Unified OS Advocates Are Out Of “Touch” With Reality

John Kirk / January 30th, 2014

Last week, Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi and Bud Tribble were interviewed as part of the Mac’s 30th anniversary. They — in no uncertain terms — slammed the door shut on the idea that Apple was planning on merging iOS (the operating system for their phones and tablets) with OS X (the operating system for their notebooks and desktops).

“We don’t waste time thinking, ‘But it should be one [interface]!’ How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?’ What a waste of energy that would be,” Schiller said.

“To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let’s just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a nongoal,” Federighi said.

“And that”, I thought to myself, “finally puts an end to that discussion.”

Boy, was I wrong.

The Loyal Opposition

Brian S. Hall makes an impassioned case for operating system unification, right here at Tech.Pinions:

I want my various “computers”…to essentially operate as similarly as possible, preferably with a unified user interface and application set across all.

It’s troubling to me that the world’s biggest computer company (Apple) can’t seem to make this work. When I hear Apple execs mocking Microsoft’s UI strategy I think it’s an opportunity lost.

(I)t bothers me that it is Apple which seems so determined to accept multiple OSes across multiple form factors. Here’s a case, frankly, where I hope Microsoft wins.

Kyle Russell, of Business Insider, reviews the various operating system comments made by the Apple executives and comes to a similar conclusion, here:

As much as a well-executed touchscreen MacBook could make for an amazing device — maybe even “redefine laptop computing” — it seems that Apple doesn’t want people to get caught up on the idea, even if it is true.

(Emphasis added)

Do you fully grasp what both of these commentators are implying? It’s not, they contend, that Apple CANNOT create a unified operating system, it’s simply that Apple REFUSES to do so. If only Apple would not be so gol’ darn stubborn and get on the unified operating system bandwagon, Apple could not only make a device that would run on a unified operating system but they could make a unified device that would be totally AWESOME!

Bull hockey

A word to the wise is infuriating. ~ Unknown Source

I VEHEMENTLY disagree. Operating system unification is not a “lost opportunity.” It’s not an “opportunity” at all. It’s a disaster because A TOUCH OPERATING SYSTEM IS WHOLLY INCOMPATIBLE WITH A DESKTOP OPERATING SYSTEM.

We have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product; we’re going to leave it out. Some people are going to not like that… ~ Steve Jobs

The Interview

Metaphors Matter

“An incredible amount of thought and creativity went into the original Mac metaphor,” Tribble said.

A Tool Should Work The Way We Think, Not Make Us Think About The Way It Works

(T)he underlying principles behind them—that the Mac should be easily approachable and learnable by just looking at it, that it should bend to the will of the person and not bend the person’s will to the technology—those underlying threads also apply to our other products.

One Size Does Not Fit All

And I think what we are focused on is delivering the tailored, optimal experience for those kinds of ways that you work, without trying to take a one-size-fits-all solution to it.

No Touch Screens on Notebooks or Desktops

“It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience?” Federighi said. “We believe, no.”1

The Personal Computer Has Been Honed To Work With A Keyboard And Mice; The Tablet Has Been Honed To Work With Your Finger

“This device,” Federighi said, pointing at a MacBook Air screen, “has been honed over 30 years to be optimal” for keyboards and mice. Schiller and Federighi both made clear that Apple believes that competitors who try to attach a touchscreen to a PC or a clamshell keyboard onto a tablet are barking up the wrong tree.

“The reason OS X has a different interface than iOS isn’t because one came after the other or because this one’s old and this one’s new,” Federighi said. Instead, it’s because using a mouse and keyboard just isn’t the same as tapping with your finger.”

The Metaphysics

Aristotle drew a distinction between essential and accidental properties. The way he put it is that essential properties are those without which a thing wouldn’t be what it is, and accidental properties are those that determine how a thing is, but not what it is.

Touch is ACCIDENTAL to a Personal Computer. It may enhance its usefulness but it doesn’t change the essence of what it is. Touch is ESSENTIAL to a Tablet. It’s the essence of what it is.

Pixel specific input is ANATHEMA to a Tablet. It destroys its very essence. A Touch device can literally not work with pixel sized input targets. But pixel specific input is ESSENTIAL to a Personal Computer. A Personal Computer can literally not operate without it.

A touch input metaphor and a pixel input metaphor not only should be, but MUST be, wholly different and wholly incompatible with one another. It’s not just that they do not comfortably co-exist within one form factor, it’s also that they do not comfortably co-exist within our minds eye.

In plain words, it’s no accident that the operating systems for tablets and notebooks are distinctly different from one another. On the contrary, their differences — their incompatibilities — are the essence of what makes them what they are.

Motorcycle-Motorcar2 Metaphor

A car and a motorcycle are both motor vehicles but they employ two very different user interfaces.

On a car:
— You use your left hand to steer;
— You use your right hand to shift gears;3
— You use your right foot to accelerate and brake; and
— You use your left foot to keep time with the radio.

On a motorcycle:
— You use your left hand to work the clutch;
— You use your left foot to shift the gears;
— You use your right hand to work the front wheel brake; and
— You use your right foot to work the back wheel brake.

The mythical unified operating system is an insoluble problem, masquerading as a great good.

You could put a hand brake on a car or a steering wheel on a motorcycle or a foot clutch on a car or a stick shift on a motorcycle — but none of those additions would make much sense. All would be confusing and most would be dangerous as all get out.

Unifying the features of a motorcycle and a car or a tablet and a desktop is not the goal. User understanding and usability IS the goal.

The Theory In Practice

That’s the theory. So what’s the reality?

Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play. ~ Kant

The Tablet — Sans Desktop Interface — Is A Runaway Success

The iPad — and all the derivative tablets within the Android operating system — have only one operating system and only one input (touch) and they are fantastically successful.

By the end of 2014 the install base of tablets will be just over half that of PCs. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)

Take a deep breath and re-read that again. It only took FOUR YEARS for install base of tablets to reach half of that of Personal Computers!

BdBCOqcIMAAF4sY

If the tablet is only half-a loaf — if the unified operating system is the Holy Grail of computing — then why has the tablet been SO successful and why has Microsoft’s 2-in-1 effort been such an abject failure?

The failure of Apple critics is not that they don’t understand that Apple’s iPad/iPhone are selling. It is that they don’t understand why. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)

Today

The Surface 2-In-1 Approach Is A Train Wreck

Design makes what is complex feel simpler, and makes what is simpler feel richer.

Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system is as pure as the driven slush.

Ask yourself this question: “Is Windows 8’s 2-in-1 user interface simpler?” Heck no, Why, Microsoft can’t even get their own flagship apps to work well on Windows 8.

I’m really not sure that there’s a worse app to use with Windows 8 tablets than Outlook. The idea that MS thinks this is acceptable is crazy. ~ Ian Betteridge (@ianbetteridge)

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010, he asked “Is there room for a third category of device (between the phone and the notebook)?” Now Microsoft is trying to introduce yet another category between the tablet and the notebook. If it is to succeed, then it must pass the same litmus test that Steve Jobs proposed for the iPad:

The bar’s pretty high. In order to really create a new category of devices, those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks. Better than a laptop. Better than a smartphone. (Author’s note: And better than a tablet.)

You can’t sit on two horses with one behind. ~ Yiddish proverb

Now let me ask you this: What tasks is the Surface FAR better at?

The Surface, which is the embodiment of combining two operating systems into one, has failed and failed miserably.

Conclusion

It turns out that Apple had long-ago asked — and long-ago definitively answered — the question of whether they would be combining a tablet with a notebook. And that answer was “Yes”:

QUESTION: “What would happen if a MacBook met an iPad?”

ANSWER: The MacBook Air.4

Microsofts strategy and products will appeal to millions while Google and Apple’s will appeal to billions. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)

Tablet and notebook interfaces are not combining because it simply won’t work. Great products are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather, by the presence of clear strengths.

In 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, Steve Jobs famously said:

(A)re you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.

When it comes to phones, tablets and notebook/desktops, we can reverse that and paraphrase Steve Jobs by saying:

Are you getting it? This is not one device. These are three separate devices, and we’re calling them the smartphone, tablet and notebook/desktop.

Phil Schiller put it this way:

“It’s not an either/or,” Schiller said. “It’s a world where you’re going to have a phone, a tablet, a computer, you don’t have to choose. And so what’s more important is how you seamlessly move between them all…. It’s not like this is a laptop person and that’s a tablet person. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Postmortem

Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise. ~ Cato the Elder

It is hard to get to the summit, harder to stay on it, but hardest to come down. ~ Aleksander Fredro

Apple showed Microsoft the way to do tablets right, but Microsoft refused to follow Apple’s example because they knew that it would mean the end of their existing Window’s monopoly.

Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Microsoft thinks they’re in the Windows business. They’ve forgotten their mission, their purpose. They’ve forgotten that they’re in the computing business.

ctrl-alt-delMicrosoft should Control-Alt-Delete their attempts at a unified operating system, but I don’t think there’s any chance that that will happen. Based on the statements coming out of Redmond, Microsoft is doubling-down on their current strategy which, in my opinion, is a tragic mistake. Besides, asking Microsoft to fix what’s wrong with Windows 8 is like making them the detective in a crime movie where they’re also the murderer.

Yogi Berra once famously said:

It’s not over until it’s over.

It’s over.

  1. Dr. Drang (@drdrang) has a thoughtful essay, here, on why touch screens WOULD work on notebooks and desktops. MY TAKE: This issue confused me for a while. It was clear to me that the input methods for notebooks and desktops were, and should remain, distinct from those of phones and tablets. On the other hand, it was also clear that phones and tablets were training us all to touch our computing screens. Ultimately, I concluded that metaphor mattered most. Using touch on a machine designed for a desktop metaphor only works SOME of the time and would ultimately cause confusion in the user’s mind. Better to make a clean break and have users to gestures on a touchpad, instead. []
  2. Why Motorcar instead of car or automobile? Because I like alliteration, that’s why. []
  3. At least, you did before automatic transmissions came into vogue. []
  4. New MacBook Air announcement []

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • AhmadZainiChia

    Hmm…yeah I was just thinking lately, that the hardware for the 2-in-1 hybrid devices have matured and do look really good now. But the software its the software that’s still too complex, not seamless enough, and just too clunky. And so I wondered whether the software would ever catch up – that maybe it is an inherent problem, like you said.

