Windows vs. Mac: Desktop Battle Lines Drawn - InformationWeek

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1/27/2014
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
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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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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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1/28/2014 | 10:16:34 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
Excellent point, @melgross.  Of course, back then we didn't have nearly the proliferation of tech "news" sites that we do now, with all sorts of rumormongering and speculation about the latest self-driving flying laser-shooting car that Google is working on.  No wonder fanbois are all like, WHERE'S THE INNOVATION, APPLE???  The tech world is creating unrealistic expectations while spoiling us.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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1/28/2014 | 5:31:39 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
>Can MS deliver the genius bar experience?

Yes, but it will be called the average bar. ;-)
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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1/28/2014 | 1:25:49 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
And Apple provides different customer service than anyone out there, in my experience. Can MS deliver the genius bar experience? Can Google, some day? It is now the standard for consumer devices and BYOD devices in my mind.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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1/27/2014 | 4:44:41 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
That's fair. I'm not sure I'd call Apple products uniformly overpriced, and I think there's definite value in their designs that somewhat justifies the price premium-- but I sure wouldn't mind if they were cheaper. And though it doesn't match my personal experiences, I've heard from others for whom the "It just works" mantra has fallen deal-breakingly short.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/27/2014 | 4:35:04 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
Yes, Apple is very good at addressing customer needs, both present and future. 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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1/27/2014 | 4:29:54 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
OS X and iOS won't converge in the near future. Doing so would alienate OS X developers, who would find themselves unable to create apps, as they can now, without Apple approval. That's in addition to the differeing priorities of mobile (battery life) and desktop computing (processing power).
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
1/27/2014 | 4:26:42 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
I understand this point of view, but only to a degree. Apple didn't literally invent tablet computers, per se, but I bet most people think otherwise. I understand why that might irk some people.

But even if Microsoft or someone at Xerox PARC or whoever invents a concept, doesn't Apple deserve some credit for figuring out how to turn the concept into a disruptive force? "Invent" and "innovate" aren't the same (though Apple, like Microsoft, invents lots of stuff). Moreover, if all Apple did was "tweak" someone else's idea, why haven't more companies figured out how to copy Apple's model? Marketing is admittedly a part of Apple's success, but so are the products themselves. I find it difficult to deny Apple its reputation as an innovative company.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/27/2014 | 3:49:20 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
I'm curious about what an Apple hybrid device UI would look like. Apple would merge the two platforms more seamlessly than Frankenstein Windows 8. But I don't see the motivation for doing it at all. There's no customer demand. And say what you want about Apple -- but the customer comes first. Windows 8 had little to do with customer needs, but was an effort -- and a clumsy one -- to solve a bunch of Microsoft's own problems at once (revive dying PC market, get into tablets). Microsoft rolled the dice and hoped we would go along with it.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/27/2014 | 2:21:01 PM
Re: The question of why
Another thing I picked up on is the concept of getting your stake in the ground in light of agreeing to not copy UI functionality. One could think of Win8 as the equivalent of a kid taking small bites out of all the chocolates in the box so the grownups won't eat them. Get the tiles concept, and whatever else you can jam in, out there. Now MS owns it and can refine (eat the candy) at leisure.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
1/27/2014 | 2:03:46 PM
Re: Apple lucked out
I suppose it would be more correct to say there's no evidence to support that Apple intended to bring any convergence device to market. That much is speculation. But there's certainly evidence to support that Apple investigated convergence, perhaps just to conclude that it was a bad idea, or perhaps to make things a bit more difficult for competitors. Certainly, companies patent things all the time that they never intend to bring to market.

EDIT: Sorry, melgross, just saw your other reply, in which you raised many of these points already.
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