Windows 8 Preview

I like that Microsoft is at least attempting something radically different with Windows 8, at least when it comes to the UI, which was unveiled at D9 two days ago.

From TechCrunch: “Windows 8 is all designed around a touch interface, with tiles replacing icons and swiping replacing drag-’n-drop. Instead of a Start button that pops up at the lower lefthand corner of your screen, you are greeted with a grid of tiles as the new Start screen. The tiles also function as mini-apps, displaying realtime information and updates which might spur someone to launch an app. You can switch quickly between running apps with a flick from the side panel. And these apps can be written in HTML5 and Javascript just like Web apps.

“Microsoft is very much responding to Apple with Windows 8, and they are doing so in a thoughtful way. If the future of computing is all about touch, then Microsoft is more than willing to embrace and extend that future. The issue here is that Microsoft seems to want it both ways. Windows 8 is being designed as a great touch interface, but with the old desktop UI as a fallback.”

The problem, at least as a snap judgement, seems to be Microsoft wanting it both ways.

Here’s John Gruber: “But I think it’s a fundamentally flawed idea for Microsoft to build their next-generation OS and interface on top of the existing Windows. The idea is that you get the new stuff right alongside Windows as we know it. Microsoft is obviously trying to learn from Apple, but they clearly don’t understand why the iPad runs iOS, and not Mac OS X.”

Gruber makes the excellent point that there are different rules and design choices that must be made when running an operating system on a tablet and a desktop/laptop. Which is true. Even Google understands that to a degree with Android and Chrome OS. Windows 8 looks gnarly for use on a tablet, but it seems like it would be clunky with a keyboard/mouse on a laptop/desktop.

Microsoft would have been far better partnering the tablet UI aesthetic of Windows 8 to be solely a tablet UI and role that product out. I think it would be a genuine competitor to Apple’s iPad — more so than anything else on the market.

But when it comes to the desktop, well, it feels like they would have been better off figuring out a way to make Windows better for that environment.

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