    My guess is that Apple might make a new ‘iPad Pro’ which would bring in some ideas from the Mac to allow for more complex tasks, but those new things would be ‘accidental’. Basically, I see the iPad Pro to still run iOS mainly, but perhaps with some ‘cross-pollination’ of ideas from the Mac; but it will still be, in essence, an iPad.

  • aardman

    I don’t understand why all these folks who insist that a unified tablet/PC or touchscreen/mouse OS is a good idea won’t just sit in front of their PC’s and simulate what it feels like to do what they usually do on their PC’s using the proposed unified UI.

    On a PC, every time you reach for the mouse or the touchpad, reach out to your monitor instead and manipulate your cursor as you would have on the mouse/touchpad.

    If you’re using a desktop with a large screen, how far do you have to reach out? How much wider are your gestures on the screen compared to what you had to do on the mouse or touchpad? How are you holding your carpal tunnel there? Do you tend to bend your wrist upwards?

    If you’re using a laptop, the screen is closer and smaller and yes your gestures are probably more compact but still bigger than using the touch pad, right? How good are you though at resisting the urge to just pivot your elbow a little and bend your wrist upwards when you need to touch the screen? Because if you want to protect your carpal tunnel, touch screen gestures will have to pivot from your shoulder and elbow.

    Now instead of a five minute simulation, imagine doing this for the amount of time you are working on your PC. Touch screen on a PC is an ergonomic disaster.

    • Named

      Many years ago, I worked daily on medical imaging equipment that had a touch-screen interface in conjunction with a trackball. “Gorilla arm” is indeed a very real problem.

  • TheEternalEmperor

    Toaster-fridge. Hammer-wrench. Dog-wife. On paper, all of these sound good…combine the things you love the most into one thing and surely it will be even better. Man has been trying to do this forever and sometimes it does work: “camera phone” and “friends with benefits” come to mind.

    But most of the time, you end up with the “El Camino” and “Windows 8.” Let it go guys. There is a reason why Man invented the toolbox. It’s because we need multiple tools for multiple jobs.

    Let it go.

    • Dog wife?

      • TheEternalEmperor

        Don’t act like you haven’t thought about it.

        • marcoselmalo

          I’ll thank you, sir, if you will stop staring at my dog-wife hammer-wrench.

          Best thing about a dog wife: if you lock her in the trunk of your car for an hour, she’ll still be happy to see you.

          • Bill Smith

            I’m…not gonna let you walk my dog…no sirreeee!

          • marcoselmalo

            That’s what she said!

    • Martin_Samuelson

      The key is that whatever you end up with after combining two things needs to be *better* at doing both things. A toaster-fridge doesn’t work because the refrigeration doesn’t get better and the toaster doesn’t get better. However, fridge-water dispensers **do** work because it makes getting ice out of the fridge easier and it makes it easier to get cold, filtered water dispensed quickly into a glass.

      The same goes for new products as well, they have to be way better at doing the job than what came before (e.g. the iPad, as explained in the article).

      Take a look at all of Microsoft’s consumer products in the last decade and they fail these basic tests

      • Picky One

        Actually, if the fridge could feed pieces of bread into its built-in toaster (just like it feeds ice into the dispenser), then yeah, it would be “better”. 😀

        • Kizedek

          except, we tend to like to make our toast on or near the counter or table, and I refuse to put my fridge on the table.

  • normm

    I think your characterization of the notebook interface as pixel perfect is a bit off. Obviously as the pixels become completely invisible in retina displays, you’re not interacting with pixels at all. Maybe call it a sharp interface? In any case, the dichotomy will soften. People are starting to expect their laptop screens to scroll if they swipe up or down, and so laptop screens will start doing that. That doesn’t make the interface worse, it just makes it do what people expect. And some people like to use the fine control and no-finger-in-the-way of a stylus in some tablet apps because it’s sometimes a better interface, for example for sketching. There’s no obvious reason the basic tablet UI needs to require precise control, but apps should feel free do do so whenever it makes the experience better.

    • FalKirk

      Here’s what I said in footnote 1:

      “This issue (of a touch screen) confused me for a while. It was clear to me that the input methods for notebooks and desktops were, and should remain, distinct from those of phones and tablets. On the other hand, it was also clear that phones and tablets were training us all to touch our computing screens. Ultimately, I concluded that metaphor mattered most. Using touch on a machine designed for a desktop metaphor only works SOME of the time and would ultimately cause confusion in the user’s mind. Better to make a clean break and have users to gestures on a touchpad, instead.”

      That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. More importantly, Apple has made it abundantly clear that they are not going to put touch screens on their vertically screened devices. Finis.

      • marcoselmalo

        On those rare occasions when I’ve used a laptop (since my conversion to iPad), I actually do find myself trying to interact with the screen by touch.

        As I think about it, it’s just a much more normal interaction. It explains why my nephew, at a year and a half, learned to use an iPad. As much as my sister would like to think its because he is a genius (and perhaps she is right), it’s because the iPad responded to his natural response to the screen.

        Experiment: introduce a young child to a conventional computer for the first time. What is the first thing they will do? Touch the screen. Keyboard and mouse are abstractions, used to prosthetically touch the software, much like a scientist manipulating radioactive materials.

        I have an idea of how one could get pixel accurate control through a touch interface. It would involve embedding a grain sized pointer in one’s finger (or wearing a pointer sleeve over one’s finger). It sounds far fetched, but maybe in a few years it won’t be.

        • Kizedek

          of course, pixel-accurate control is just one part of the equation: the second part of the equation is reaching out to the vertical screen and getting gorilla arm. The touchpad is fine.

          • Space Gorilla

            The iPad set at an angle in a keyboard case solves the gorilla arm problem. It’s very comfortable to use the hardware keyboard and touch the screen, I suppose the screen becomes the trackpad in a way. But at some point the screen becomes too large for this to work well. Although I wonder about a drafting table, I loved working on drafting tables way back in the early 90s. What if my 27 inch iMac could be tilted down at an angle? Probably the screen is too large. The reason my iPad screen works is I never have to lift my elbow off the desk, it’s a lot like using a mouse actually, but easier. Once the screen gets past a certain size and I can no longer touch all of it easily while keeping my elbow on the desk, then you’ve got gorilla arm.

          • FalKirk

            I used to be very concerned with gorilla arm, but I think the way users use their notebooks and desktops now, they would only occasionally reach out to touch the screen so gorilla arm isn’t that much of a factor.

            As I said in my article, and above, touch screens on notebooks and desktops DO work. However, there is a price to pay in design and/or user understanding.

            People don’t understand tradeoffs. They want it all. But if the price is higher than the benefit, the benefit should be abandoned. Again, geeks (like me) don’t get this. If we see a benefit, we often ignore the inherent price (or the price that other, non-geeks must pay) and demand that the benefit being added on top of the existing US, complexity be damned!

          • Kizedek

            Sure, either touch in those cases is very occasional, or both you and Space Gorilla (below) are talking about a hybrid device that can be used in a variety of positions or postures: You essentially move your keyboard out of the way and bring your screen down onto your desk. That is perhaps MS’ argument for the Surface and or detachable-flippable-screen devices.

            I do totally agree with the other part of your argument, however: the mixed experience is jarring or unintuitive at best, but likely disruptive and unproductive.

  • Space Gorilla

    I would argue that a car and a motorcycle already do have the same UI, conceptually. Only the small details differ. That’s my point about OSX and iOS, conceptually they are already very similar. I think the cry for a unified OS is coming from nerds who don’t understand that we already kinda have that. I find moving between OSX and iOS very fluid, the ‘big’ concepts are similar enough. I don’t need all the small details to be exactly the same.

    • FalKirk

      “I would argue that a car and a motorcycle already do have the same UI, conceptually. Only the small details differ.” – Space Gorilla

      If you’ve ever tried to drive a motorcycle, you know that the details that differ are not small at all. I dare any newbie to try and ride a motorcycle without instruction. (Actually, I don’t. It would be far too dangerous.) And, I guess, I dare any newbie to try and use Window 8 without assistance. (At least, with Windows 8, you don’t need a crash helmet.)

      • Space Gorilla

        I operate many different vehicles. Motorcycle, car, tandem grain truck, backhoe, 4WD tractor, cement truck, combine, and on and on. They all have engines, wheels, and drive forwards and backwards and you can steer them, set the speed, brake, etc. Conceptually they are the same. The small differences are in how you make them go. This pedal instead of that lever, etc. These are easy to learn because they are small details and you have already learned the basic concept of a ‘vehicle’. Now, driving a car and flying a plane, that would be quite different.

        What is dangerous about a motorcycle, and what takes a bit of practice, is the balance. But it does not take very much to learn the small differences in how the motorcycle is made to move forward, or steer, or shift gears. I’m not arguing that you need zero instruction to operate a motorcycle, but I am saying that the amount of instruction needed isn’t onerous, it isn’t so different that it presents a problem which should be solved by unifying the UI. I guarantee I could take anyone who has ridden a pedal bike and driven a car, and teach them to operate a motorcycle safely in just a few hours. That truth demonstrates, for me at least, that the UI differences are not significant, it is not a problem that needs solving.

        • DarwinPhish

          You are confusing UI with OS.

          • Space Gorilla

            No. But I understand why you think that. The analogy is very general.

        • marcoselmalo

          Hey, SG!

          I taught myself how to ride a motorcycle. I bought one on eBay. The seller dropped it off, and instead of waiting for the lesson from my buddy I was to receive the next day, I said, “What the hell.”

          It seemed very intuitive to me, possible because I know how to drive a manual transmission automobile. However, bicycles with more than one speed have always given me trouble.

          About a year ago, I tried a quad. It was a terrible experience, neither fish nor foul. I suppose if I had to, I’d learn how to use a quad comfortably.

          This is just my experience. I’m not sure how much one can generalize from it.

