Linked by Howard Fosdick on Tue 2nd Jul 2013 21:04 UTC
Editorial Like many of you, I've been watching the big changes in user interfaces over the past few years, trying to make sense of them all. Is there a common explanation for the controversies surrounding the Windows 8 UI and Unity? Where do GNOME 3, KDE, Cinnamon, and MATE fit in? This article offers one view.
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No puzzle
by hhas on Tue 2nd Jul 2013 23:03 UTC
hhas
Member since:
2006-11-28

"The puzzler here is why Microsoft decided on one OS with a single interface for both desktops/laptops and its Surface handhelds. The winners in the handheld OS competition, after all, have decided on a two-OS approach."

Because there is already an very good and extremely popular mobile OS for Windows users. It's called "Android".

Reply Score: 5

RE: No puzzle
by WorknMan on Tue 2nd Jul 2013 23:47 in reply to "No puzzle"
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

Because there is already an very good and extremely popular mobile OS for Windows users. It's called "Android".


The problem with Android though is that you can't run the same apps on mobile, tablet, and desktop. For those of us that still live mostly on the desktop, this is a big deal. If you're lucky, you'll get a nice web front-end for the Android app you're using. If you're unlucky, you get a shitty web front-end. And if you're REALLY unlucky, you get nothing at all.

'But why would you want to run the same apps on phone/tablet/desktop'? Well, why the f**k not? For example, Doggcatcher... awesome podcatcher app for Android, but when I go to my desktop, I can't run it, unless I use Bluestacks or something. I don't want to be tethered to a damn tablet when I have a PC right in front of my face. And as it stands, there are no good podcatchers for Windows, or at least none that I can find. (And anyone who says 'iTunes' is getting stabbed in the eye ;) ) Same with the Android grocery app I use... would love to input a list into that app on my desktop and then have it auto sync on my phone. And I would like this functionality with most apps on my phone/tablet.

The article here insinuates that running the same app on all 3 platforms could never work because of differences in interfaces and input methods. But if we can change the UI of a phone app somewhat to make it look nice on a tablet, why can't we alter the UI of a tablet app somewhat so that it works on a desktop? For example, if it's running on a desktop, maybe it has menus and toolbars to access, and if it runs on a phone or tablet, it doesn't. But otherwise, has pretty much the same functionality. I don't think this is too far-fetched. Maybe you have three separate apps with different UI layers running the same code base, but you know what I mean. 'Wouldn't this be confusing to end users though?' No more confusing than making them have to access a f**king web app on their desktop ;)

Despite the predictions of many pundits (probably since the 80's), the desktop is not going away any time soon.

Edited 2013-07-02 23:47 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: No puzzle
by Drumhellar on Wed 3rd Jul 2013 00:26 in reply to "RE: No puzzle"
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

I've been using Windows Phone for about a year and a half now, and have purchased several apps. Probably my biggest surprise was for some of the WinPhone apps I bought, when a Metro version was released for Windows 8, they were already credited to my account, and I didn't have to re-purchase them for my laptop. I'm not sure if this happens in Apple or Google's stores, but it sure is cool.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: No puzzle
by dpJudas on Wed 3rd Jul 2013 00:29 in reply to "RE: No puzzle"
dpJudas Member since:
2009-12-10

The article here insinuates that running the same app on all 3 platforms could never work because of differences in interfaces and input methods. But if we can change the UI of a phone app somewhat to make it look nice on a tablet, why can't we alter the UI of a tablet app somewhat so that it works on a desktop? For example, if it's running on a desktop, maybe it has menus and toolbars to access, and if it runs on a phone or tablet, it doesn't. But otherwise, has pretty much the same functionality. I don't think this is too far-fetched


The thing is that the UI element sizes and locations are indirectly determined by the input method and the expected screen size. You literally have to reconsider every UI element location even when just moving from phone to tablet. The move from tablet to notebook + mouse is even greater.

The key difference between Apple iOS/OSX thinking and Windows 8 is that Microsoft makes the assumption that you can make one common UI cover all three usage scenarios. Contrast this with Apple where they have different UI toolkits for different input methods, and strongly recommends that you design two independent designs (storyboards + view controllers) for tablet and mobile, if your app is meant to run both places.

