Earlier this week at the Gartner Symposium ITXpo in Orlando, Microsoft’s lame duck President, Steve Ballmer, once again restated his vision for “One Microsoft/one world.”
Actually, we jest. As reported by Larry Dignan on CNET, the vision remains a single Windows GUI to be used across all devices, from smartphone to tablet to PC. That’s what he and the rest of the crowd in Redmond have been saying since long before the release of Windows 8, when Metro was still Metro, which was their first attempt at implementing this one-size-fits-all vision. Nevermind that it hasn’t worked for them so far. You know what they say about “try, try, try and try again?”
“Ballmer said it’s realistic to have one Windows platform across multiple screens. ‘Sometime in the next short cycle we’ll see great progress on that. What it really means common user interface, common programming interface, common security architecture and user interface adaptability and common developer model and key services,’ said Ballmer.
“He noted that a common experience will be coming sooner rather than later, but ‘I’m not going to give you a schedule.’
“‘We need to build a common operating system as well as a common back end based on what the device knows about you,’ said Ballmer.
That last, “based on what the device knows about you,” we find to be a scary thought. Yet another reason to stay away from Microsoft.
Here in Linuxland it appears that Mark Shuttleworth is of a similar mind as he readies Ubuntu phone for prime time. He may be taking a slightly different tack, however. From screenshots we’ve seen, it appears as if the Ubuntu phone’s interface won’t be exactly the same as desktop Ubuntu but will be intuitively the same.
If so, we think that’s a good idea and much preferable to Microsoft’s vision of Metro everywhere.
We see the usefulness of phone, tablet and desktop sharing a common interface. This would not only make it less of a brain strain on the user when moving from one device to the other, it would also come in handy for syncing devices, etc. The trouble is, the dynamics of a small phone screen compared to a large PC or laptop screen makes an exact copy unrealistic, something Steve Ballmer would’ve realized by now if he listened to his users.
Also, mobile devices are used for different purposes than PCs, meaning the workflow needs of a phone are in most cases completely different than on a desktop. Ideally, an operating system should be designed to recognize the differences between large screen devices with a keyboard and small devices that are designed to be used on the go. They should be enough alike that a user can easily move back and forth, but the idea they should be exactly the same is simply wrong, in our humble opinion.