          • Space Gorilla

            It’s not the greatest analogy to begin with. My larger point is that OSX and iOS already feel like different flavors of the same thing, they share many concepts, they’re ‘same enough’, just as a car and a motorcycle are ‘same enough’. Moving from one to the other isn’t difficult enough to require unification. OSX and iOS are already a kind of unified system. Apple’s path to hone this experience will be the apps and how you work with your data, and some UI elements will be used across both as they make sense (mostly within apps), but the unification some are looking for already exists, at least in my opinion.

          • marcoselmalo

            “Apple’s path to hone this experience will be the apps and how you work with your data, and some UI elements will be used across both as they make sense (mostly within apps), but the unification some are looking for already exists, at least in my opinion.”

            That does make a lot of sense.

            And we still don’t have a clear idea of what the next UI will be like. It could be more reliant on voice or gestures.

  • Mauryan

    May be in the future, there might be a convergence of different OS systems. Right now, with what is there, it would be a disaster to try it. Microsoft can vouch for it. When they tried to do it in one shot, guess how many liked it. Why would anyone mess up what already works? OSX and iOS work well in their own realms. As technology advances and as users begin to feel the need for an integration, may be things will be ready for such a convergence. Right now it would be foolish to merge the two for the sake of doing it. It does not achieve any purpose other than satisfying the curiosity of those who want to see how it would look. I am sure Apple has already tried this in its research lab and found it useless at this time.

    • aardman

      Nobody has even tried to really think about and meticulously specify how this perfectly converged UI and OS looks or works in both conceptual and practical terms.

      For example, there are some basic physical and ergonomic conundra that have to be addressed with respect to screen angle and distance, because the best position for viewing a screen (vertical and behind the keyboard) is not the best position for touchscreen gestures (horizontal and right where the keyboard is).

      One might counter with “How about a device that presents a tablet interface when the device is being used as a tablet them switches to a PC interface when a keyboard is attached and it is used as a PC?” Okay, then what’s the point of a converged jack-of-all-trade OS and all the added complexity that entails?

  • James King

    1) The car and motorcycle were already blended into a very exciting vehicle: the Vandenbrink Carver

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHcKoZ99Jnw

    2) Insisting that something can’t be done because it hasn’t yet been done effectively was the reason why no one thought the tablet or smartphone made any sense. The tablet specifically was a comatose concept for over a decade. Both products were more or less dead on the vine before Apple took a shot at them. If hindsight is 20/20, foresight is definitely blind;

    3)You keep confusing tablet sales with iPad sales. “iPads” = “tablets,” “tablets” =/= “iPads.” iPads are an evolution of the PC and are generally used as total replacements. The overwhelming majority of tablets are not used as general purpose computers, but as specialized media devices.

    If you are going to make the claim that tablets are effective substitutes or replacments for PCs, then you are limited to tablets that are at least about 10″ in screen size. Then your numbers start to look very different. Tablets aren’t remotely close to competing with PCs as a general purpose computing platform. 30% are cheap Chinese units that people use solely as video and audio players.

    You continue to write about areas of technology with which you have very little understanding. That’s your prerogative but it’s a ridiculously irresponsible use of a medium to push your biases because you lack the necessary expertise to fathom certain concepts. That may play with the gallery but it prevents useful discourse.

    • FalKirk

      The market for Windows all-in-one devices will end up being about the same size as that of the Vandenbrink Carver.

      • James King

        As a fan of capitalism, you should know that products may not succeed for many reasons other than lack of demand. In the case of the Carver, it was difficult to scale manufacturing quickly enough to make the price of it competitive and there was no way to offer it in the U.S. inexpensively, though there was, indeed, a great deal of demand for it here.

        As for your comment re: Windows, you could be right. But it will likely be for poor implementation rather than an inherent flaw in the concept.

        • FalKirk

          “(Windows 8 may fail) but it will likely be for poor implementation rather than an inherent flaw in the concept.” – James King

          Obviously, we disagree. I think that the concept is fatally flawed and no implementation would be or could be good enough to save it.

          • Bill Smith

            Well…never say never…there may be a user interface or a killer application that works with that model. It’s just that we haven’t seen it yet (and it doesn’t seem to be coming in the near future).

            Microsoft was first with the “tablet PC” concept, but they weren’t able to “think different” enough to make it a reality. Sometimes all it takes is one weirdo who sees the problem a bit differently…et voila.

        • Kizedek

          In the UK we have had three-wheeled cars for yonks, notably the Robin Reliant. They were about as good at their job as all MS tablets to date. Mostly they were just cheap.

    • Space Gorilla

      That Carver thing makes me think of the Can-Am Spyder, which I think is reasonably successful.

    • Good points. I would also like to add that if even iPads are probably not being used as PC replacements at work, but only in casual use at home.

      The prevalence of shallow analysis is indeed troubling.

      • TheEternalEmperor

        Nope. Doctors. Pilots. NFL. Remodeling contractors. Sales people. Scientist. Lawyers. The list goes on and on. Where have you been the past three years?

        • Kizedek

          Exactly. Not to mention freelancers like myself. I continue to do some specialized tasks on the desktop, like design or video editing… but I completely run my business from my iPad. Presentations, invoicing, expensing, accounting… a lot of things are actually easier and make more sense on iOS — things I never really wanted to do before because they used to be such a chore.

        • I manage websites for scientists in life sciences. They predominantly access from PCs while in the lab or office. Chitika also has data showing tablet usage is low during work hours. What data do you have?

        • Do you have data showing actually how many people use iPads at work vs. at home? Chitika published a report showing that tablets are not used much during work hours. http://naofumi.castle104.com/tablets-and-laptops-are-used-for-different-things/

        • You have to look at how the majority of users are using iPads, hence you need statistics. Chitika has published data showing that iPads aren’t used much during office hours. I have data showing life science scientists predominantly use PCs in the lab or office. Could you tell me what you have? Unfortunately, this forum doesn’t seem to allow links in comments. I would provide links if I could.

          • steve_wildstrom

            You can put links in comments, but you have to do it the hard way, by entering the HTML:

            [a href=”full URL”]link text[/a]

            Just replace those square brackets with pointy brackets.

    • SamRobinson

      In response to your #2

      I helped outfit a private school with Toshiba convertible laptops for every student, back in 2003.

      The vendor told the the school’s IT department that a touch/stylus version of MS Office would be released soon.

      It’s 2014, and MS still hasn’t released the version of Office that those convertible laptops needed a decade ago.

      The tablet category was dead for a decade because MS refused to embrace it.

  • DarwinPhish

    Microsoft is working on convergence yet they can not even manage consistency. Some application behave significantly differently whether in tablet mode or desktop mode. This is true with Apple, too, though they are well ahead of Microsoft regarding consistency and are more focused on that.

  • poke

    You’re absolutely right. Apple’s big insight with the iPhone/iPad was that touch is a new product and not a new feature. Microsoft had tried adding touch as a feature before and failed, and it STILL doesn’t appreciate the distinction. There’s a big cultural difference behind this. The iPhone/iPad was enabled by a bunch of technological trends – storage, batteries, mobile CPU/GPU, capacitive touch, etc – and both companies were surely aware of them. Apple’s response: “This is a great opportunity to rethink the whole system.” Microsoft’s response (even AFTER seeing Apple’s response): “How do we shoehorn this into the existing system?” It’s dynamic vs. essentialist thinking. “Make great products” vs. defend our territory.

    • FalKirk

      You make a great point here, Poke. Apple was unencumbered with a successful product so that could envision the iPhone and the iPad from scratch. Microsoft was trying to save their monopoly so they tried to radically tweak their existing product.

  • klahanas

    I say make it take any interface it’s owner wants. Supply your vision, and let third parties do the rest. Geez!

    • FalKirk

      “I say make it take any interface it’s owner wants.” – klahanas

      If I’m understanding you correctly that’s a bad, bad idea. It’s the designer’s job, as a professional, to come up with the interface. It’s not the end user’s job any more than it’s the passengers job to design the airplane they ride in.

      • klahanas

        I did say the designer should present their vision. If the user chooses to make it their job, the designer shouldn’t be in their way.

        • steve_wildstrom

          there seems to be a fundament misunderstanding here of what and operating system is and what it does. In the modern conception of and OS (and I’m talking about the general view, not the more arcane CS debates) and OS extends all the way up through the application layer and is central to the look and feel of the display. Yes, it is possible to share the kernel, the inner core of the OS, among various systems, but that is because neither users nor applications touch the kernel directly. Yes it is possible to have even a higher-level OS that allows different UIs. Linux does this and the lack of UI consistency, application consistency, program installation consistency, and a whole lot of other consistencies across distibutions is one of the reasons it is a mess. (Windows NT briefly allowed a choice in beta between a Windows 3 and a Win 95 type UI; that was a mess too.)

          The real key is the application program interfaces, which serve two great purposes. They save a lot of work for developers by providing a huge library of standard procedures. And they impose commonality across apps, which makes life much easier for the users. For an application to open a file, the developer calls a standard procedure (I’m grossly oversimplifying here) that displays a standard Open File dialog and processes the user input. These dialogues are quite different on the Mac and Windows, but their function is the same.

          But this process does not exist on iOS, or, for that matter, on Windows Phone, because these OSs lack both a user accessible file structure and the associated APIs. The whole concept of opening and closing a data file does not exist in iOS, though clever developers have found ways around this. The price is that the method for accomplishing it is not consistent across apps.

          So its not just a matter of accommodating both touch and keyboard-and-mouse interfaces, difficult and important a that is. iOS and Mac OS succeed brilliantly because they are designed for different purposes, with as much commonality as works and, at least most of the time, no more. Windows, in its desktop and tablet avatars, has made a very different and, in my opinion, far less successful choice. The problems of Windows 8 cannot be fixed by tinkering around the edges; it needs a basic rethinking.

          • klahanas

            Thanks for taking the time to reply. It’s appreciated.

            Yes, I was referring to the UI elements, not the core OS.

            Who, other than the user, decides if all the interfaces available to Linux are a mess? They seem to have gotten around the API problem since Gnome applications run under KDE, and vice versa, for instance. Yes, you need to have both loaded and installed. So what? I see it as a feature that makes the machine more personal.

            In Win8, the core OS, is the full blown Windows core. Metro is just a shell. I agree it’s not possible on iOS, for the reasons you stated. One shouldn’t compare a General Purpose Computer with an Appliance Computer. It’s just not fair, for the same reasons you stated.

