off for it.
        tmsbrdrs
      • It always depends on the device

        @Turd<br><br>If I'm carrying a device around with me then I expect to control it with my fingers. However, I do <b>not</b> expect to be sitting in front of my desktop PC and dragging icons around on my screen in the same way. (Try Googling for a concept called "gorilla arm" to understand why not.)<br><br><b>Different</b> devices have <b>different</b> usage scenarios, and hence should expect to have <b>different</b> user interfaces. But if you don't believe me, fine! Learn about "gorilla arm" the hard way - you'll probably deserve it too.
        Zogg
      • Umm... err... Ergonomics

        @Microsoft<br>1) Count how many times you manipulate your mouse or your touchpad on your laptop. <br>2) Note the distance traveled to make the gesture.<br>3) Note how far the manipulation device is from your finger.<br>4) Note (in a research lab) how many calories it takes to do the gesture.<br>5) Calculate the difference in magnitude in energy required when the distance required for the user's finger and arm has to be increased to manipulate a 23" screen from across a desk. <br>6) Imagine the how sore the user's shoulder & arm will be after a day of doing this.<br><br>ergo: DUH.<br><br>I think the simplest explanation of the Metro UI plaguing these large screens is simply overzealous-ness of the Metro UI fiefdom's marketing. These touch large screens may intended for kiosk-type use, and not average office work. <br><br>Otherwise, it would be stunning to see how so many highly paid smart people, at a smart extremely well funded corporation, can be so unwise.<br><br>That said, I do think that touch screens may be a future standard for larger screens as well -- starting with laptops and then upwards, because consumers will come to prefer a touch functionality on larger PCs, when they have become long accustomed to it on their phones (even if they won't use it much on their PC). And however, by 2012-2014, the majority of consumers won't be wanting this future standard yet. So MS shouldn't freak out their average non-fanboy, practicality-oriented users.
        voltrarian
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        Microsoft has been working in this direction as seen publicly when they put the video demo of Windows 8 operating on a tablet pc. They say a mouse can drag/click the tabs on a large screen pc so we wont feel our shoulder joints going arthritic with too much arm use tapping tabs. It may be they are working on a touch screen mouse replacement to work with Windows 8. That seems counter productive in one sense its like effectively requiring a tablet to run Windows 8 pc having a large screen for viewing.

        I think the smaller icons are more useful for the larger screen I like the pictures shown as wall paper and the tabs will offer more useless info on the program I want to run while blocking more of the wall paper picture I want to enjoy. For those that have a couple of dozen or hundred icons on your screen I can see that argument is moot. You may have wall paper on but Ive seen your type of display icon clutter.

        Its almost like going backwards to the days when text menus of DOS programs like XTree were limited to the number of lines displayable on a monitor and had multiple pages to list all the programs. Those of you with lots of icons that become tabs will you reduce the tab size to fit them all, go to a bigger display with higher resolution to fit and still see the tabs, or flip multiple pages of tabs to find the tab/program you want to run? I suppose youll still be running a wall paper picture under all the tabs too wont you. Just remember, the kid in the picture under all the tabs will remember the time you did spend with them. Not so much the time spent working and how important you were in your profession; and your profession what will it remember of you?
        Jonah49
      • And there's your problem...

        @tmsbrdrs
        [b]That's the problem mentality. Why would you want to do everything from every device when each device is designed for a different purpose? [/b]

        You missed the point entirely. OK. So a tablet has a different purpose than a phone and both of those have a different purpose than your desktop or laptop.

        That much IS a given. That is not at issue.

        The issue is simplifying everything so you only need ONE skill set to operate ANY of those devices. This way, you learn how to use your PC or laptop, and later you can pick up a phone or tablet and pretty much immediately be able to use them without having to learn a new interface. Having a common interface and underlying code base only simplfies writing code.

        This doesn't mean you will WANT to run Photoshop on a tablet or phone - even if you had the resources (RAM, disk space, CPU power) - although you just might be able to get away with it. Nor do you HAVE to run Photoshop (or whatever high end desktop app) on your phone or tablet.
        Wolfie2K3
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @Zogg
        Sorry I went on mini vacation and missed your post. What precludes them from adapting the UI to work with your mouse in a desktop setting and your fingers on a phone. Do you really expect them to turn the XBox game console into a touch screen experience?
        Turd Furgeson
    • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

      @thejellymon

      I agree, I probably do more diverse stuff on my laptop than most consumers but it still boils down to a fairly small subset of actions; browse internet, use Office, use email client, install / uninstall games, download and consume media. I think these and a few more use cases can be presented on a laptop or desktop screen under this UI, satisfy the needs of the vast majority of consumers and just keep it simple. Power users have the option of the classic interface, and IT admins in business can configure deployments to use it by default if they don't want to freak out users so it's not like anyone is forced into it. I'd be amazed if there isn't a setting making Win8 boot into classic mode by default.
      OffsideInVancouver
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @OffsideInVancouver

        Dunno about Win8, but Win7 omitted the classic mode and I certainly do miss it. I must be one of few that actually work with their computer and not surf the web, edit photos, music, etc. all the time. No offense to anyone, that's just how I roll...
        WayneC369
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @OffsideInVancouver I agree with you, 100%. I hope you didn't miss-understand my post. I completely disagree with the article above. Glad you agree. I am sure there will be that boot option, as a designer, I wont use win 8 shell (though I'm on a mac), but for 3d applications i'll have no need for Win 8 shell.
        thejellymon
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @WayneC369 Yeah I've always hated how they change the UI with every release. It makes things I already knew how to do take longer to figure out. I don't use Windows on a daily basis, but it's still enough to annoy me. I think the original control panel was well laid out (which is why it survived from 1995 through to Vista) and fairly easy to use... As well as being organized. All of these categories, sub categories, plus tabs, then dialogs combined make things hard to find and bury what I'm looking for many levels deep.

        Microsoft really needs to go back to the basics on the control panel UI. The new control panel sucks.
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @snoop0x7b - What new Control Panel ? The one thats arranged by Category and doesnt show everything ?
        If that's what you mean, just click on View By, and choose Icons, either large or small. Then all CPanel items are right there. If that's not what you mean I'd be interested to know specifically what is the problem.
        dev/null
      • RE: Microsoft outlines vision of the future ... and it disturbs me

        @snoop0x7b<br><br>It still boggles my mind that the control panel is laid out in horizontal columns so that the eye has to scan horizontally.<br><br>Newspapers lay out their text in columns arranged for the eye to read vertically -- for a reason -- to reduce eye strain caused by eye movements having to scan in a wide horizontal arc.<br><br>Even Windows File Explorer lays out its items in vertical columns. <br><br>But the Control Panel is different, and it's stunningly stupid. Why? <br><br>And why remove the old XP style Name-Comments view as an option? If someone is looking for something, an explanation on the right is necessary. A category view is only good if one _already knows_ where & what it is, not if one is hunting for it, and doesn't know what category where Autoplay or some "forgot the name" third party icon belongs.<br><br>It's another Duh from an otherwise genius-filled Microsoft.
        voltrarian
    • Apple isn't doing any such thing

      Lion sports the Mac OS X desktop interface, not the iOS interface.

      Launchpad extends the iOS app paradigm a little, but uses a completely different interface. Gestures support is expanded, again is different to iOS (unlike MS, not touchscreen based).

      Adrian is right, Apple does it differently on different platforms because we interact with them differently.

      MS focus on a common interface is going to be a disaster (how's those touchscreen desktops selling?).
      Richard Flude