My recent "plea" to the Windows team to resist the temptation of making Windows 7 more Mac-like didn't fall on deaf ears. While I seriously doubt it influenced many (or any) in Redmond, the post definitely elicited some strong opinions -- both in agreement with and in opposition to -- my premise.
A quick recap: Blogger Paul Thurrott recently raised the issue of what constitutes simple (vs. easy) when it comes to operating-system interfaces. Like Thurrott, I worry that Microsoft's Apple envy is leading the Windows team to make some UI choices that could potentially result in Windows 7 looking and working more like Mac OS X than like Windows.
Of course, if you're in the camp that prefers the Mac OS look and feel, Microsoft's OS directions are less worrisome than if you're someone, like me, who prefers the traditional (pre-Vista) Windows UI. (And yes, Mac users -- as impossible as many of you seem to find the concept -- there are people like me who have tried using a Mac but actually prefer Windows. Unlike some readers, I don't favor Windows because it is more user-customizable or more of a "power-user" platform, as some argue. I am simply more used to Windows and so it is more intuitive for me.)
Hundreds of blog comments and e-mail responses later, I'd say the feedback on my "plea" post fell into two buckets: Those who prefer to insult and/or dismiss anyone who doesn't share their opinions; and those who had interesting points to make.
I waded through the responses and decided to highlight a few that were especially thought-provoking. Here is a sampling of excerpts from readers with views on both sides of the matter:
"I think that Microsoft is (making) a significant error with Windows 7 regarding U.I. This error is to think that the Windows market is as uniform, in terms of wish and of needs of consumers, as the Apple market.Hence the obvious will to release an experience as close as possible to the Mac experience with Windows. I personally think that not only Microsoft should release several editions but each edition should be optimi(z)ed for different targets. Both the features and the default U.I must be also optimi(z)ed for the intended target.
"In each mode,there should be a default U.I as well as the capability for the user to define custom U.I either directly or by GPO." -- timiteh
"I have a mac-mini that I occasionally use for confirming cross-system compatibility with web apps and I use the Dock just because its there.
"However whenever I have tried using utilities that replicate the Dock on Windows I invariably give up on it after a day or two. It looks nice, its funky and has a wow-whiz factor but for getting the job done... quack quack oops!
"Having messed around with the recent (Windows 7) pre-beta nothing inspires me to believe this is an enhancement. In its current form (I'm) just left with a much bigger (and I dont care what they argue about the pixel count..its HUGE) taskbar and just more cluttered objects getting in the way.
"It's work in progress for sure and I do like the Jumplists but if the Superbar happens we also need a Retrobar." --AndyG
"Whilst I entirely agree that copying Mac OS X's form for the sake of fashion would be a bad thing, I think it would be truly excellent if Microsoft would pinch some of Apple's function - although, for preference, I'd like them to wrap it all up in their own UI design. I am a programmer. I write software for Windows, and I write software for Mac OS X (and Solaris, and VMS). I know a fair bit about different operating systems. Mac OS X is, without doubt, the most functional OS I have ever used.
"I'd love to see a truly great version of Windows, one that I can take seriously as an everyday OS. I'd love Microsoft to put the hold on new features and get the existing ones working properly. But, until they do, people will continue to buy Windows because everyone else does rather than because it is genuinely the best OS available." -- Pascal Harris (via e-mail)
- 'clutter my desktop'
- 'form over function'
- 'fancy bells and whistles'
- 'require a how-to manual'
"How do any of these things apply to the Mac GUI?
"Of course, they all apply to the awful and awkward Vista interface. If this was MS trying to be more Mac-like, then they failed miserably. Let's hope this time Windows will be more Mac-like.
"The Mac GUI by comparison is clean, efficient, simple, easy and intuitive." -- dkawalec
"Windows has always been for the geeks, by the geeks. I think ease of use matters and all, but I still want to control my computer! I will go to Linux if Microsoft dares to eliminate the right click and replace it with drop down lists... "Gaaawh!! Curse the drop down lists, curse them!" -- W1LL-B1LL
"Unfortunately it seems that Microsoft is on the defensive ever since Apple implemented a strategic marketing attack on Vista. Microsoft may be pulling up along side Apple to gain some of their user base back that they may feel left after Vista.
"If Microsoft wants a slam dunk with Windows 7, then they need to start from scratch. Nix the backwards compatible dependency and start with a more stable, hardware based OS. The design element can be secondary. It's not the design that makes Mac's more dependable/stable. If Microsoft wants to emulate them then they need to start at the root. The rest is just as much smoke and mirrors as it was with Vista." -- willsloan