            That’s not to say that an OSX bearing “iPad Pro”, should it launch, should not be compared to the Surface, or any other machine. Heck, I might even buy one.

          • regexp

            Who, other than the user, decides if all the interfaces available to Linux are a mess?

            I think the market has spoken very clearly on this. The year of the Linux Desktop never arrived because the user experience was horrible. No matter what interface the user chose.

            Android and iOS work because of the tight integration between GUI and underlying plumbing.

          • klahanas

            The market is not the individual user. The only thing the market proves are acceptance of the designers choices, but “one size may not fit all”. The “market” is the antithesis of “personal”. Want to use, as is out of the box, go right ahead. Customization (or not) is the owners decision.

        • mjcarrabine

          But that’s the entire problem with Windows 8, the user has no choice.
          On the desktop, Windows 8 is the best desktop OS Microsoft has ever made, but it is mashed together with the Metro touch interface so one minute you are happily in Outlook, but when you double-click on a pdf, you end up in a version 1 PDF viewer that can only be quit by dragging from the top of the screen down with your mouse. This clash is painful.
          I was hoping the Surface would justify this poor design, but the clash is even worse. You can get stuck in either Metro land or desktop land, and it takes multiple clicks or gestures to get back to what you actually want to do. Touch adds nothing to the laptop experience, and making it powerful enough to be a lap has resulted in a 2 lb tablet.

          • klahanas

            I boot directly to desktop. You do have a choice under “Default Programs”.

          • mjcarrabine

            If I have to configure my Surface to always stay in Desktop mode, then all I am left with is a subpar laptop. The OS should offer a more elegant solution to transitioning from one mode to the other and back. Since it doesn’t, I would prefer even a physical switch that let me choose between tablet and laptop.

          • klahanas

            You do see the windows button on the bottom of the screen don’t you?
            To your point, the setting should be “even” easier. It’s no harder than some iOS settings…

          • steve_wildstrom

            The problem is that it remains difficult to keep the Desktop UI from jumping back into Metro, as mjcarrabine points out. Windows 8.1 still sets Metro applications as the default for all files types for which Metro apps exist, including PDFs and most audio, video, and picture types. At least 8.1 makes it somewhat better. If you are lucky enough to find a fair deeply hidden settings page you can change the default players for various media files and then you just have to go through a long list of file types and sweep up whatever is left over, including the document types. (and if you ever switch to Metro, you now have the opposite problem. Your file types will default to Desktop.)

            klahanas, I know you are prepared to sacrifice a great deal of convenience for freedom of choice, but that is not a universal desire. Most people, including myself, are prepared to give up some choice for a better user experience. And even if you want to give users the choice to configure anything under the hood, a reasonable idea on a desktop OS, it is vitally important to make the right default choices. Very few users want to dig that deep; they want things to work out of the box.

            Maybe the upcoming windows 8.1 Update 1 will fix things like the file default problem. I hopes so. But Windows 8 is already 15 months old and it’s getting awfully late to fix the basics.

          • klahanas

            Your absolutely right, I personally am willing to sacrifice “some” convenience for flexibility. You’re also right that that’s not for everybody. That’s how choice works, of course.

            The article was excellent, at times profound. The problem I have with the article, and some of the comments, is that the ONE singular way is the best way, and the ONLY way… It goes back to the root mentality of “you’re holding it wrong”. Who does that serve?

            You’re also correct that you can configure to be dominantly one way (desktop) or another (Metro). I’m personally not a fan of touch, but Metro is necessary for touch on Windows. Bimodal, is still a choice. Again, who cares which one a user chooses? I find censorship (I know you hate the word, sorry) to be a far bigger issue.

          • Kizedek

            “The problem I have with the article, and some of the comments, is that it purports ONE singular way as the best way, and the ONLY way… It goes back to the root mentality of “you’re holding it wrong”. Who does that serve?”

            I know what you are trying to say. People naturally bristle at that. But you seem to be imbuing these terms (as applied to the real product choices we have out there right now) with moral overtones. What if they are viewed in completely pragmatic and empirical terms?

            People of all ages and types and walks of life are enjoying and appreciating iOS and iOS devices with little to no introduction or instruction. The Surface and Windows 8-Metro? Not so much. No-one is trying to cause offense or hurt anyone’s feelings… but, really, which appears to be the “better” approach?

          • klahanas

            Believe me friend, you can’t hurt my feelings by criticizing Microsoft. MS users do that more than Apple users.

            There’s more to things than empirical pragmatism. “Character” matters, that’s why we have “birds in a gilded cage”. And while I agree it is good to be able to do things with little or no instruction, little or no instruction will take you so far. What to do with the “already instructed”? Leave them wanting?

          • Kizedek

            Oh, I am all about character and moral overtones. I am just saying, that in the particular instance where you perceive the article “preaching” that separate OS’ is the “one true way”, you may be reading too much into it.

            But as far as character, I would tend to go with the Apple crew and philosophy over MS’ any day. Not sure where you are going with your last three sentences, though.

          • klahanas

            I respect that. I pick the more open poison, and root for neither.

        • FalKirk

          “If the user chooses to make it their job, the designer shouldn’t be in their way.” – klahnanas

          That’s very wrong. A well designed product or service should be virtually invisible to the end user. Options available? Yes. Control over design decisions. No, no and no.

          • klahanas

            Invisible? Hmmm… If I want to change something to be more to my liking, that shouldn’t concern you one iota.

            Unless, of course, you are a champion of “ideological purity” in design.
            If that were the case, we should all speak with an English accent! 🙂

        • Kizedek

          “On Surface, you can CHOOSE to use the more touch centric Metro, or the desktop, and the desktop is “skinnable”.”

          I was under the impression that you couldn’t choose half the time: that different programs, or even different operations within one program, would shunt you around and kick you back and forth between the computing interfaces and paradigms — which is why the mouse and keyboard are required on the Surface. Apparently Office requires the mouse at some point, even if you “choose” to work in Metro.

          Are you saying this is not so?

          • klahanas

            There’s the hard way, which isn’t really that hard, and there’s the easy way. I use both on different machines.

            The hard way is, as Mr. Wildstrom also noted in another thread, is to set your program associations to use a desktop application. This is set in “default programs”.

            The easy way involves installing Modernmix (Stardock), which can be set to run all Metro programs in a window, as if they are desktop applications. This can be done globally, or per application. Part of the things that make me growl about Apple is that programs such as this would probably not be allowed.

          • steve_wildstrom

            My complaint is that we should not have to rely on third-party add-ons to make an OS work acceptably. Something like Modernmix would be allowed on OS X (if it made any sense there) but not on iOS, where, among other things, there is no windowing.

          • klahanas

            One company can’t design it all. I have no problem with that. In fact, it decentralizes control. I like that.

            I agree with OSX. It’s the idea behind customization as it applies to iOS, and with which our author vehemently disagrees. If they want to customize, they should be able too. They own it.

          • Kizedek

            But you wouldn’t, for example, tend to use Word in both Metro and desktop modes? Perhaps because it isn’t fully suited to Touch (yet?), and may never be, since MS seems to believe in its unified OS at least partly out of expediency?

            With many docs, I simply pick up from where I left off on either OS, where ever I happen to be. I use Pages, Keynote or Numbers on both my iPad and my iMac. I can start or edit a doc in any of the apps on either OS. I can do most everything I want to on the docs, on either OS (though I will do some parts of each doc on my iMac if they require a little more intricate/pixel-perfect attention).

            In fact, I end up using both machines as they were intended, in different places, and in the ways they are best suited… but Apple has made that possible for many applications by making their tools (virtually) as robust and accessible in either OS — the iOS app doesn’t devolve into a mouse app or an app with Touch thrust upon it as an afterthought, it’s Touch from the ground up and parts have been re-imagined.

          • klahanas

            You can’t use Word in both modes. It’s desktop only, unless you want to use the subset on the web. Other platforms do the same thing. Skydrive on Windows, Google Drive, etc. That’s certainly not an Apple only solution.

            I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t be able to use the machines as they are intended (presented). Au contraire, I believe in user liberty, another user should be able to modify the environment if they so choose. Put in another way, I don’t agree with the objections towards multiple modes of operation. Use your machine the way you like, and let other’s use theirs as they please. From a user’s perspective, I don’t know why anyone would care.

          • Kizedek

            I think you misunderstood. Apple has full software on both OS X and iOS. Apple does do a subset on the web as well — but that is just a standby for when it is absolutely necessary, or for collaborating and sharing work with others who don’t have the software.

            From what you are saying, having it on both of their platforms is indeed “An Apple-only solution”.

          • klahanas

            You right about where MS made their mistake. There should have been an Office for Metro by now. It’s the only reason the desktop exists on RT.

            On the other hand, didn’t Apple “dumb down” some programs to bring parity with iOS? They are now putting back features after a large stink!

          • Kizedek

            They are putting features back because they have readied the foundations that gives equal footing to both. Now both can go forward again in parity.

            You didn’t want a situation in which you would open a doc most recently edited on the desktop, only to have the iOS version of the app not able to recognize or handle displaying the changes made. The apps on both OS’ have to deal with the common docs in common ways, even if you are more comfortable making certain types of edits (pixel accurate ones, for example) on the desktop.

            Now that the baseline has been established (and it took iOS 7 to make it a reality), individual features can be added much more quickly.

            This is really the irony of discussing MS’ approach vs Apple’s. Though it has “one” OS, “Windows 8”, MS is finding it difficult to create an RT version of Word and reconcile it with the desktop version — the underlying OS is a mess, and the different UI’s don’t reach deep enough into the DOS basement to pull it all together.

            Whereas Apple has common Core Modules and is taking its desktop software back to that, and then building it up again in two different directions (desktop and Touch) — both of which now act on one and the same document equally well. Remember that iWork hasn’t had a significant update since ’09. Apple has just done an “FCP X” move on iWork right, and there will be rapid, modern development on it from here on out.

            Don’t worry, “Putting features back” isn’t a defensive reaction Apple is making to some stink — it’s a forward looking move to get even further ahead and stay ahead.

