Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Nov 2011 22:55 UTC
Microsoft "Steve Ballmer had a dilemma. He had two groups at Microsoft pursuing competing visions for tablet computers. One group, led by Xbox godfather J Allard, was pushing for a sleek, two-screen tablet called the Courier that users controlled with their finger or a pen. But it had a problem: it was running a modified version of Windows. That ran headlong into the vision of tablet computing laid out by Steven Sinofsky, the head of Microsoft's Windows division. Sinofsky was wary of any product - let alone one from inside Microsoft's walls - that threatened the foundation of Microsoft's flagship operating system. But Sinofsky's tablet-friendly version of Windows was more than two years away." I'm still mad at Microsoft for this one.
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* the mixture of long presses, gestures and interactive widgets were a usability nightmare. So much functionality was hidden behind arbitrary user interactions that you'd have to memorise the OS inside-out to make it practical for everyday use. Current tablet OSs have a more uniformed UI specification, which may not always be prettier, but on the whole makes them more usable and with a lower learning curve.

* lack of thought for 3rd party applications can make this device very limiting. the whole OS seems like it was built around MS's vision with very little scope for customisation nor extendability. I know MS have been criticized for pushing Win7 and XP onto tablets and then expecting their OEMs and/or users to adapt the OS to the customers way of working, but the Courier was too far the other way.

& the nearby:
However after watching all of the Courier promos, I still hadn't a clue how most of the functions were run. The thing tried too hard to function like an old fashion diary while being modern and interactive. On this occasion, MS managed to create something needlessly complicated by merging the worst of two worlds together.

Metro (the "way forward" instead of Courier) might have not entirely unrelated problems - certainly I had a strong impression that the people presenting WP7 were quite lost in its UI, particularly during early demonstrations (yes, early - still, they were supposed to "sell" it, they should have decent familiarity already)

Perhaps it's not that great. It looks sleek, sure, but there seem to be many people who get stuck while trying to use it, to pick it up (it seems not only I have this impression - bloodline comments in this thread for example )

It's fairly consistent all right - but perhaps that consistency builds upon not so great interaction model.

In fact, what drives people to one OS over another is generally the differences (ie I prefer the way xyz does something) rather than the similarities.

Perhaps it's too different and/or not very suited to humans after all.

Consider (unavoidable analogy ;p ) how the steering wheel wasn't a standard UI of cars for a few decades - but once we "discovered" it, nothing can quite replace it (and there were experiments, for example a "swinging joystick" of sorts above the central tunnel*) - probably only a massive paradigm shift, like autonomous cars (*this could fit them well), can change that.

Perhaps ~WIMPy UIs (hey, few here think that iOS or Android UIs aren't a very big departure from them...) is what works for humans - at least, before / precluding some massive paradigm shifts (say, neural implants for example ;p )

PS. And generally, we're talking here about a company which, for almost a decade, tried pushing "very desktop" UI onto mobile phones - with poor results, not surprisingly.
So, what do they decide to do next? (with Windows 8) Well, pushing phone UI onto desktops, of course! ;)

Edited 2011-11-06 19:09 UTC

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