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Windows 8 UI thoughts

The cat is out of the bag. Right off the heels of the much talked about and anticipated Mango update for Windows phone, Microsoft is still rocking and rolling with the unveiling of the Windows 8 UI. But to save me some time of trying to explain how it works, just watch the video below. No skipping! Watch it all!


Now then, do you see what I see? You didn’t have to look too close to notice SUCCESS! Success you say? How so? Well, let’s start with the obvious. Windows 8 is the next version of windows 7, thus it will be successful J

Jokey joke aside, the Windows 8 UI is heavily influenced by its little brother windows phone. Problem? No; not at all. Windows phone was designed with a “glance and go” mentality in mind; and as it turns out, glancing at a tile with just the right amount of info needed is a good thing! Not only a good thing, but a great ally to productivity.

And what of these tiles? They’re not only just tiles; enter Microsoft’s new HTML 5 (say whaaat?) and JavaScript development platform. Developers should find it easy to produce innovative tiles and applications all optimized for the new UI. So you’ll have something with the complexity and function of a Windows Phone app, but not the bulk and brute requirements of a full blown Windows 7 desktop application.

The start menu has also enjoyed a “think over.” You see what I said just there? Not the start button, but the start MENU! Your landing page in the new UI will be referred to as the start menu. Here you will have your desired tiles ready for display and further instructions. Think, windows phone home screen, but with much more real-estate.

The animations are very fluid and surprisingly responsive. The gestures are sight to behold! Watching the demo of the UI, I didn’t once get the feeling “this is off.” The new UI elements like the “Snap” feature work hand in hand with productivity. The gesture to switch between running applications just worked! That’s all we need it to do! Although, I expect Microsoft to implement some sort of task switching method before launch, the back button concept won’t be cutting it here.

But here is where it gets tricky, let’s say you have a tile for your outlook occurrences. When you click that tile, you’re not treated some Microsoft special UI version of outlook. The touch UI relieves itself, and the regular old Windows 7 UI and your regular old outlook are now at your attention. What does this mean? Should you be excited of disappointed?

Allow me to disappoint your first. Some either disagree or are confused by this dual UI thing. Why in the world would you take 3 steps forward with such a ground breaking UI, to take two steps backward when a legacy application or service is performed? This is a valid concern. It could confuse the consumer and give the perception of a general lack of consistency. Damn it Microsoft, did you really come this far to do that?!

Now, let me excite you! Yes, Microsoft did indeed come this far to do exactly that. But it’s not a disappointment. Just for a second, adjust your way of thinking. Allow yourself to be introduced to the “blur,” the “bridge,” or even the “middle ground” that is the dual UI madness. It really isn’t that bad. Ya see, when running this new UI on a tablet, you’ll want to do tablet things. Silly birds, twitting and even facebooking about how much you love my writing style. After that you will turn it off and act as if you have something better to do. But what if you’ve actual work to do? So now you have to launch ye old outlook 2010. This is in many ways is Sparta, but most of all, this is still Windows; and when it’s time to get down to productivity we all expect full functionality. Let’s call this mode of functionality “production mode” or even “power user mode.”

When I make the choice to lunch outlook or switch into power user mode, i really don’t want to see the flashy UI. I want and need outlook to work and be as productive as it has always been. So what’s it to me if the flashy UI goes away, and the familiarity of production is at hand when I need it? Interesting, isn’t it?

Even in doing so, there is still a great deal of faith that must be placed in Microsoft’s touch technology when running the classic UI. For it is the same classic UI that has failed Microsoft many times in the past. So we’ll have to wait and see just how good the classic UI will carry on its interactions with touch.

Tablet, tablet, tablet, who cares. What of the desktop? Rumor has it, neither of these UI’s can be fully turned off. How the hell is that going to work with a regular mouse and keyboard? Again, some faith in Microsoft is required here as well. Personally, I can see how performing these gestures with a mouse could be annoying. I don’t expect either UI to be fully turned off, but I am confident Microsoft will offer a “classic” UI mode option; like they have done for every version of Windows in the past. So not much worries there. But for the “yea, but that’s stupid” crowd. Have a look at media center. Media center and all its glory never found the fame it deserved. Yet, I have a dedicated PC hooked up to my TV only to run media center. It really is a marvel and far ahead of anything else on the market, but you wouldn’t know that; would you? Of course not. Why? Because it’s just a UI shell made for a purpose, if that purpose is not at hand, then why the hell would you care about that UI? With this in mind, if the Flashy UI bothers you on a desktop or laptop, switch to classic mode and keep it moving!

Watching the UI demo over and over again, there is one thing that strikes me ever so subtle about it all. This thing screams for a “kinect” like interaction. There is no reason navigating the UI couldn’t be done with Kinect like gestures. Can you imagine? WOW!

So, what do I think? Let’s ride out to the “blur” between touch friendly UI and desktop production. Let’s see if the “blur” Microsoft is brewing can satisfy the ever so disappointed “Mac OS tablet” crowd. Every Photoshop ninja to wet their pants when the iPad was announced, only to meet the face palm after it’s iPod ways came to light….let’s see if Microsoft can draw that crowd. Let’s see if Microsoft can step outside the box and deliver a tablet solution that doesn’t involve mp3 player roots. That’s what I think. What about you?