          • klahanas

            You make good points, a little slanted in some cases, but good points.

            The core of Windows has been fine since Win7. Win8’s core is even better. UI is up in the air.

            From a software point of view, I agree that the approach you describe is elegant. If feature parity is to remain, then I can’t see how the desktop and notebook won’t be held back due to it’s superior hardware. That’s dumbing down too. Can we even print well on iOS yet? Will an iPad run AutoCAD, or Photoshop with the same aplomb?

          • Kizedek

            (Photoshop is perhaps a bad example. Adobe never got its act together. I am not even sure it is on Cocoa to this day (it may well be, but I left it some time ago). There are modern equivalents on both/either OS X and iOS, and many sophisticated operations that can be done to images on iOS.)

            Again, I don’t think it is a question of choosing iOS over the desktop for all tasks, certainly not those better suited to the desktop. As I said, I might perform certain edits to docs on the desktop, and others on iOS. Whatever suits me or the task I am performing — yet, where I have similar apps on both, I can observe and interact with the results to some degree on both platforms.

            I am just not sure your view of the “dumbing down” is quite accurate. I don’t think it is Apple saying in effect: “Oh, no, we can’t let the desktop look like it has more capability than iOS currently has”, or “let’s get those dumb iOS users comfortable on the desktop”. …no, I think they are simply rethinking the way they are implementing certain features under the hood, and they will be right back very soon.

          • steve_wildstrom

            Photoshop has been fully Cocoa at least since Leopard (although Adobe has interestingly developed an Adobe user interface that is consistent across Creative Cloud apps and as close to the same as possible, allowing for inescapable UI differences like menu locations, on Windows and Mac.)

          • Kizedek

            thanks

          • TheEternalEmperor

            You obviously don’t write software. What happened with iWork is common in such massive rewrites.

          • klahanas

            I’ve “written” software for my own professional purposes in the past. Incidentally, that’s not something I can do, or want to do , on iOS.

          • TheEternalEmperor

            If you say so. Sure doesn’t sound like it to me. Even your statement sounds strangely qualified.

          • klahanas

            I should have clarified. I’m not a programmer by profession.

      • obarthelemy

        Any color, as long as it’s black.

  • Great stuff, John.
    While I don’t agree, I will say that the notion that “Touch is ACCIDENTAL to a Personal Computer” while “Touch is ESSENTIAL to a Tablet” is truly insightful. If I am going to change my thoughts re Apple and UI, that one statement alone may do it.

    • FalKirk

      Thank you for being so gracious, Brian. Your posts always make me think and, in my book, there’s few higher compliments than that.

  • mhikl

    Both the Sumo wrestler and the ballerina do acrobatics on a stage. One stage is softer and more giving, the other firm yet flexible. Merging the two stages would dampen the artistry and be lethal to the artists’ performances. Sumo meets ballerina seems a nightmare better left to the twilight zone. Let Microsoft have its fun in that sphere.

  • You said “a foot clutch on a car” wouldn’t make sense… umm, this is what I drive every day and I think it’s how all manual transmission cars work (except maybe modern race cars). It’s not that confusing, nor more dangerous than automatic transmission. I think learning on manual transmission makes you a better driver even when driving automatic since you become more attuned and responsive to the vehicle.

    • FalKirk

      “You said “a foot clutch on a car” wouldn’t make sense…” – Daniel Tello

      My bad, you’re completely right. What I was trying to point out was that the clutch on a motorcycle is on the left hand and the clutch on the car is done with the left foot and the gear shift on a motorcycle is done with the left foot and the gear shift on a car is done with the right hand and if both were on the same vehicle there would be mental chaos (and a lot of accidents).

      • Stuart

        In the UK, you clutch with the left foot, and shift with the left hand. Your point is still valid, that mixing interaction paradigms is just as bad as mixing metaphors. Also, in a car with paddle shifters… you can shift with your both hands (but it has to be both, it can’t easily just be one).

  • slowmind

    Great piece, John. Very insigtful!

    When I first saw Brian’s article, I thought of something from your Tablet Metaphsyics article. Now you spoke out so definitively.

    Just want to add some thoughts.

    Microsoft has tried an unified OS for all devices (PCs, tablets and phones) for a long time, far longer than iPhone and iPad time. At that time, the unified OS is windows. Microsoft tried to use Windows to unify all devices, but failed miserably on tablets and phones. Now they tried to use one unified OS, windows 8 (unified on the surface, underneath there are two totally different OSes) to unify tablets and PCs, same misfortune!

    This verifies a popular saying nowadays, size really does matter! Besides the imcompatibility between touch input and pixel input that John pointed out, just think how ridiculous putting single whole-screen app from phone (one app at a time on touch-based OS) to 27″ monitor in PC/Mac environment (mutliple apps/windows at a time). I guess that’s why Federighi said, PC has been honed over 30 years to be optimal for keyboards and mice. Everybody should respect this basic fact.

  • barryotoole

    Apple has lied about its future plans often, like when SJ indicated that there would never be a Video iPod or an iPad smaller than 9.7″.

    I’m neither a forecaster like many analysts/pundits, nor a visionary like SJ.

    But I’m certain that the future holds a device that’s a laptop with desktop power, amenable to touch response with both a finger and a pointer. When? I don’t know, I’m neither of the above.

    • Jerry Ballard

      You can tell a rabid Apple hater as soon as they bring up the old ‘Jobs lied about the video iPod’ song.
      Realities change. Smart people do too. Deal with it.

    • FalKirk

      “I’m certain that the future holds a device that’s a laptop with desktop power, amenable to touch response with both a finger and a pointer…” – barryotoole

      Thank you for your completely unsupported conclusion. Next time, try refuting something said in my article rather than simply stating an opinion that is contradicted by all the known evidence..

    • Kizedek

      Apple’s laptops do have desktop power; and the built-in trackpads have great gesture control that is not just amenable to interaction with a finger, but designed for it.

      P.S. I think one reason a lot of people think touchscreen control on a Windows device is such a wonderful idea is that the Windows trackpads are so awful. I am constantly taken by surprise whenever I am forced to use one; it’s a wonder anyone gets anything done with them.

    • TheEternalEmperor

      Well, as long as you are certain, we can just ignore all the evidence that we’ve seen. This is no different than the attempts to write common frameworks for various operating systems. Java is the best attempt so far and it sucks on the client. I love it the server, but it is awful for GUIs.

      Web based is another item doomed to failure. Think about it for a second. There are constant attempts, since the mid-90s, companies spending millions and millions of dollars with one goal in mind: To run every application that can be made IN A WEB BROWSER. Let me say that again: there are attempts to run every app that can be made IN ONE APP.

      Is there any surprise that this doesn’t work well. But “Any day now” HTML whatever will do everything that native does. Won’t happen.

      And I think this merger won’t happen either. It’s a mirage.

  • As much as I agree with your article, I wouldn’t dismiss Microsoft just yet. Historically, Microsoft manages to get it on the third iteration. Their first two versions of a product are rarely any good. Likewise, Android was a pretty crappy product until 4.0. Even when they were simply copying Apple, it took both Microsoft and Google several iterations. Apple is truly the exception in that they manage to get the first version more or less OK.

    Right now, Microsoft is on their second iteration of Windows 8. This time it’s not a simple imitation of Apple, so it may take a couple more iterations until they get something acceptable. On the other hand, tablet sales have slowed down somewhat, especially for the productivity tablets (iPads, not the cheap Chinese ones). This means Microsoft still has a bit of time, may be another year or two until the game is truly over.

    As I said, I agree that iOS and Mac OS X should be kept separate. That is definitely a better user experience. However, Microsoft has been successful all these years with a bad user experience. It’s not that simple.

    • Kizedek

      It’s not that simple for MS to be that successful again with poor UI and poor UX.

      For one thing, individual consumers are starting to make more of the decisions about which devices they personally use in the corporate setting; for another, small businesses and startups are increasingly leading and very quickly disrupting incumbents in various industries, because they are not forced to deal with legacy issues — they can more easily embrace and take advantage of new devices, new ways of doing things, new tasks, new technologies, new jobs to be done.

      • True, but Micrsoft’s history is just that; entering the market with an inferior product, but persevering in the end. MS-DOS, Windows, Internet Explorer are all examples of this.

        Also regarding device use in corporates, data suggest that tablets are used more for leisure and less for work. The corporate tablet market is still wide open, in my opinion. http://naofumi.castle104.com/tablets-and-laptops-are-used-for-different-things/

        • Space Gorilla

          Microsoft was only able to persevere (as you put it) because Windows and Office were de facto standards. That is no longer the case.

          • Office is still very much the de facto standard. At least working in Japan, I have never received an email attachment that was not an Office document or a PDF. I have never received a link to Google Docs from a commercial entity.

          • Space Gorilla

            You’ll begin to see the shift soon. While many of my clients still do use Office, it is no longer necessary for me to have Office to deal with those files. And some of my clients have moved away from Office (many use Google docs). There are alternatives now. Microsoft can no longer count on that foundation of Windows and Office.

    • FalKirk

      “Historically, Microsoft manages to get it on the third iteration.” – Naofumi

      Here’s a couple of reasons why that may not be applicable.

      First, people said the same thing about the Zune and Windows Phone and no matter how many iterations Microsoft had, they failed to catch up the iPod or the iPhone or Android phones.

      Second, Microsoft is no longer a monopoly. Perhaps one can get three chances when you’re the 800 pound gorilla but the free market does not give you that luxury when you’re in a competitive situation. And Microsoft is now competing against Apple and Google and some of the best companies of our times.

      Third, as I said in my article, I think that Microsoft is doubling-down on their current strategy. They’re figuratively running a race and running the wrong way. Before they can catch the competition, they have to reverse course. And that puts them far, far behind the pack.

      • You make some good points but Microsoft still retains huge strengths inside corporate IT.

        The current situation as I see it is that there are valid arguments going both ways and it’s too early to tell.

        The slowdown of tablet growth is especially interesting. I interpret it as suggesting that there is an unmet need that requires something new. That might be what Microsoft can contribute.

      • TheEternalEmperor

        Two myths that, it seems, won’t every go away
        1) Apple tax
        2)MS gets it right on the third try.

