back to article Microsoft delivers 'copy Apple' Windows 8 message

With Windows 8, Microsoft is joining Apple and Linux-shop Canonical in trying to make its signature operating system mouse-free and more touchable for use on devices like tablets. The approach Microsoft is taking, however, has more in common with Apple than Canonical – chief custodian of the popular Ubuntu – as Windows chief …

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Holmes

Tablets != desktops...

Microsoft have tried running the Windows interface on tablets and IT DID NOT WORK. Not even with a pen interface to allow pixel accuracy mouse pointer resolution.

Apple proved that tablets are more smartphone like than desktop like and built a dedicated iOS to run it. Apple are also proving, with Lion, that desktops are not tablets -- some of their changes are completely maddening when tablet techniques are implemented on a desktop (e.g. Launch Control, Mission Control, intrusive animated page scrolling, daft full-screen operation, cheesy application changes in Mail and iCal...).

You need two interfaces. One interface for tablet mode when you've fat fingers, no keyboard and portrait layout. You need another interface for the desktop when you have fixed widescreen layout, mouse, no touch capabilities, a decent keyboard and possibly multiple monitors.

Microsoft are stating the bleeding obvious; APPLICATIONS BUILT FOR ONE PLATFORM WON'T WORK ON THE OTHER. Or at the very least they'll be very sub-optimal as user interfaces and even to the level operating system support with CPU capacity as battery life matters when in tablet mode.

Therefore just cut the cord: Windows applications simply don't exist in the tablet space, so it's a clean slate for them to start with.

Tablets represent a long-term structural change in the personal computing space. Microsoft, with their excellent development environment (there's simply no comparing iOS' Objective C with Microsoft's Dot Net) are in a very strong position if they can only get their act together.

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Metro Slates

They could just port Windows Phone to tablets. Yes, there'd be resolution issues and the like, but that's no more fragmentation than you have with Gingerbread/Honeycomb or iPhone/iPad apps.

Metro is a good UI. In fact, it would almost work better on a tablet than it does on a smartphone. They could just rebrand Windows Phone on phones and tablets 'Windows Touch' with two parallel versions (one for phones and one for tablets) with the pointer-centric desktop Windows separate.

The concern Microsoft seem to have with this 'one ecosystem' business seems to be ease of development and concerns over fragmentation. But 'one ecosystem' is obviously different from 'one platform.' They don't need everything to have a touch-based mode. They just need some sort of common development platform. Windows Phone is already pretty easy for Windows devs to write for. I hear the Windows Phone SDK integrates pretty well with Visual Studio.

On the current Windows 8 'side-by-side' mode, touch-optimised Windows 8 apps run alongside traditional pointer-based programs like Office. But whilst this presents some illusion of consistency to the end-user, the way you write touch-based apps is still different from native apps (I think touch-based Windows 8 apps use largely web technologies), so you're no better off than if you had just chucked a Windows Phone emulation layer on top of existing Windows.

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I just don't understand

why people have a problem with Windows 7 on tablets. I've had a Hanvon TouchPad with Windows 7 for over a year now and I've never had a problem using it. The onscreen keyboard is quick and responsive, and I make no more typos on it than on a normal keyboard. The menu interface also works without a hitch - I've never experienced the "you need to be pixel-precise" issue people keep chuntering on about. And the beauty of it is I can install the XAMPP webserver stack on it for demoing websites to clients, Photoshop and Cinema4D for design work, OpenOffice for docs and spreadsheets, and Eclipse for coding. I can use all my favourite programs on the tablet, which you can't do with Android or iOS, and I have no problems using any of them.

The only downside is the battery life - 3-4 hours under normal use. The thing does run an Intel Celeron Mobile so I can understand that its power consumption is fairly greedy. I solved this problem by buying a car cigarette lighter adapter for it, so when I take it with me on the road I just run it off the car's power, and in day-to-day use if I'm out of the office I'm rarely away from the car for more than a couple of hours anyway. Nevertheless, I'd like to see an improvement in this area - a 6-8 hour battery run would be perfect.

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Windows

Not sure about that old chap.

