Government // Enterprise Architecture
Commentary
10/16/2012
09:04 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary
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Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely

Microsoft's new operating system looks how a modern OS should--big, bold, and centered around apps. Suddenly, it's Apple's turn to catch up.

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
It's an irony Karl Marx would have loved. In getting users hooked on apps, Apple may have become its own gravedigger--at least for the Mac--while opening a door for Microsoft.

The popularity of the iPhone, and now the iPad, has changed consumers' notions about how computing devices should look and feel. The browser-based PC experience is giving way to the snappy, appy world of smartphones, tablets, and other new devices.

It started with the iPhone. Users embraced the idea of built-for-purpose apps that, while doing only one or two things, did them well. They also liked the fact that apps, when well designed, are free of the generic chrome and clutter on traditional PC applications. A slick and simple design code makes apps ideal for touch. Users don't have to worry about being all thumbs because in most cases there aren't many buttons to press.

No surprise then that iPhone-style apps soon showed up on other platforms--most notably phones powered by Google's Android. It was no coincidence, as a federal jury recently found in the Apple vs. Samsung patent case. Now, the world beyond phones and tablets is getting appified as industrial designers and interface experts from other fields embrace the concept.

[ Windows 8 raises a lot of questions. Read Is Windows 8 Too Risky For IT? ]

Roku, which makes a little box that transforms a standard television into a smartTV, uses the app metaphor to serve up on-demand programming and services from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and others. And the display screens used by news networks like CNN and Fox are starting to look pretty appy. (Most of those displays are built by Microsoft's recently acquired Perceptive Pixel unit).

The app influence is even making its way to the browser. eBay's redesigned home page, with its big, blocky images, looks suspiciously app-like--an indication that retailers seeking a unified brand image across multiple devices will start with their apps and work backwards. Their Web presences are becoming adaptations of their apps, not vice versa.

Which brings us back to Apple and Microsoft. Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion are the newest PC operating systems from Redmond and Cupertino, respectively. But it's Microsoft's that represents a bold leap into the app world. Microsoft has drawn lots of fire recently for being late to almost every significant tech development of the past decade, including mobile, music, and search.

Windows 8 GUI
Right touch: Windows 8's tactile GUI meets evolving expectations for computing interfaces.

But when it comes to embracing what appears to be the latest trend, apps, it's suddenly ahead.

Microsoft has done significant work to make the overall Windows 8 environment distinctive. The Modern UI (formerly known as Metro) has a consistent look and feel that starts with the Live Tiles interface, runs through its own and third-party apps, and extends into cloud services, such as Microsoft Music, that are available on Xbox Live.

Windows 8 apps are true apps, as I would define the term: Full-screen, specialized purpose, touchable, and always connected. And they can run on PCs or tablets, and have close cousins that will run on Windows Phone 8, which also uses Modern UI. For functions not suitable for touch, Windows 8 can be used with traditional input tools. And the classic Explorer desktop can be accessed on Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise with a single click.

OSX Mountain Lion? Despite some new fit and finish, it remains a traditional PC operating system that is a bridge too far from Apple's iOS-based mobile products. It sticks with old-style applications (window-based, general purpose, manipulated through mouse and keyboard) and the browser as the gateway to information and services.

OS Lion
Mouse that bored: OS X Mountain Lion is slick, but point-and-click is getting long in the tooth.

It does support the Mac's Multi-Touch trackpad, but still requires a lot of pointing and clicking to get around. And, given the rather astounding fact that as of this writing there is no such thing as a touchable Mac, it does not offer a tactile interface. Thus, even apps available from the Mac App Store must be written to conform to a GUI style that is increasingly being seen as old school.

So in terms of being a modern computer operating system, Windows 8 leaves OS X Mountain Lion in the dust. And that has a couple of important implications. It may be enough to stop advances that Apple has been making in the desktop market off the back of the iPhone and the iPad.

The other is that it may be a threat to the iPhone and iPad themselves. Users who prefer app-centric computing, and that may already be the majority, now have an ecosystem that offers a consistent experience across all devices, whether phone, tablet, PCs, or even a TV or gaming console. That's the new Microsoft ecosystem, and its foundation is Windows 8. Suddenly, it's Apple's turn to catch up.