        • The important thing is to understand the corporate culture. Whether the third time is the charm is not really the point. Some companies quickly abandon failed projects. Some companies go back to the drawing board. Some companies just keep going until they can get it right. It’s the corporate culture that has it roots in the history of the company.

          As for Microsoft, they will often keep trying long after the pundits declare game over. With the odds against them, of course they will lose a lot of the time.

          But sometimes they win.

      • JoeBest

        Great Article! I would also add that:
        Fourth, Microsoft’s success in the PC Industry was because of IBM which served has a huge catapult that launched Microsoft to success. That success expanded to other “surface bound” related markets like workstations and servers.

        However, mobile is a whole different ballpark because, among other things, there is no “IBM equivalent” to sustain Microsoft’s licensing model.

        • Of course there are a lot of points that can be made against Microsoft’s ultimate success. Some of them concrete, others not so much.

          What people tend to forget is that Microsoft also has a lot of assets that could get them back in the game. Assets in corporate IT which neither Apple nor Google possess.

          Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses.

          If Microsoft plays their cards right, I think these assets can still be their “IBM equivalent”, especially in corporate IT.

          • JoeBest

            “Historically, Microsoft manages to get it on the third iteration.” – Naofumi

            While I agree there could be viable arguments for not dismissing Microsoft just yet, I differ on the foundation of your premise. Usually the “third iteration” refers to Windows (Win 1.x/2.x/3.x, Win 95/98/98 SE, Win NT/2000/XP). The reason that Microsoft even had the luxury of “three is a charm” is a direct benefit of its stronghold within the PC industry.

            Microsoft’s artificial barriers of entrance made it very difficult for others to compete in the PC desktop. If Microsoft screwed up the first Windows iteration, so what was one to do?:
            – Buy a new PC with an alternative OS? Something VERY hard if not impossible to come by.
            – DIY (Download-It-Yourself) and install? An option appealing for the tech savvy but not for the mass market.
            – Buy a Mac? Perhaps the main barrier (from a Windows user’s perspective) is the learning curve.

            In my opinion, the line of thought that “Microsoft gets it right the third time” is representative of an era when the mass market tolerated the offerings from a company with monopolistic practices.

            In mobile, Microsoft does not have such luxuries. If Microsoft screws up (and they have) users have options. It’s not looking good for Microsoft and it will take more than just a third iteration to change that.

            “If Microsoft plays their cards right, I think these assets can still be their “IBM equivalent”, especially in corporate IT.” – Naofumi

            While assets (and how they are used) are very important, what I refer to as an “IBM equivalent” is more than that. With all the assets at Microsoft’s disposal, have they been able to build a compelling platform outside the PC industry? MP3s? No. Smartphones? No. Zune? No. Tablet PC? No. xBox? Debatable. In essence, an “IBM equivalent” is to define a hardware platform that is appealing to the widest spectrum of markets in the least amount of time.

            The main assets that Microsoft wants to use to differentiate their tablet offerings are Windows (8/RT) and Office. Are those assets enough to be an “IBM equivalent”? The sales say no. Even with the ubiquity of Windows and MS Office within corporate, the reality is that corporations are not early adapters. While I concur with you that corporate is a stronghold for Microsoft (for now and the foreseeable future), it will be more challenging to maintain as more corporations trend to B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Device).

    • DarwinPhish

      Microsoft passed 3 iteration on mobile many years ago. Even if you reset the counter after WM 6.5, we are at 3 right now (I am including WM 7, 7.5 and 8).

      Microsoft also burned through more than 3 iterations of its first tablets. Admittedly they were pen/stylus focused, so you can argue they are only on their 2nd iteration with touch.

      My point is simply that Microsoft sometimes never gets it right.

      • Anybody who is really trying will often fail. Google reportedly even rewards failure. Some, if not most of the failures will ultimately never succeed.

        You should not measure by how often they fail. What is important is how and if they eventually succeed. Historically, Microsoft has succeeded by hanging in there. This is probably engrained in the corporate culture. They don’t easily quit.

  • jameskatt

    I love your quotations.

    • FalKirk

      Thanks. Much appreciated.

  • Bertie

    A touch based UI is the best interface for handheld computers, not for all computers.
    The critical innovation of the iPad is that it is handheld, not that it has a touch based UI.
    So many people are still to understand this. (Microsoft, I’m looking at you …)

    • FalKirk

      “A touch based UI is the best interface for handheld computers, not for all computers.” – Bertie

      Right. Microsoft got the form factor (tablets) right, but they couldn’t get the user interface right. It’s easy, in hindsight, to see that touch was the answer, but the better the design, the more obvious it is — after the fact. 🙂

      • Bertie

        You are absolutely correct with the MS tablet. And then when they saw the iPad they copied the touch UI but failed to get the form factor quite right ! Specifically the Surface favours landscape rather than portrait which is less comfortable to hold and they emphasized the keyboard which requires … well a surface.

        It is interesting to think about what makes handheld so compelling. E.g. When I have a laptop and an iPad to hand (both instant on) and I want to browse the web on the sofa, Why do I always reach out for the iPad ? Is it something as simple as back posture ?

        By the way I love reading your posts, your writing is sublime. Maybe you could branch out into more varied topics ?

        • jfutral

          “then when they saw the iPad they copied the touch UI but failed to get the form factor quite right ! ”

          I think this is an important point. A tablet form factor is not a universal concept, particularly when it is the details that make it so very, extremely different. Apple waited until the hardware technology was ready before releasing anything. Tablet form factor is to iPad what a circle is to a car tire. Something may be circular or even a tire, but that doesn’t make it appropriate for a car.

          If there is a unified UI out there one day, I highly doubt we will talk about it in terms of either “Touch” or “Keyboard/mouse” UI. It will transcend both and likely invisibly incorporate other UI approaches as well.

          Joe

        • Kizedek

          “And then when they saw the iPad they copied the touch UI but failed to get the form factor quite right !”

          I think a point that this article is getting at, and the discussion it is raising (or should raise), is that it is not enough to merely “copy the touch UI”. The OS has to “think Touch” in its very essence.

          • Bertie

            Agreed. The article is spot on.

            The point I would like to add to the article though is that what defines the iPad is that it is a computer that you hold. Touch is the means to an end, it is not the defining quality. How else do you control a computer that you hold ? Voice ? Not yet.

            So people look at the iPad and its success and say “Look how people love touch, we must add touch to everything.” But they have missed the point. It is not touch that makes the iPad what it is. It is the fact that it doesn’t have to sit on your lap.

          • Kizedek

            Yes and no. There were handhelds for a long time (PDAs and whatnot), but the stylus was often the input.

            I think the breakthrough with the iPhone/iPad is about Touch — Touch done right. It’s about touching your content and data in a very real and visceral way. It’s about the OS receding and the app becoming the interface. It’s about not adapting a desktop OS to a new form factor (just making bigger targets doesn’t cut it).

            I think it is after the discovery that this is so great, and such a refreshing change from the old way of computing, that you get the lightbulb moments where creative developers begin to apply and capitalize on the capabilities of a mobile device, and the freedom from the desk that it grants: with new and unforeseen jobs and tasks, whether that is watching TV on the toilet or converting cooking units in the kitchen.

          • Bertie

            You are of course absolutely right. The devil is always in the detail. I just like to try and keep things simple.

            I don’t at all mean to belittle the importance of iOS, touch and all of the many many details that Apple essentially invented with the iPhone.

          • steve_wildstrom

            It is telling that the set of API’s that form the user interface for iOS is called Cocoa Touch, while the equivalent for OS X is Cocoa. This is a small thing, but it shows that Apple understands a critical distinction at a very deep level.

  • Brad Crenshaw

    What I’d like to know is whether this is to make iOS more secure with this move or if Mac is going to now suffer from the existing iOS vulnerabilities that I read about on vpnexpress.net. Not to mention how the NSA can spy on iPhones directly.

    • FalKirk

      “Not to mention how the NSA can spy on iPhones directly.” – Brad Crenshaw

      If you read the reports, you’ll see that the NSA exploit referred to in the news can only be used if they have physical access to your individual phone.

      • steve_wildstrom

        The irony, in light of a discussion thread for another article, is that NSA has to jailbreak your iPhone to spy on it.

  • Peter

    “You use your right hand to shift gears”
    You do use your hand, except for an automatic as you say. But which one depends upon whether you’re driving in Germany or Britain.

    • FalKirk

      I was being very US-centric. The point – which I hope wasn’t obscured by the example — is that too many mixed inputs makes it difficult to comprehend and use the device at hand.

      • Peter

        Actually, it makes one of the points better. For a stick-shift, the “hand” is essential. Which hand is accidental.

        • FalKirk

          Thank you, excellent point. Aristotle would be proud of you. 🙂

    • A half ton truck from the 70s has three on the tree on the right hand size. Maybe he was a farmer in another life.

  • stefnagel

    Why not put a dual boot on the bigger Apple devices? Not a unified OS; two OSes to do the the work that needs to be done. Why?
    1. As Ben Thompson painted it this week, OS X handles one dimension of work; iOS another. We like and use both OSes.
    2. The doc is my work; the device is someone else’s. The work to be done is my work, my doc. A doc viewpoint suggests we need both OSes.
    3. For certain tasks, iOS is preferable to OS X: checking Twitter and Facebook, sorting email, messaging.
    4. Most folks prefer touches to clicks where we can have them.
    5. The iOS is the OS we want; OS X is the one we need.

    Again, rephrasing, why not pull the doc up in either OS, depending on how WE THE USERS want to work:
    a) On the detached or reversed screen on a Mac, where OS X is the default OS, the doc surfaces in iOS.
    b) On a high end iPad, paired with a keyboard and pad, the doc surfaces in OSX.

    Would the OSes unite ever? Probably not. More likely, they would just find expression as we needed each of them. Cus’ there will continue to be devices on which only OS X is appropriate, desktops, and devices on which only iOS is appropriate, phones.

    • TheEternalEmperor

      Dual boot, I think, is an ever worse solution. At least with Windows 8, you don’t have to stop your existing programs. Dual-boot is a huge step backwards.