"When it comes to Windows 8, Microsoft is therefore following Apple's example by straddling camps. Steve Jobs' Lion version of OS X this year brings little touches of iOS to the Mac in the way it scrolls through screens and the way apps are fired up from icons."

"Following Apple's example". Now there was me having the impression that Apple was rejecting the entire idea of porting OSX to tablet space whilst Microsoft was making an issue of porting Windows to tablet space. You can perhaps explain where I have misunderstood (which is of course entirely possible) what is going on. I.E. In what sense in this context is MS following Apple's example? I thought that they were doing the exact opposite - silly me.

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Compare desktop OS, not tablet OS

The author's point is that Win 8 is allowing tablet UI to influence desktop UI, just as iPad UI has influenced Lion's UI.

Calling it "copying" is a bit of a stretch, but it does mean that strategy and implementation are kinda sorta heading in the same direction for the big desktop OSes, I guess.

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Happy

@famousringo I see your point.

I would however say that the two strategies have a certain degree of "clear water" between them and the author should have taken those nuances into account. -:)

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I think

What happened was that MS took Windows and the desktop interface to tablets, where one used a pen to replace what one does with a mouse. Apple, OTOH, saw that this didn't work and ported OS X to the phone/tablet but created a new interface, literally digital. And while Lion has some iOS aspects to its interface, it's largely been kept the same, because the desktop is the desktop and it's not the same as a tablet/smartphone.

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Where you have misunderstood:

While Apple has not ported the OSX UI to their tablets, iOS is in fact based on the same kernel and base APIs as OSX (with changes relevant to the different hardware and use cases). It's not a completely different operating system, but a tweaked operating system with a new UI.

Microsoft is doing the same thing with Windows 8: retaining the same base kernel and API, but changing up the UI elements. This is in contrast with their previous tablet efforts which were just sticking a few pen/touch aware apps on top of vanilla Windows and emulating mouse actions for non-touch-aware apps.

So in short, Apple's strategy was to tune the underlying OS to the hardware with minor tweaks and the UI to the use case with a major overhaul, which is what Microsoft appears to be doing with Windows 8.

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FAIL

If I wanted an OS that was like Apple's...

If I wanted an OS that was like Apple's, I would buy a mac instead of using a windows machine.

There is nothing wrong with having 2 distinct paradigms for interacting with the same operating system as long as both of them are (pardon the superlative) fully complete.

I think with this change, someone is likely to produce a clean functional file manager for Windows 8 shortly after its release.

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Coat

History repeating

"If I wanted an OS that was like Apple's, I would buy a mac instead of using a windows machine."

Huh, I remember people saying this almost verbatim with Windows 95 came out.

MIne's the one with the 78 of "Everything old is new again" in the pocket

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This is not a title

"there is actually nothing to suggest that the tablet phenomenon has paid off for anybody other than Apple"

'Cause the largest maker of operating systems (i.e. Microsoft) has failed to produce an OS/GUI that works on tablets.

Apple have such a huge lead becasue they were first with a product that works. Everyone else has tried to copy Apple so far, and failed (for whatever reason)

If in the previous years/decades, MS *had* managed to make an OS/GUI that worked well on tablets, the market wouldn't be dominated by Apple.

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Apple has a lead because they were first with a product that people would pay for

Before the iPad was released, the $300 netbook was the phenomenon that everyone was talking about. A $500 device couldn't compete, and you'd need at least that much hardware to achieve a tablet style device.

People seem to forget that the initial price point for the iPad was almost as amazing as the device itself - an initial price of $1000 wouldn't have surprised anyone. But because the iTunes store provides an ancillary revenue source (that no other tablet maker can count on), Apple could afford to do something they don't usually do - set a rock bottom price that would be literally impossible for anyone else to make any money competing against it.

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@AI Jones

Rock bottom price helped along by content sales by iTunes? I don't think so. Apple is primarily a hardware company, when have they ever sold hardware for anything other than a healthy profit? It's easy enough to import music bought somewhere other than from Apple into iTunes, and apps like Spotify let you play music without even having to buy it. Likewise any music bought for your iPod / iPhone / Mac can be transferred to the iPad, so no new sales there. Apple simply cannot bank on making money from iTunes on the iPad.

