Software // Operating Systems
11:26 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Windows vs. Mac: Desktop Battle Lines Drawn

Reports and executives' hints frame potential Mac vs. PC debates of the future.

Apple Mac Pro: 9 Ways It Wows
Apple Mac Pro: 9 Ways It Wows
(Click image for larger view.)

Paul Thurrott said Jan. 21, in ostensible affirmation of the screenshots, that his sources claim Update 1 will make the Modern UI easier to use on PCs. He said Modern apps viewed from the desktop will include a "close box," like the one in legacy applications, that can be clicked to completely close the app.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley subsequently reported that Update 1's target release date is March 11, just weeks ahead of Microsoft's BUILD conference in San Francisco. Foley's sources indicated Update 1, previously rumored to include code to further unify Windows platforms, would reduce Windows 8.1's memory and disk-space requirements. She said this would enable the OS to run on cheaper and smaller tablets.

WZor was back Friday with more screenshots, these depicting mouse-friendly functions on the touch-oriented Live Tile Start screen. Currently, to modify a Tile a user must usually select the Tile and then navigate to controls at the bottom of the screen. Based on the new images, an updated Windows 8.1 could allow mouse-oriented users to skip this step: Instead of activating a Live Tile and moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen, a user could right-click the Tile to immediately access controls. The screenshots also show new Power and Search controls in the top-right of the screen.

A screenshot from an alleged Windows 8.1 update shows a more mouse-friendly Start screen.  (Source: WZor.Net)
A screenshot from an alleged Windows 8.1 update shows a more mouse-friendly Start screen.
(Source: WZor.Net)

What does this mean for users?

As Schiller opined, users want to translate data and services across devices -- and both Microsoft and Apple seem to understand this. Apple syncs iTunes and iCloud accounts throughout its device ecosystem and is now expanding iLife through the cloud. Microsoft offers a range of device-spanning services such as SkyDrive and Office 365.

Assuming Microsoft's next CEO doesn't shift course, rumors indicate the company still believes in convergence, even on desktops, but to a much less authoritarian extent. The company knows not only that users want to use the same services on both their PCs and tablets, but also that many users want to interact with their computers one way, and their tablets another. 

That said, Microsoft hasn't given up on convergence -- and perhaps it shouldn't, as it's clearly a demonstrated -- if niche -- market. Hybrid devices can be useful in certain scenarios -- but they're not ready to be the cornerstone of an OS strategy.

Apple, meanwhile, has a history of releasing products that defy its leaders' statements. Steve Jobs famously blasted small tablets, but the iPad Mini has since become one the Apple's most important products. It won't be surprising if, as supply chain rumors continually claim, Apple eventually releases a larger iPad Pro to complement the recently rebranded iPad Air. If Samsung's 12.2-inch models, announced this month at CES, gain any traction, Apple might even be forced to do so.

If such a device were to appear, rest assured: A lot of people would want to use it with keyboards at least some of the time. So while I believe Apple is more ardent than Microsoft about PC-tablet separation, I won't be surprised if Apple releases a productivity-oriented iPad. Tablets and computers still demand different interaction models, but convergence has benefits. Some measure of hybridity will make sense for Apple, just as it will for Microsoft. The hazier questions are how much and how soon.

While Apple is only dropping hints about future products and Microsoft is staying completely mum, Microsoft recently released a series of guides for Windows 8.1 business users. Those tips can help people waiting for Windows 9's alleged updates get the most out of Windows now.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He graduated from Stanford in 2005 and previously worked in talent representation, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher.

Incidents of mobile malware are way up, researchers say, and 78% of respondents worry about lost or stolen devices. But though many teams are taking mobile security more seriously, 42% still skip scanning completely, and just 39% have MDM systems in place. Find out more in the State Of Mobile Security report (free registration required).