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TMagrini850
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TMagrini850,
User Rank: Strategist
10/20/2012 | 4:42:23 PM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
Having used the beta of Windows 8, I can "appsolutely" state that it is the most horrid version of Windows to come out yet. Microsoft is the last company in the world (besides RIM) to pattern a operating system around mobility. The garishly colored tiles can thankfully be turned off to reveal... drumroll... a standard Windows 7-ish desktop interface sorely lacking in the features provided in the latest version of Mac OS X. Nice try Microsoft... back to the drawing board.
delliott75002
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delliott75002,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/20/2012 | 3:44:10 PM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
The real issue here is the "bet the house" approach that MS has offered up in the Metro, ACK! I mean Win 8 or, WTF as it may as well be called.

Having seen the toileting effect of "we have the greatest marketshare, and we can't lose" that RIM has borne out, MS needs a hail mary pass to offset the end game from coming to Redmond.

That being said, the presumption that they can make a product that doesn't suck, is a bit of a reach, and that the early adopters will, as MS always demands, become the beta testers for the actual product.

If users are to evolve from the iteration of mouse/keyboard as originally conceived in the Xerox PARC world we now live in, it will take on new forms, to be sure.

And since the Icon scrolling touch interface has made Apple rich, and Samsung the loser in it's cloning of that interface, MS is right at taking a new tack.

I know it will sell, but will it change the world? Probably not. It's too late, the concept of making a new eating utensil to usurp the ubiquity of knife, fork, spoon is pretty much inconceivable. That is the same issue that MS faces.

Is what they have so much further ahead, easier to use, and immediately adoptable that all others will bend to them?

Doubt it.

ben1628
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ben1628,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 10:48:04 PM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
I have been using windows 8 for over 2 months now, so I can speak from a real world experience. I have a 4 years old desktop computer with 3 screens; a tablet with a 256 G SSD, a 2 year old laptop all running windows 8 (mind you, I do have a IPhone 4s).

To be honest, it does take a day to get used to the new UI. However, once you are accustomed to it, you will find it starts up faster, and there is only one UI to learn. I use mouse and keyboard on my desktop and laptop, touch on my tablet and everything is in sync. The OS is solid and the old apps seems to run faster. The office 2003 preview are very nice in all the devices.

I think we may have a winner here.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 1:56:31 PM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
Really? How about all those XP users who are still chugging merrily along?
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2012 | 5:50:27 AM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
Yes, it will, but not for technological or UX reasons, but solely only because the vast majority of users who are stuck in the Microsoft ecosystem will have no choice.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2012 | 5:48:56 AM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
Apps for what? Most of the apps already exist for W7 and many do a better job on W7. So what's the point of W8? The Win8 commercials are dead on, Windows 8 is like a rocket that got stuck at 8 seconds before lift off. And if it ever would get off the ground it would tip over and blow up in a fire ball.
RitchieSmith
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RitchieSmith,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2012 | 7:14:47 PM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
Win8 looks like the Partridge Family's bus.
Aden11
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Aden11,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2012 | 3:39:54 PM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
Austin, you are absolutely right. I am following Paul on IW for some time now. I always enjoy reading his analysis.

Paul: Though I do not agree with this article but I think you raise some interesting points. I also think this article is premature. Win 8 is not out yet. We have to wait and see how it behaves when ordinary people start using it.

I use WIN 7 at work and Mac at home. And honestly, whenever I need to write a detail report/analysis I always prefer to use Mac. I find multi-tasking on Mac is much much better than Win 7. But again it depends how you use your PC and also your personal taste.

TheBurningBush
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TheBurningBush,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2012 | 11:13:19 AM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
I'm sorry I got a new 23' monitor. If I had realized apps ran full screen I would have gone for a 32'.
Full screen just seems like a big waste of space that could be cluttered up with useful windows, incons, notes, pictures etc. Some people like a clean neat desktop and some like me need clutter to think clearly and function quickly. That not Metro (Not-tro?)screens black space bothers me. How about a picture of my daughter in the corner, a pic of the dog, icons for the documents I'm working on in the lower area, and another pic of my kids that show out from whatever I'm working on?
I don't like cutesie colors and images from a child's book filling up my screen. Cluttered is organized in a fuzzy logic way.
I'm not saying I'm right, but this is what I like.
TheBurningBush
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TheBurningBush,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2012 | 11:02:58 AM
re: Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely
All you have to do to find search in Windows 8 is read a snappy quip in a semi-obscure online source. It's just that easy!!
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