What has made the iPad sell like hotcakes is that it's genuinely useable, unlike Windows tablets that came before it. Android has followed suit with a decent user experience. I don't have a huge amount of faith in MS getting back into the game in any meaningful way, and my experience with Unity has been anything but satisfying. Now if only HP hadn't abandoned WebOS; I'd love to see a third strong competitor in the game.

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Wrong.

Tim Cook is credited for overhauling Apple's manufacturing, distribution, and operations systems which lead directly to economies of very large scale. This was in turn leveraged very successfully to acquire the parts of the initial iPad product with such a way as to allow Apple to sell the device at a substantially lower price than anybody else could afford.

Steve Jobs is further on record as saying that the price for the iPad was set "very aggressively." This has been understood to mean that they are getting lower than usual margins on it, as compared to their other products. Still, the margins are recognized to be rather high, especially when compared to the rest of the industry.

So, to be accurate, your statement should have said, "Apple could afford to do something they have been doing for a while that nobody else could do: use their financial and channel might to secure parts in exclusive deals of very large bulk at extremely low prices that, would allow them to set a rock bottom price of relatively high margin, that would be literally impossible for anyone else to make any money competing against it."

-dZ.

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@A Non e-mouse

In Spanish, we have a saying that translates roughly to the English equivalent of, "if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bicycle."

The idea is that wishful thinking of how things *could have been* does not change the nature of things *as they are*.

Apple do not have a "huge lead" because Microsoft failed. Apple gained that very lead by their own merits, through their own devices. It could just as well have been that Microsoft succeeded and Apple still overcame them 10 years later with their own version of a tablet.

I could just as easily say that the reason Wal-Mart is such a giant business right now is because Apple opted for building computers rather than enter the cheap trinket retail business back in the early 1980s; or that the reason Henry Ford is credited with revolutionizing the automotive industry is merely because Steve Jobs wasn't born at the turn of the 19th Century.

See how little sense such an argument makes?

-dZ.

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Facepalm

Oh will someone at Apple/MS please ring up Xerox and ask them about basic UI design

it's not even as if a version of Metro cuts it for tablets as tablets aren't just a bigger phone screen, that extra space can be used in so many better ways. It's on tablets where the ribbon (or a version thereof) might be OK but on desktops it's been proven to make users lose hours of productivity.

If MS make Windows 8 desktop use Metro then it'll be even worse than the ribbon and I might as well drag the Amiga 600 out the cupboard as I'd be more productive with it, including the time it takes to convert files.

It's not too late to fix, they need three UIs; Metro for phones, a metro/ribbon-based tablet UI and a Aero for desktops where users are given the choice of using the ribbon for Office if they've somehow got used to that abomination.

"Copy Apple" doesn't cut it as they've lost the plot recently too (see Lion).

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Holmes

Draggin the pixel-wide frame of the title now...

"These tools are quite often the most ergonomic, fast, and powerful ways of getting many things done."

Damn right, mister. I didn't develop the ability to drag a single pixel-wide frame of window around for nothing, and after this many years I won't be getting my monitor full of fingerprints, after I had so much trouble cleaning it without alcohol or detergent, using only a piece of smooth cloth.

Tablets are the place for fatty fingers, and entertainment tasks, and large icons, and media players, while desktops are the place for accurate-to-the-pixel-control. He is damn right to keep both UIs, and keep them apart.

See icon.

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Holmes

Brilliant

I've been shopping for a smartphone this week, and have seen plenty of WP7 handsets out there. Yet WP7 has a very, very small piece of the smartphone market. I think the reason is that WP7 doesn't look like the other smartphone OS's. To me it looks like a kids "my first smartphone", something you would buy at Toys-R-Us and made by Fischer-Price. But by putting Metro in Win8, people will get used to it and build up a certain comfort level. WP7 and Windows tablet sales will jump up. And it won't "hurt" Win8 sales, since the market has shown that they will buy Windows Whatever.