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User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2014 | 1:48:43 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
Don't think so. There's no evidence that Apple ever intended to go that route at all. It's just speculation on your part that they may have. What I think has been happening is in my other post.
User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2014 | 1:46:54 PM
The question of why
We need to remember that Apple and Microsoft are coming at this from different directions not because of some major difference in thinking, but rather because of practical considerations. Let's look at the two companies. Apple has a small but growing Mac business. They redefined smartphones, and came up with the first usable tablet. As a result, they have very well selling products in the mobile space. At the same time, they don't cater to enterprise use of Macs. Nevertheless, Macs are now growing rapidly in business. Part of that is due to the iPhone becoming so popular in business, and government, as well as the iPad. This allows Apple to do what it wants to do, slowly. It has the sales now. Whatever convergence they will end up with can be evolved over years, and has been. Microsoft, on the other hand, is the business and government computing environment. It has the vast percentage of sales there, and consumer sales of Windows is a direct result if people buying, over the years, what they used at work. But, in mobile, Microsoft has been shut out. The iPhone changed smartphones foever, and made them into the major area of growth for the industry, rather than a small 10% share of cellphone sales to business and government. This killed Win mobile, along with the other major competitors. Microsoft has not made it back from that. In addition, Microsoft had no presence in the tablet market. These two problems were a conundrum for Microsoft. Win Phone 7 was a stopgap measure using the old, discredited CE for a base, and went nowhere. But it was the first attempt for Microsoft to get back in the mobile race, which they, belatedly, saw as being much more important than they did at first, when Ballmer dissed the original iPhone. But the ipad already came out, and, of course, as to be expected, Gates dissed that as well. But as PC sales began to tremble, and then fall from increased sales of tablets, Microsoft was caught short. How to get people to buy a Microsoft phone and tablet became a major concern. As Win Phone was doing poorly, Microsoft had a dilemma. If people weren't buying the Metro devices, how could they get them to? Well, the answer, as we see, was to force it upon people with Win 8. In the last, it didn't really matter what Microsoft did. Even with vista, Microsoft knew that an updated version (especially after the Great Recession, which also held sales back) would mKe up for the lost vista sales. This was nothing new, and was expected, and it was exactly what was happening. But Microsoft could finally see that in the long run, that may no longer work with BYOD happening, not only for phones, but for tablets, and even computers. So they figured that with Metro, now the Modern UI, people would be forced to use this new mobile UI, and would like it, or at least, get used to it, so that it would influence their mobile purchasing. They even announced that the desktop would eventually go away!a nd that the Modern UI would bet he future of Windows. But why do it this way; bolting a second OS onto their primary one in a way that was so clumsy? It's pretty simple, really. Time! It takes years for a company to come up with an entirely reworked OS. Microsoft had no time. They needed to do it quickly, or get burned. So we had Win Phone 7. Really Win mobile with a UI taken from the doomed Zune HD. Why they would think that would be popular can be talked about for years. I think that one reason was that Apple and Microsoft have a major cross licensing deal in place that prevents Microsoft from copying anything Apple does in UI or usability concepts. So they had nowhere to go quickly, and so looked at the Zune HD, and decided that would be a good base on which to build. But that was designed for a small handheld device, not a tablet, and most assuredly, not a desktop, with its large screen and keyboard/mouse. But it was what they had, and could get out quickly, As so often happens, they were too close to the development, and no doubt became excited by it, not seeing the flaws that others saw after release. So we have from them what we see. An OS that simply isn't suited to the desktop (Modern UI), combined with an OS that simply isn't suited to a tablet (Win 7). RT had apparently failed, so nowhere to go there. Now, Microsoft is finding itself backing off on the Modern UI for the desktop, and just how far is anyone's guess. Where are they going to go with tablets is also anyone's guess, as even the Pro isn't selling all that well. I see estimates of total Windows tablet sales that seem well above actual sales. I only know one person who has bought one, a Pro, which he is now ridding himself of, as his employer, IBM has given him an iPad Air, which I suppose says volumes about where Windows tablets are going. So Microsoft has found themselves between the old rock and a hard place, with nowhere to go. If they can't slip out, they will be ground to dust. It will take time, but it will happen, and devices isn't going to save them.
Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
1/27/2014 | 1:44:52 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
There's some evidence to support your theory, Lorna. Apple has patents related to touchscreen MacBooks, tablets that convert into laptops and even an iMac, and a solar-powered iPad-attachable keyboard, among other things. Some of these patents pre-date Windows 8 by quite some time. That said, Apple is interesting and hard-to-predict when it comes to pushing new technologies. Sometimes, Apple kills a popular idea before the market has shown it's ready. Flash, floppy disks, etc. It also pushes forward-thinking ideas that are important to niches but not mainstream users-- firewire, thunderbolt, and so on. But in other cases, Apple sits on technologies until it feels they're mature enough to bring to market. Based on recent hires, Apple is clearly working on wearable devices, for example, but it seems unconcerned that its iWatch (or whatever) beat any other products to market.
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/27/2014 | 1:36:33 PM
Apple lucked out
What's the over/under on Apple having gone down the iOs/OSX convergence path prior to release of Win8, then sticking a fork in the projects after the reception Microsoft got in the market?

Just think about the benefits Apple got by letting MS take the lead into uncharted territory for once. You can't pay for that kind of market research.

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