Apple could easily have used the OS X toolkit (NSWindow and friends) for iOS, but deliberately chose not to do so because while the abstract concept of i.e. scrolling is common for both input methods, the means you utilize to achieve the goal differs so greatly that trying to cover both use cases with the same control becomes increasingly pointless.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: No puzzle
by hhas on Wed 3rd Jul 2013 00:41 in reply to "RE: No puzzle"
hhas Member since:
2006-11-28

"Because there is already an very good and extremely popular mobile OS for Windows users. It's called "Android".


The problem with Android though is that you can't run the same apps on mobile, tablet, and desktop. For those of us that still live mostly on the desktop, this is a big deal.
"

Hence MS's retooling of Windows 8+ in order to offer something that neither the Win7/Android not OSX/iOS combos can. If they pull it off, it will be a major USP for them indeed.



Despite the predictions of many pundits (probably since the 80's), the desktop is not going away any time soon.


No, but it will evolve, and it will also become much more of a niche product, just one of many task-specific tools available to users to mix and match as needed. Most folks who bought Windows PCs in the past didn't do so because it was the best tool for them, but only because it was the least awful option out of a tiny undistinguished choice.

But hardware has now crossed into the post-scarcity era, breaking the back of the jack-of-all-trades PC as the one-size-fits-all answer. And as you say the next great challenge for vendors - and huge potential market win for whoever first pulls it off - is getting all these different devices to talk seamlessly to one another.

So don't count MS out: there is some method in their current madness (albeit belatedly compensating for the lack of method in their method), and they do have a record of bringing their best game when coming from the back. Given they usually start hitting their stride/scaring the competition around their V3, I'd say Win9 will be the one to watch for in determining whether they've pulled it off once again.


Apple building in from two sides, Google up from the bottom, MS out from the center. And each determined to eat the other two's lunch for breakfast. Interesting interesting times indeed. ;)

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: No puzzle
by Verenkeitin on Wed 3rd Jul 2013 09:37 in reply to "RE: No puzzle"
Verenkeitin Member since:
2007-07-01

Here's why same app on multiple platforms and form-factors is far-fetched:
Something like 70-90% of the code in your usual app is for user interface and unreusable on all other platforms. Then there is usually a good chuck platform specific code (data access etc.) that is also unreusable. That means; creating the same app for Android, iOS and Windows is three times the work of creating an app for just one platform.

One platform + customization for multiple form-factors is doable, but quickly gets complicated and time consuming. Count yourself lucky if the developer of your app had the time and skills to create one nice interface.

Qt and other "platform wrappers" could make it possible to use same interface implementation on all platforms, but I suspect Google, Microsoft and Apple all want to kill those efforts to keep same apps from appearing in competing app stores.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: No puzzle
by hhas on Wed 3rd Jul 2013 00:21 in reply to "No puzzle"
hhas Member since:
2006-11-28

To expand...

The nearest MS came to a dedicated mobile platform was with Courier, and Ballmer canceled that because he didn't understand it at the time. Had MS got in early with its own dedicated mobile OS, they might have established a commanding presence in the mobile sector as well. However, two decades of impregnable Windows supremacy made them lazy and complacent, and so were caught napping when iOS followed by Android suddenly pulled their audacious end run right around them.

Still, credit where due: at least MS did finally wake to the tsunami now bearing down on them; unlike the likes of Kodak who stayed firmly head in sand right to the bitter end. However, MS are now coming at it from way at the back of the field and need to play every advantage they have if they've even to have a hope of catching up.

iOS succeeded in mobile because it was first (the trendsetter). Android succeeded because it went everywhere (the new 'Windows 95'). The only asset MS has available is its large, established customer base in Windows. And the only things they can do with that lumpen resource is either sit and watch as it slowly erodes under them, or else attempt to use it to bootstrap their entire mobile presence. Offering two different OSes for desktop and mobile is a complete waste of time for MS: like I said, that option already exists: traditional Windows desktop and modern Android mobile - and it's that already-entrenched combination which MS now has to beat.