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Well

The market has shown that they will EVENTUALLY buy Windows Whatever. For all the work that MS puts into each version of Windows, it takes a long time for people to adopt it. Granted, a lot of that is because they own the business desktop and people change those over slowly, but still, a lot of people spent a long time not upgrading to 7. Just as they spent a lot of time not moving to Vista and not moving to XP.

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Strange logic

If WP7 looks like My First Smartphone, then won't the same UI on a tablet look like My First Tablet and have the punters avoid it?

Microsoft have tried, and failed, with at least 4 thrusts into the tablet market, partly because they tried to push the desktop UI onto a tablet architecture.

Another part of the failure was demanding high licensing costs and resource usage for the software. This forced the tablets to be expensive and heavy.

Since their last attempt, Windows resource requirements have increased further. Tablet makers have other options available (eg. Android). What would motivate anyone to buy a Windows tablet over an Android tablet?

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Stop

There's more to that...

I don't think its so much the WP interface (which does indeed appear odd if you're not accustomed with it) but more the product itself which has moved or scared people away.

Don't forget that MS has pulled a very daring move by not only changing the ways of their OS; also the software it could use. Better put: if you had Windows CE and have purchased software for it then you can throw it all away after upgrading to a WP 7 device. Simply because the new mobile couldn't cope any longer.

By then its already too late IMO. Some will cough up and use the new OS no matter what, but I think a majority will start looking around (most mobile software vendors tend to support more platforms anyway these days). And I think its going to be tough for WP if people also get to check out an Android phone (and discover that this platform is /also/ supported by their software vendor).

And that's not even talking about the small(er?) amount of people who have been warned about this caveat and therefor are a little hesitant up front in buying a WP phone...

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Old Work

Microsoft has been working on this stuff at least as long as Apple. MS Surface, developed by Dave Kurlander, was one of the very first multi-touch user interfaces. You can blame MS for not deploying this work and taking more risks, but it's naive to just say they stole the ideas from Apple. Gavin hates Microsoft, we all get that, really hilarious. But it would be nice to get some objective reporting now and then.,

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

Re: Old Work

Gavin does not hate Microsoft.

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@Don Mitchell

MS Surface was one of the first multi-touch user interfaces? Riiiight. If you believe that you're a proper sucker for marketing. The first camera based multi-touch was invented 25 years before MS developed Surface.

I remember being quite annoyed hearing SJ announce in the first iPhone keynote that Apple had patented their multi-touch implementation. Jeff Han had been demonstrating a far more advanced interface at least a year before the iPhone was demoed. Prior art anyone?

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WTF?

"the most ergonomic, fast, and powerful ways"

Um, since when has Microsoft ever been concerned with *those* criteria?

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Coat

Why don't they just graft Gnome 3 onto Windows

Then they could call it Metro-Gnome...

And market it to musicians.

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Well, they can't...

They can't 'cause they haven't got a Gnome to go to.

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Facepalm

Touch screens? unlikely to appear in businesses

Can you imagine how tired staffs arms would be having to reach out to touch a screen that for H&S reasons is already at arms length?

I suspect the mouse and keyboard will be around for a long time yet.

What works for spotty oiks at home doesn't work in an office.

Having had trouble with smartphones with my big fingers im not rushing out to get a touchyscreeny just yet

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Joke

but but...

That's how they do it in Star Trek so it must be usable at work somehow!

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Just to be sure

Is everyone copying Apple or is everyone saying that everyone is copying Apple even when it's pretty clear that they aren't? I was expecting to read something about a ribbon dock slapped on the desktop and was looking forward to a barrage of pithy "it's called a taskbar" comments.

I'm beginning to think that the phrase "copying Apple" is the new "H3N1 ammonia flu pandemic" type of buzzword to get folks to have a look-see. Hey it worked, here I am... again.

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Unhappy

With Windows 8, Microsoft isn't burning any bridges either.

>With Windows 8, Microsoft isn't burning any bridges either.

Yeah, like the ribbon isn't burning bridges.

If a car manufacturer had attempted the same " oh we know better, so we moved the pedals and controls around" they'd be out of business. That's the good thing about being a de-facto monopoly: you can screw up as much as you want, no one will ditch you regardless of the enormous cost in training and productivity loss.

