Windows 8 - What does it mean for Microsoft and Apple? 

Sunday, November 11, 2012 8:26 PM

User experience has certainly taken center stage with the introduction of touch enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets. Apple reintroduced touch (made finger pointing :-) common place) in ways that it had to become center stage. So why would Microsoft's re-reintroduction of touch in Windows 8 make a difference?

Let us visit history and see how Apple and Microsoft have played out in changing the computing experience. Most people probably have heard of a device in the late 1970s and early 1980s branded Apple II. Oh, yes. Apple set out to change the world with this machine. It was a desktop computer with the ability to type commands and the machine would execute the commands. The computer which consumerized (is that even a word) computing. However, it was not until IBM introduced the PC and Microsoft provided the PC-DOS (IBM's name for MS-DOS) that the desktop computing really popularized. Microsoft went on to introduce versions of MS-DOS on PC clones. The input device that brought about this was the Keyboard. (The favorite input device prior this was punched cards).

Having lost the popularity and not changing from its policies of proprietary standards, Apple needed to do something dramatically different. In the late 1980s, that dramatization was brewing in Palo Alto in the form of a new user interface (the term user experience was coined much later) at Xerox. Apple licensed the technology and introduced the Apple Macintosh. Microsoft followed with a similar user interface in their version of the operating system named Windows. The device that was key to this user interface is the mighty Mouse. Apple Macintosh, though a consumer product, was/is relatively sold less in volume compared to the PC clones with Microsoft's Windows operating system. A notable aspect was that Microsoft retained its MS-DOS in the form of another application that would run in a window with a changed name 'command prompt'.

During the first decade of the millennium, Apple has tried relentlessly to introduce finger pointing :-) (inspired by the non-functional pen pointing on a few Microsoft devices), but it did not seem to come together. The touch based devices,  at much addressed specific needs. With Windows 8 Microsoft is introducing this technology mainstream. Unlike, Apple (who have still held on to the proprietary policies of a closed system) which introduced touch only on the iPods/iPhones and the iPads, leaving the Macintosh behind, Microsoft opted to re-engineer the whole eco-system  and their operating system around this incredible new user experience. While doing so, the old style of applications are still supported as expected in a small specific app named the Desktop, which eventually will go into oblivion much as the DOS prompt did. But then, will history repeat itself? Time will tell.

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<span data-scayt_word="Dhaval" data-scaytid="38">Dhaval

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