Monday, March 12, 2012

Microsoft/Apple (Follow-up)

You guys sent in some excellent e-mail in regards to the Microsoft and Apple posts last week, so let's continue.

First off, several of you asked if I was aware that Apple had already unified the user experience for Mac/iPod/iPhone/iPad. I was aware what they had done in the iPod/phone/pad experience, but I thought the desktop/notebook experience wasn't the same. Dave Yeager, though, sent in this:
I'd say very much they are similar. Launchpad on OS X is basically iOS on your iMac or MacBook: Launchpad

It is fascinating watching my wife work on her MacBook for example - I tend to prefer using keyboard shortcuts wherever possible whether I'm using an OS X machine at home or a Windows PC at work, but she uses Mac stuff exclusively in her office and operates her MacBook the same way you'd operate an iPhone or iPad. Since Apple mice since the Mighty Mouse have had gesture recognition (you can swipe across the surface of your mouse to do things), Apple has gone out of their way to really build out that functionality, and now that their most recognizable devices use touch only interfaces, it's a natural transition for them.

My wife launches all her applications from Launchpad which works just like her iPhone screen because it feels natural to her and she can swipe on her MacBook's touch pad. When she has multiple windows/applications open, she doesn't use keyboard shortcuts to switch between them or steer her mouse between windows, she swipes on her touch pad - the same way you would do in iOS.

Lost in the new iPad madness is the new Apple TV interface where it looks like they are finally going to give it an iOS style interface as well: Apple TV

On top of all that, for some time now Apple devices have had iCloud which syncs everything across all your devices without having to do anything. If I purchase a song on my iPhone, it is immediately available on my iMac, iPad, or Apple TV for example.

So yes, very much I would say Apple already has accomplished what Microsoft is looking to do with this. This is not accusing Microsoft of stealing in any way - I thoroughly enjoy both platforms and use them both on a daily basis. But I definitely do not see much new here in concept - what I see is Microsoft realizing that Apple has them beat with a unified platform and it WORKS in the marketplace, and they need to do the same thing if they want to keep up.

That's very interesting, and thanks to Dave for the information. Now, an e-mail from Ryan Malinowsky which has additional information about Win 8/Metro:
Last year my company sent a couple of our developers to the //build event where Windows 8 was officially debuted (I'm a developer myself, but sadly I didn't get to attend). When they came back they brought with them a couple of Samsung Series 7 tablets that were specially built for //build and to run Win8. They also brought back a ton of technical information regarding the OS which got me to start researching how it works, and it's gotten me pretty excited.

Before I get to the more technical stuff, though, let me mention that tablet. In a word, its fantastic. I've had an iPad for over a year now and I love it. I use it every day, and at this point I use it more than my desktop at home. I also have friends who have Galaxy Tabs and Kindle Fires, but that Samsung tablet, even though it is running what is basically an Alpha OS, already feels better in some ways. The UI is extremely responsive (there was never even a hint of slowness in my tests), it's very easy to switch between apps and to navigate around in general, and everything feels more connected than it does in iOS or Android. And that's with it running the Developer Preview build. We haven't tried it out with the Consumer Preview yet, but so far I am very impressed with Win8 as a tablet OS.

On the other hand, they haven't convinced me just yet that Metro is a superior experience for desktop PCs. If you aren't taking advantage of the touch features, working in Metro feels a lot more restrictive to me on a PC. I've tried it out on a virtual machine I have set up at work, and on a PC where it was installed as the primary OS. While everything works, its still easier for me to move around/switch between apps/multitask on the traditional desktop. I'll have to use it more to get a feel for how the Metro/desktop balance will work, but for now it feels kind of clunky.

The thing that has me really excited, though, is what they are doing under the covers to make Win8 truly cross platform and easy to develop for. Its a pretty powerful thing to have the same OS run on tablets and desktops because now I only have one platform to write apps for, and its a very powerful platform. I don't want to go into too much detail, but they've essentially rebuilt much of the OS from the ground up for Metro to make it more streamlined and to remove much of the legacy baggage that has plagued Windows for years. This is probably one of the most ambitious things Microsoft has ever attempted, and I'm also glad to see them give it a shot.

This has already gone on for much longer than I intended, but I did want to point out one more thing that you touched on in your post, and that is how this will all fit in with the Xbox 720. Basically, once Windows 8 tablets are widely available, I see no reason why MS can't do what Nintendo is doing with the WiiU interface, only to a much greater extent. They could make it to where your Win8 tablet can interface with the Xbox to stream content, play games, share data, etc. I wouldn't be surprised at all if that is a major part of their Xbox strategy going forward, given how popular gaming on tablets has already become.

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