They could make W8 in 80-line monochrome and companies would still buy it, just because. It reminds me of those dim-wits who upgraded from XP to Vista and claimed to love it and anyone not moving on to the shiny new tech was a retard. Thankfully the consumer uproar was such that corporates paused to think. A bit. Sad.

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Stop

Vista?

You are right on many parts but don't forget that MS is doing one thing right (IMO anyway) which can easily work against them... They provide support for their OS's for /many/ years and don't stop that on a whim.

When Vista was released /many/ people remained on XP, because they hated the OS. Monopoly or not; that was a major setback because if people don't buy your product it doesn't matter if there are competitors or not; you're not making money either way.

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Flame

Re: If a car manufacturer had attempted the same...

What do you mean if? All of them do it. Every time you get into a different brand of car--and often just a different model--you have to find all the controls all over again. Where's the gear shift, where are the lights, the wipers, the turn signal? How is the dashboard laid out? Which one is the spedometer, which one the gas? Have to learn how the steering wheel and pedals perform. And that's not counting all the minor things that don't get used regularly, like the emergency lights, hand brake or side mirrors.

If UI differences was such a big deal, everyone would've standardized on a single simple UI a long time ago and never moved on. Your inability to adapt to new things doesn't have anything to do with the quality of a UI.

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The rarely-used things move, almost nothing else.

Every manual car I've ever used had the major controls in exactly the same place:

Clutch pedal on the left, the brake in the middle and the go-faster on the right.

They all had a steering wheel exactly in front of me that I turned clockwise to go right and anti-clockwise to go left.

They all had an indicator stalk next to the wheel, that I flip clockwise for a right-indicator and anti for a left.

They all had a gearstick with 1st/2nd/3rd/4th in the same places.

They all had a handbrake lever beside the seat.

If UI differences weren't such a big deal, the car manufacturers wouldn't have standardised on a single simple UI...

The things that move are the rarely-used and minor functions, and even then there's almost always only two options for where they might be and they are never actively hidden. (You don't pop open a cupboard to see the headlight controls!)

Sure, cars might turn faster, brake faster, accelerate harder - but that's no different to your new computer being faster/bigger monitor than the previous.

To use the car comparison, the Ribbon moves the pedals, steering wheel, and gearstick around and then hides everything else from you.

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Trollface

That's not exactly true

I assume you've never driven an Alfa?

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FAIL

Wrong Tense

'When Vista was released /many/ people remained on XP, because they hated the OS'

Many people are stil remaining on XP.

I also think you mean 'they hated the User Interface' there is a slight difference you know

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Facepalm

I misunderstood

"Microsoft delivers 'copy Apple' Windows 8 message"

...and based on the title, I had thought that meant getting rid of bugs, sorting out the registry so that it isn't just one huge file and getting rid of a myriad of other problems that have resulted in their OS becoming known as "Winblows".

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>a ribbon interface designed to make it easier to find popular actions and commands<

I wouldn't hate an intelligent ribbon; for eg, I use insert picture, insert date & time, find & replace, and various other commands that are all on different tabs. What the program should do is note which command I use most often and group them on one tab (or, you know, give me the option), because what I loathe is having to change a tab for one command then have to change back to the home tab to italicise something.

>The predictions of easy money based on the concept that all you had to do was build a "better" tablet<

Er, which nobody has actually yet done, the Notion Ink had the right idea, include a QI screen (or whatever it was called), and rotatable camera and basically trying to innovate, whereas everyone else simply tried to ape Apple (even by not adding in a cheap SD slot and charging Apple prices), or using a lesser screen - even confusing the market with different Android versions, some good for tablets, some not... or requiring you send your tablet back for a 4g upgrade, promises that Flash would be working in a future update, or one that had no working email (sorry, didn't realise the sentence was gonna turn into a bullet list).

It would be nice to believe that Microsoft are looking at the long game here, two UIs for two types of devices, slow but sure hardware to market, but Balmer is a clusterfuck of the first order and, like others have mentioned, the WinPhone UI looks like a 'My first phone' attempt at design.

God, I hope Amazon have put some real thought and energy and innovation into their coming tablet.