      I would say that the USERS don’t want this and by this I mean 95%(perhaps more) don’t want dual OS solutions. Right now, we have various VMs that will allow you to run Windows and Macs on a single system.You can exchange docs, copy and paste, listen to music on one and browse with the other and the overwhelming majority of users don’t do this. Too complex.

      While Apple is right to make the same apps available to both and to sync them, that is a FAR cry from unifying the operating systems.

      • stefnagel

        Yah. Dual boot is not the right term. How about Duel Boot? That is, depending on the state of the device (detached screen, paired keyboard), the doc opens in one or the other OS.

        And yah, people do want both; they just don’t know it cus’ they can’t have both.

        • FalKirk

          The PC is a hammer and the tablet is a screwdriver. Before the screwdriver existed, you used the hammer for every task. After the screwdriver existed, Microsoft tried to make their hammer more like a screwdriver and make a screwdriver that acted like a litter like a hammer (Windows RT) and a combo hammer screwdriver.

          No one wants a hammer-screwdriver. Just use the hammer when you have to hit a nail and use a screwdriver when you want to screw in a screw. Two different tasks, each calling for two totally different and unique tools.

          • stefnagel

            How about three different tasks? Search Zippo hatchet-saw-mallet. You will never buy these three tools again.

          • jfutral

            I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Just get a saw-z-all. Then all this hammer/screw driver, laptop/tablet mess is moot. If it doesn’t fit, force it. If it breaks it needed replacing anyway.

            🙂
            Joe

          • stefnagel

            Just updating. Search Person-centric computing: The not-“iAnywhere” future beyond iOS and OS X

        • TheEternalEmperor

          Respectfully agree. Most people don’t change the resolution of the screens and barely multitask after around twenty years of having it commercially available.

          This is why, for example, Apple was able to get away for years with the multitasking services of iOS. There are a small handful of things people want to do: listen to music and browse, for example, because that is very natural.

          Pulling up a screen and switching to “iOS” mode, I think simply won’t work because those people don’t need the OSX mode to begin with.

          When I say “norms” confused about:
          1) the fact that the keyboard went out(just needed to be pulled and plugged back end(and that was hard to explain) and thought that the problem was in the hotmail website
          2) Run one app full screen, close it, then bring up second app.
          3) Puzzle over almost any OS setting

          This tells me that those people will not accept dual mode systems. Simply too complex for what they are doing. These are people that can still barely set clocks on appliances. It simply won’t happen.

          I don’t think these people are stupid. Very smart people just don’t care about that level of detail, no more than someone cares about the timing of their car engine.

        • aardman

          Even if you have a ‘pure’ interface for each mode, you still have a compromised form factor. Which is probably the bigger issue.

    • stefnagel

      Check out the newest Accidental Tech podcast. John Siracusa puts it more strongly yet: Touches will replace clicks, just as clicks replaced line commands. In which case, OSx will be marginalized, not just specialized, as Ben Thompson noted.

      • benbajarin

        I agree. As evidenced by this article I wrote right after the first iPad launch.

        http://www.slashgear.com/from-click-to-touch-ipad-the-era-of-touch-computing-0680617/

        We are raising a touch literate generation. Implications abound.

        • stefnagel

          Good post. Wonder if we are really embracing the new: touch not clicks will be the UI; the iPhone not the Mac will be the hub. Certainly this argument, touch vs. clicks, becomes moot, as click UIs become irrelevant (maybe with a bit of voice assistance?. If no one is using OSX in five years, why would Apple continue pursuing OSX as a separate but equal platform?

  • Tim W

    While I agree that a “unified user interface” doesn’t make sense because of the fundamental differences between mouse pointers and finger pointers, I’m not so convinced that a “unified form factor” wouldn’t work.

    Think a Macbook Air that would automagically switch to iOS as soon as you detach the screen from the keyboard-plus-trackpad. In such a device, the engine would not sit underneath the keyboard as with Mac notebooks, but behind the screen as with all iOS devices. Assume this device would sport a 2048*1536 display that would act as a Retina screen in “iOS mode” (1024*768 logical pixels), but as a normal “high real-estate” screen in “OS X mode”. Or even a 4096*3072 (4K) screen to go “Retina all the way”.

    Apple has been putting way too much effort in this direction recently for there not to be at least some smoke pointing to a fire:

    – 64-bit (“desktop class”) ARM chips
    – unified iLife and iWork apps across all platforms
    – yearly release cycles and free upgrades for both iOS and OS X

    As far as I’m concerned, the writing is on the wall.

    • TheEternalEmperor

      Well, you have that sort of system right now. In fact, you had companies make that sort of HW years ago. Not big sellers. I think people may be reading too much into the desktop class statements. You can have desktop caliber touch apps and not unify the system.

    • FalKirk

      A thoughtful comment, but I respectfully disagree. Unified hardware equals compromised performance somewhere. Apple’s all about making the best, not making the best compromised products.

      • Tim W

        You are exactly right in that Apple will never release a “compromised Mac”. So the number of conditions to be fulfilled is pretty huge. But they have filled blank spots in their product line-up before, and if ever they would go with an “iPad Pro” proposition (i.e. in between iPad and Macbook Air), I think it would be “iOS plus OS X on ARM”, and not an “iOS-extended-with-more-multitasking-features” as everyone seems to be talking about these days. Because *that* would be compromised multitasking, while OS X is perfectly suited for the job.

  • Ben Craib

    But why do so many people try to use their tablet as a laptop, ie buy keyboards for it?

    • TheEternalEmperor

      I don’t think wanting to write occasional long form equates to using as laptop.

      • Ben Craib

        Anecdotally I know people, me included who love the ipad but find that document creation for work, word processig, spread sheets etc is very unsatisfying. They also wish the ipad was able to do that better. I understand that the ipad is perhaps not suited for that which is why we should carry both a tablet and a laptop- but the desire to have the benefits of touch, and the benefits of GUI, combined, is def there and strong.

        • TheEternalEmperor

          Today’s universal remotes that is easy to program, yet most people don’t have universal remotes. They switch between 4 or 5 remotes. Ask that person if they would want a remote that can control all of their devices. They would say “yes, absolutely!”. And the device is available RIGHT NOW! 😉

          Yet, most people don’t own them. Why? Perceived as too complex.

          I have a bluetooth keyboard for long typing, but when I want to code, or perform certain types of task, I just use my desktop. It doesn’t make my desktop bad and it doesn’t make me desire that my desktop act as my iPad.

          Just my thoughts…

          • Ben Craib

            I hear you- devices have their strengths. Though I use an 11 inch macbook air, and a 10 inch ipad doesn’t really offer me anything over that

    • aardman

      I don’t think there are as many such people as you think.

      • steve_wildstrom

        I can tell you why I do. There are times when I only want to have my iPad with me. And sometimes I need to write more than in comfortable using the on-screen typewriter, for example, writing a longish comment or email, or even a full Tech.pinions post. Oddly, I find that the advantages of my Zagg keyboard are less for typing than 1) freeing the screen real estate that the on-screen keyboard would cover and 2) gaining cursor controls for precise positioning of the insert point (there’s that pointer vs. touch issue again) and easier cut and paste. I’m not doing anything that isn’t possible without the keyboard, it’s just easier with. And I don’t use the keyboard all that often.

    • FalKirk

      “Why do so many people try to use their tablet as a laptop, ie buy keyboards for it?” – Ben Craib

      They’re extending the functionality of the device. Don’t confuse edge cases with things that are essential to the device. You can add a hitch to a car and it’s extremely useful for towing, but that’s not how cars are mostly used. You can add all sorts of attachments to tools and they’re extremely useful to the professional, but most people use tools as is, without fancy attachments.

      Focus on what is essential to the tablet and what is essential to the notebook. Keyboards are nice, but not essential to a tablet. Touch is nice, but not essential to a notebook. But touch is ESSENTIAL to a table and Keyboards are essential to a tablet. When you force the user to blend al user interfaces into one device, you’re forcing them to drive their car with both handle bars and wheels, to drive their motorcycles with both a foot gear shifter and a hand gear shifter. Inevitably, they’ll become confused and frustrated.

  • Brett Turner

    This piece is seriously confused by failure to distinguish between the operating system and the user interface.

    Regarding the user interface, John is exactly right. Keyboard and mouse are for traditional PCs,touch is for tablets. Touch may have a secondary role on traditional PCs but it is the not essential. Traditional PCs and tablets should have very different user interfaces.

    But why does this mean they need different operating systems? Win 8 shows it is possible to have one OS with two UIs. Win 8 didn’t do this especially well—Metro isn’t fully developed and they tried way too hard to force it onto traditional PCs—but I don’t see why you couldn’t have one OS with two different UIs.

    And I suspect there are are economies of scale to having only one UI. E.g., one security patch per week instead of two, lots of common code between touch and non-touch versions. Yes, you have to write the interface code twice, but you would have do that anyway with 2 OS’s.

    So 2 UIs are essential, but I think there are advantages only one OS, so long as both UIs are fully implemented.

    • Kizedek

      Your comment is seriously confused by the failure to recognize the fundamental issues and differences between the two modes of computing, and to realize why any attempt to address them at the UI level only is going to fail. But MS is welcome to have another crack at it.

  • AhmadZainiChia

    Here’s a slightly contrary point of view: Microsoft is not saying that a touch interface and a keyboard-mouse interface can be unified – hence, they created the two-headed beast that is Windows 8. The idea is that when you want to use it as tablet, go to the Metro mode. And when you want to use it as a laptop, go into Desktop mode. Hence in a lot of ways, Microsoft is in agreement with you.

    So perhaps the question is not really whether a touch interface can be unified with a mouse interface. Perhaps the question is, is there hardware that can allow for this seamless two in one dream? And if yes, how will the software work such that the transformation from one mode to another is seamless and easy to understand for the end user?

    For the 1st question, its both yes and no I guess: the hardware is ‘good enough’ in the sense that you can get a combo device that can be both a tablet and laptop – but they can only be optimal at one task. An optimal tablet wants to be super light, and around 10-inch in screen size; an optimal laptop wants to be at least 11.6-12 inches, and wants to be more powerful and hence will cause it to be slightly heavier. So you have to pick which side you’re on and choose accordingly. But overall, the hardware has progressed so that the 2-in-1 dream is relatively feasible from the hardware point of view.

