In 2012, Microsoft came up with the first innovation in personal computer operating systems in almost 40 years.
Not Apple. Not Google.
Windows 8, released by Microsoft in 2012, is the first new user interface since Xerox PARC created the mouse-and-windows desktop visual metaphor in the 1970s. That was long before we had smartphones and touch screens and the cloud. For Windows 8, instead of incremental innovation, Microsoft chose the path of radical innovation. They asked: What would a user interface look like if we started from scratch? If we designed for touch screens and smartphones and tablets and cloud connected devices, instead of big chunky office computers?
Of course, the icons would be bigger, making them easier to touch. (Those tiny icons are designed to be clicked by a mouse, not touched by a finger.)
That means you’d have to ditch the desktop background, but that’s just wasted space anyway.
Now that the icons are bigger, you can display useful information on the icons.
You’d make everything big enough to touch with your finger, and you wouldn’t need a mouse or a touchpad anymore.
Everything would automatically sync between devices through the cloud.
This is exactly what Microsoft did with Windows 8 in 2012, and after two years using these devices, I’m convinced the user experience is far superior. In 2013, my Windows XP devices were old, I was moving to a new job, and I was ready for a completely new set of hardware. I considered going all in with new Apple devices; I had an iPhone and I loved it. And then, I considered Windows 8, and I realized pretty quickly that it’s a better design for today’s computer devices–especially mobile devices.
I purchased a Windows 8 phone, two Windows 8 desktop computers (one for home and one for the office), a Windows Pro Surface tablet, and a Lenovo Yoga. From day one, everything worked seamlessly and I’ve never looked back. I especially love using the tablets (Surface and Yoga) and the smartphone. (Often when I flip over my Lenovo Yoga, someone in the meeting will give it a look of fascination, and ask “Is that an Apple?”) Across all five devices, everything syncs automatically: my Outlook contacts and calendar and email, my documents. And I have one seamless user experience. (Try touching your finger on the screen on your Apple computer.)
Who knows why Apple and Google (with Android) didn’t use good design thinking and take the path of radical innovation? I generally respect those companies and they’ve generated some awesome innovations. But with computing devices, Apple and Google have chosen the path of incremental innovation. Let’s all thank Microsoft for breaking out of the industry’s groupthink.
Like many innovators, Microsoft got a lot of hate for breaking the conventional mold. A lot of people were used to holding their mouses all day long, and they got confused. Developers often don’t release their apps for Windows phones (only 3 percent of smartphone sales). Many tech reporters call Windows 8 an “international calamity” or much worse. They should know better.
People were used to a simple formula: Apple equals innovation, Microsoft equals boring and corporate. Face it, tech reporters: the formula isn’t true anymore.
Owning an Apple laptop used to mean you were cool. It symbolized sleek design and individuality. It made you feel a bit more creative. But now using an Apple just shows that you’re like everyone else, and you don’t like change. Designers, innovators, and creatives should know better. It’s time to switch to a user interface experience that’s designed for the 21st century.
If you believe in good design, if you’re an innovator, if you’re committed to well-designed user experience, you should be using Windows devices.
Also see this blog post “Farewell, Desktop Metaphor”