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Ribbon

If you want a better Ribbon it is easy to customize yourself ya know...

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FAIL

@Grundy

Well there's easy (shakes head left & right) and then there's easy (up & down)....

I gave up trying to customise my ribbon.

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Angel

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

There's a life-saving Excel add-in from www.ubit.ch that adds a tab to the ribbon that emulates the old style toolbars, even down to the drop-down File / Edit / View menus, free for private use. Between that and taking the time to customise your quick access toolbar, the pain of the Ribbon can be significantly mitigated.

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Win 8 - Metro

Microsoft were been caught out by the rapid rise of touch, for them the pen interface appeared to be a natural extension of the mouse and they pushed this for a number of years. Apple were not immune to this either - I had an Apple Newton…

I have written and published a Windows Phone 7 App (a simple password manager called MasterKey) and I wanted to also publish the same to Windows 7.

I was hoping to find a Silverlight Metro Theme that would allow me to port the App with minimal changes to Windows 7 but after experimenting with a couple of samples from the net ended up rewriting the UI to make better use of Windows UI and the much larger screen real estate open to me. It only took a few days to port and the App and I can now I can sync the same password data between my phone and laptop.

WP7 is a refreshing UI to use and it will be very interesting to see how well it transfers to Windows 8 and am I'm looking forward to repeating this process when it comes out.

The UI has to be laid out differently to accommodate the vast difference in precision between a mouse and a finger and it will be interesting to see how well we can use a mouse on Win 8 Metro.

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Remain backwards compatible!

I think one of the main issues MS needs to keep in mind here is backwards compatibility; especially after the whole Vista disaster.

If you can guarantee that people will be able to continue using the GUI which they're used to I think it should be an easy thing to pull off. My personal stance with the "Ribboned explorer" is that it should be easy to turn the whole thing off (in Word I use the ribbon interface, in OneNote I have it turned off) without it getting in your face somehow.

When they do that and don't try to come up with yet another "super enhanced" menu structure I think this might work.

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A question of form-factor...

The two form factors have some overlap but after giving this lots of thought from both sides of the argument I do not think that there is a "one-size fits all" GUI, but rather different or mixed modes of a GUI depending on current form-factor use (witness the ASUS Eee Transformer for how that can work).

Tablets use fingers and laps, desktops use fingers and desks, notebooks can use either. Microsoft SEEMS to now understand (took long enough), where Gnome and Unity seem not to understand (guys where are your heads?). Ask yourself these questions;

Do you want to reach across your actual office desk to activate an icon or select text or cells in a spreadsheet by dragging your finger (or a stylus) across the screen(s). How would two monitors work anyway?

Could you do the above? Yes. Would it be a physically comfortable to use? Not with the present office workstation layout, which the GUI "desktop" was intended to mimic so as to make using a computer more comfortable.

Tablets on the other hand, when being used as a tablet, mimic a clip-board, something designed more for processing paperwork, filling out forms and the like. It is precisely that kind of task one uses a fingers and a pen to carry out. Tablets can also mimic a control panel and its displays, devices which one uses unassisted fingers to manipulate. Dock the tablet into a desk or keyboard dock and it morphs again, this time into the more traditional PC form factor. When in the tablet form-factor putting a virtual keyboard on the screen just makes the writing on the paperwork more legible, but a stylus is needed for signatures which require finer control of the drawn line.

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Developers Developers Developers

MSFT is too late to get all the cool kids on windows tablets - even Balmer's kids aren't clamoring for a Win8 phone to play minesweeper.

So most of these devices, like all win-ce are going to be used commercially and industrially. That's one place they can beat Apple and Android.

Try getting an expensive or restricted commercial app on appstore. Even if you are happy about giving Apple a 40% cut, or finding that only customers in the US could download it, having no way to attach an XYZ brand bar code reader or portable printer, then having your FDA approved medical note taking app rejected because there is no way to follow a patient on twitter or some other Apple style mandate.

Android is even better, if you don't mind coding for 57 different varieties and having an appstore that guarantees your app is pirated onto the chinese app store as soon as it's uploaded.

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