Offering a single unified OS that stretches across both desktop and mobile is really the only logical choice left: the goal being to persuade existing Windows users that one OS and ecosystem that looks and works exactly the same across all of their devices is a far better choice than a disjointed clutter of disparate OSes and incompatible ecosystems. In theory, it could be a fantastic Unique Selling Point for MS: something that none of the other vendors could ever hope to match.


In practice, well, it is a more risky strategy than Apple's or Google's since it requires disrupting the lazy and complacent Windows desktop and its comfortably entrenched user base, and as we've seen neither much likes dealing with change and tends to create an enormous amount of noise over even minor alteration. But that can't be helped: those folks are already buying Android devices, and as their Android use increases their Windows use will decrease and in a lot of cases eventually fizzle out altogether as Android takes on ever more tasks they once would've had to use Windows for.

It's an aspect of human nature MS will now unfortunately just have to tough out: the vast majority of people plain hate change. Once users have mastered a particular tool, they would rather continue using that tool in exactly the same way right up until the day they finally toss it away in favor of something completely new. For them, once they clear the initial learning curve that becomes's a sunk cost; everything they do thereafter is about maximizing return on that original investment. For them, it's often cheaper and easier just to work that tool to destruction and then replace it outright, rather than constantly revise and upgrade that existing tool with all the recurring periods of obsoleted skills, reduced productivity and required relearning that entails.

This is why MS are basically right not to listen to the users that want to retain their beloved Win7 experience as-is and do not want to see it subsumed by the hated Metro8. Sure, they say now that they'll love it forever, and never, ever leave. But ten or fifteen years from now, when their other, ever more vigorous-looking amour, Android, has expanded onto every single device around them (including mainstream 2025 'desktops', i.e. PCs-on-sticks plugged into keyboards and monitors with huge honking network servers to back them up), and meanwhile that homely Win7-esque box is looking ever more aged and flabby with liver spots and crows feet now showing, what do you think's really going to happen? Those beraters claim MS is betraying their undying loyalty and love for no reason at all, but truth is MS is just getting the boot in first. ;p


So, MS are effectively burning their existing product platform in order to fuel their bootstrapping of their new one. Simple on paper, and if they do pull it off then eventually all the pain and stroppery will be forgiven and forgotten, and MS will once more rule supreme and unchallenged over all others. Though as Kodak (inventor of the digital camera), Adam Osborne (inventor of the Osborne Effect), Stephen Elop ("Osborne What?"), and many, many others have proven across the years, there's no end of original and exciting ways in which to balls up. So we shall see.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: No puzzle
by bassbeast on Thu 4th Jul 2013 16:33 in reply to "RE: No puzzle"
bassbeast Member since:
2007-11-11

Windows desktops/laptops sell around 300 MILLION units a year, any idiot that burns a 300 million unit a year business to the ground to get a CHANCE, and a slim chance at that, to force their way into a market where there are already two major entrenched players? i'm sorry but they are morons and deserve to fail.

And there was NO REASON to burn the desktop users, the antitrust is over so they could have integrated plenty of features to make a WinPhone + Windows desktop more appealing than a Windows desktop and Android but at the end of the day its NOT about mobile as you think friend., just watch any of the recent Ballmer talks and you'll see what the REAL goal is....appstores.

At the end of the day the fact that you can download a program from the web and install it without giving the sweaty one a 30% slice of the pie really burns Ballmer up and like so many badly run US companies he cares more about the stock price than he does his customers which is an attitude that just begs for failure. See the whole "just deal with it" Xbone debacle, windows 8 becoming the new windows ME, burning what few loyal customers they had of WinPhone 7 by not making winPhone 8 backwards compatible (and thus insuring NOBODY is gonna want a WinPhone, since most iOS devices are good for at least 2 upgrades and depending on the device Android can go even farther) and finally the billions they flushed buying devices like Zune and soon to flush another couple billion for Nook, it ALL in the end comes down to Ballmer's obsession with appstores.

I have a feeling in less than 10 years we are gonna talk about "The Ballmer Effect" where a successful company destroys itself because of a CEO's single minded obsession, because with MSFT we are seeing them burn all their bridges while they are still standing on them.

Reply Parent Score: 2