    It is the software that is where most of the problems lie. How do you make the software ‘transition’ from one mode to another? How different, or similar should the two modes be? When you move from one mode to another, where are all your files? These are problem which have to be answered well, and there might not even be one. Who knows. I guess we’ll look and see – but until Apple has all these questions answered well enough, they will not make a hybrid device.

    • Kizedek

      Yes, we know what MS is saying… and still disagree. The idea hasn’t worked because the UI isn’t deep enough to adequately address the fundamental issues and differences between the two modes of computing. It’s not the place to address the differences, it can’t.

  • JoeS54

    As the comments below show, there is clearly a demand for such devices. I own a Surface Pro 2, and am extremely pleased with it. The only logic to this article seems to be, “Microsoft has done it, therefore it must be bad”. And “If Apple copies Microsoft, the psychological wound to its craziest fans will be irreparable”.

    Meanwhile, Apple needs to make products that people want to buy. That’s all that matters.

    • Kizedek

      I think it is legitimate to wonder why people want to buy the iPad and not the Surface.

      The premise here, is that the reasons are largely rooted in what lies below the surface. Since this is the case, the record does need to be set straight that borrowing appropriate elements back and forth between iOS and OS X (such as gestures on OS X track pads) does not constitute either “convergence” or “‘copying’ of MS”.

      With its move to hardware, mobile and functional structure, it appears that MS is doing most of the copying. Yet they still appear to miss what has made Apple products so popular with consumers; and Apple so successful as a business — a good part of that being a willingness to disrupt itself.

    • FalKirk

      “The only logic to this article seems to be, “Microsoft has done it, therefore it must be bad.” – JoeS54

      Joe, you always assume that my articles are anti-Microsoft. Yet you ignored these salient facts. 1) Apple is not unifying iOS and OS X and their iOS devices are smash successes. 2) Google is definitely NOT unifying Android and Chrome. They two see the wisdom of not forcing the wrong UI on the wrong device. 3) Microsoft has decided gone down the 1 UI route and their sales have been disastrous to both their OEM’s and their own Surface devices.

      It is not I who is prejudiced against Microsoft’s choice to force the wrong UI on all devices. It is reality is is prejudiced against Microsoft’s decision.

      • JoeS54

        In 2013, Apple sold about 23 million iPads and about 48 million iPhones. Windows 8 sold 100 million copies in the first six months of its existence.

        Yet you call the former “smash successes” and the latter “disastrous”. It seems you’re the one who’s prejudiced against reality…

  • obarthelemy

    You’re assuming keyboard+mouse and touch can’t work with the same interface. It’s not about putting Touch everywhere, it’s about finding a UI that works for both. both Win8 and Android have got it, mostly.

    MS’s Metro is quite good. Win 8’s issues have to do with Metro being forced even in non-touch scenarios, and Live Tiles and other Win8 apps being sorely lacking, even, or is it especially, the basic MS ones (Mail, Gallery, Browser…). I can very well picture Metro with nice Live Tiles and useful apps and tools… I’m just puzzled by MS’s inability to actually make that work. Don’t they talk to any users ?

    Android is mostly missing keyboard shortcuts and right-clicks, oh, and a zoom function off the mouse. Really not that hard to bake in. My Android desktop is already quite usable.

    Both have rather low discoverability though, we need visual hints of where the off-screen stuff is. Win8 is particularly bad, with things overflowing randomly to the left, right, top, bottom… That’s not a touch vs kbms issue though.

    • jfutral

      “You’re assuming keyboard+mouse and touch can’t work with the same interface. It’s not about putting Touch everywhere, it’s about finding a UI that works for both. both Win8 and Android have got it, mostly.”

      On one level, I don’t think it is so much that they _can’t_, but that the fundamental approach from a UI design implementation they are two separate goals driven by the input methods. You can’t treat a finger touch with the same granular precision that you can with a mouse. And to provide the mouse the coarse precision a finger supports wastes the purpose of a mouse.

      Then there are people like me who can’t hit a target no matter how large the target or the method employed.

      Just a thought,
      Joe

    • FalKirk

      “It’s not about putting Touch everywhere, it’s about finding a UI that works for both.” – obarthelemy

      No, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s about finding a UI that’s true to the device, not compromising the UI to work on every device.

      • obarthelemy

        You’re saying that as if many people were not regularly tacking a keyboard (and mouse ?) onto **a single device**, that also supports touch. What does “true to the device” mean, when the device is polymorphic ?

        1- Unless you want to have the fun of carrying 2 devices, one for touch and one for keyboard+mouse, there *is* only one device.
        2- Unless you want the disconnect of having 2 UIs, one for Touch and one for kb+ms, a single unified UI is preferrable, assuming the tradeoffs are not too dire.

        To me, it hasn’t yet been proven that you can’t have a good dual-mode UI, that does both touch and kb+ms. From what I see from MS and Android, it’s actually quite doable, and would be a huge improvement over touch-only (iOS) or schizophrenic (Win8) OSes.

        • jfutral

          Let’s examine that for a second, then. A keyboard on a PC is actually more than a keyboard, it is also a control device. It is more fully a user interface than “tacking on” a keyboard to an iPad.

          The only thing a keyboard tacked onto an iPad is, is an external representation of the onscreen keyboard for text input, nothing more. When I am “tacking on” a keyboard, I am not actually trying to make a laptop, I am trying to input text. My keyboard for a PC is for a whole lot more than just text input. There is not a UI equivalency.

          Joe

          • obarthelemy

            Actually, I’m on Android not iOS, and a keyboard is half-way to being a control device: the Home, Volume, Tab, cursor navigation and shift-cursor text selection, Esc,… keys work and do non-text-entry stuff. As do the Menu (show menu) and Windows (go to Home) keys.
            1- I don’t see how this interferes in any way with the Touch functionality
            2- I’d like just a little bit more of it, mostly ctrl-cokebottle quick commands (which do work in some apps, but not consistently: ctrl-u for underline…
            3- ditto for the mouse, it’s fine for selecting text, clicking, dragging.. .they just need to fix the right-click and give it a way to zoom in/out, and I won’t have to wave my arms around and grease up my screen when doing serious work.

            Not only are keyboard already “control” devices, but very little is missing to make them offer full functionality, and this takes *nothing* away from the touch experience.

          • jfutral

            But, as John has pointed out, that is incidental (or accidental), not primary or even principle. Half-way to being a control device is still not to the capability of a PC keyboard _necessity_ control device. Touch is still essential and primary on a tablet, even an Android tablet. See points 2 and 3 in your own post. Even trackpads add _some_ touch capacity to PCs, but not anywhere close to being primary or essential.

            [edit: Personally, I think it is likely a future inevitability of a unified UI/UX OS, but not with the devices of today. The face of computing will change dramatically for that to happen, maybe even “the next big thing”. And as I mentioned elsewhere in this thread, no one will think in terms of “touch” or “KVM” centrality. Those will simply be ancillary/intuitive considerations and choices.]

            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            No. I have an Android Desktop, which I use only with a mouse and keyboard, since it is connected to a regular, 24″ HDMI monitor with no touch.

          • jfutral

            I’m still struck by two things all the same (without knowing the details of your system),

            1) Your own dissatisfaction you have related, I have no doubt built on the fact that you are using an OS as a desktop that is not meant as a desktop OS. And

            2), as has already been noted, not even Google is pushing Android as a PC OS. If the company charged with the guts of Android see this as a compromised experience, then someone is trying to hack together something. I have no doubt (again) people’s ingenuity at making a screw driver do many tasks it was not designed for. I myself, in a pinch, have used a screw driver as a hammer, as a chisel, and as a pry bar (and with some creativity, once as a wrench). But I have also broken many screw drivers in the process as those tasks are not what a screw driver is for. At those times I was thankful for Craftsmen’s return policy.

            Just a thought,
            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            It’s not so much dissatisfaction as frustration since the very small changes required for going from OK to Excellent are very easy to make and in no way impact the touch experience. And the situation is already much better than only having support for kb+ms for text entry.
            Tools are good for what we make of them. The iPhone was not even supposed to have 3rd apps, originally…

  • Mr. Mumbojumbodong

    Stay seperate!….there will be commonality surely…as an example though,I did google,they put my information arbitrarily anywhere and everywhere,then i look and oh boy…i have to sign in to google to download anything,and their system denies my downloads as their two part sign in authenticator can’t seem to correlate within its’own frame work…..”on my device!”…….this annoyance has transgressed being a nuisance…now it interferes with my well being…….the internet in and of itself is open source…….google…s’far as you go?…there are other search engines that are far less impetuous….that do not do things arbitrarily….i’m sorry but…your like the computer that went bad in a few old scifys!….when you seek control…you push people away…

  • jbperez808

    What’s complete bull hockey is the assertion that touch is incompatible with desktop/laptop usage. Stop drinking the Steve Jobs Kool-Aid already as he has been proven wrong multiple times:

    1) iPad Mini was a runaway success
    2) people couldn’t wait to upgrade to the larger screen iPhones

    The two areas where Steve Jobs will _ultimately_ be proven wrong are:

    1) People will want pen along with touch. Galaxy Note Tablets and Phones are on their 4th iteration already.
    2) The future is touchscreen EVERYWHERE including desktop/ultrabooks. While Windows 8 UI changes are indeed a bit of a disaster, the complaints are directed at the confused UI design itself, and ***NOT*** the fact that touch is available.

    Microsoft’s failures are due to implementation of the idea (as always), not because the paradigm itself is unworkable.

  • RockHopper

    I’m a little late to comment, but great article. This point may have been made elsewhere, but maybe desktop/laptop sales are down because Windows 8 sucks. Most people don’t know there are ways to buy a new desktop/laptop with Windows 7, so they just opt out, probably sticking with their old computer, switching to Android/Apple products, etc..

    Microsoft, instead of admitting their mistake, has decided to go full bore with their bad idea, thinking that things will get better. I think things will only get worse for them.

    I’m an embedded and PC tools developer, and I’ve been using mostly Windows machines (at work and home) for 20 years. If Windows 10 is anything like Windows 8, I’m at a point where I’m considering converting to Apple or Linux products.

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