I’ve seen some other comments on running Vista on a Mac Book and it seems to be somewhat unanimous: the keyboard sucks. Some of the benefits I have heard include the use of firewire, Parallels, and BootCamp, none of which I’ll ever use. Of course, that’s not it. A few of the hardware niceties include the backlit keyboard, front-loading DVD, and magnetic charger. I don’t know if I like the idea of a front-loading DVD player, but what does it really matter? Not much, in my book. The problems mentioned include the excessive heat; touchy touch pad, which is a problem I already have with laptops; uncomfortable typing due to the front edge of the laptop; two-finger + clicking is a cool idea, but slightly annoying when considering the simplicity of a right-click; and, of course, the keyboard layout. I’ve also heard there have been problems with 64-bit Vista due to lack of driver support. Given all this, I don’t think I’ll be giving it a try anytime soon. Of course, if the Mac tablet happens before June, when I get a new one, I may be singing a different tune. Steve Jobs did say he wouldn’t do a tablet, tho, so I don’t see that happening this year.
Given my new venture, I have to complain about something... small tools/utilities that don't close when I hit Esc. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying everything needs to close on Esc, but there is a lot that could. Take, for instance, the vast number of utility windows in Windows... wait, no, let me revise that... How about every control panel applet (or whatever you call them). Ok, sure, a lot of them are dialog-based and close as you'd expect when Esc is pressed. Let's look at the Windows Update window in Vista, tho. Since it's based on Windows Explorer, Esc doesn't close it. There's no OK/Cancel button; no buttons at all. So why would it hurt to support Esc? Perhaps this is simply an oversite, but it's one that way too common. I can name a dozen places like this in Windows, but I'll spare you the agony. Microsoft isn't the only culprit, tho. All I ask is that developers think about their users a little more. Is there any way you can shave one keystroke, one mouse move, or even a transition from the keyboard to the mouse. All these things add up to big points in the user experience arena.
Ok, I just thought about something and had to tell somebody, so I volunteered you... (suckers) Last week, I took a WPF class Brian Noyes put on. In that class, he mentioned how the main reason people will consider WPF, at least initially, is when they're looking for a "differentiated user experience." I couldn't help but chuckle as my [strange] mind processed this, tho... "differentiated user experience" = DUX... so, if you want to ensure you have a differentiated user experience, you probably want to keep your DUX in a row. HA!! Get it! DUX -- ducks? I kill me!
...ok, forgive me. I just had to get that out. I'm not nearly a dork on here as much as I am in person. I need to work on that.
Here's an interesting comparison of the user interfaces for Mac and Windows over the past ~13 years. I found it somewhat interesting, so I put a little more effort to see which ones came out first, hence the timeline below the UI comparison...
In the timeline, I marked the significant releases in red. This is just my opinion, of course, and others may think otherwise. The first thing I have to say is they should've included Windows 3.x, which is fairly similar to MacOS 7. Also, I want to say MacOS 7 is relatively similar to previous releases, visually, but I'm not 100% sure. Aside from that, if you compare it to the above UI comparison, you notice that Apple did a good job of pumping out releases fairly quickly, but Microsoft beat them to the market with Windows 3.0. Windows 3.1 was the release that really caught on, tho. Of course, the big story was Windows 95. I want to say Windows 95 had the largest release in the history of personal computers. The 7 year stagnation between MacOS 7 and 8 is probably the worst thing Apple could've done. I don't know about the promises at the time, but this was worse than the Vista release! Beyond that, MacOS 8 wasn't even much of an improvement. In my mind, Windows 95 leap-frogged MacOS, who wouldn't come close to catching up until 5.5 years later, with MacOS X. To say that another way, Apple couldn't beat Microsoft until they dropped their main code-base and started with Unix. I think that says a lot about the quality of Apple's code. Ok, maybe that's a low blow, but whatever. 9 months later, Microsoft released Windows XP, which gave Windows a bubbly/cartoony UI... which I have always hated. Finally, Windows Vista hits the streets in 2006 with a lot of big improvements, arguably the biggest upgrade since Windows 95. Of course, with such a huge market behind Windows, Microsoft can't survive without its vendors, which is the biggest reason Vista isn't on every desktop... well, the Windows users' desktops, at least. Lastly, the next incremental release of MacOS X was released last month. "Leopard" has a few very nice features, but isn't really a huge upgrade. Honestly, since MacOS X, Mac users haven't seen any big changes. So, we're coming up on 7 years since the last major Mac upgrade. Don't you think it's about time we see something big? Don't expect it, tho. I'd put my money on the next version of Windows coming out before a major upgrade to MacOS. Of course, Windows "7" may not be as big as I was hoping. Those changes may be reserved for the Windows 8.0 release, which I'd guess would be around 2012. Man... that's forever!
A few weeks ago, Mix 08 was announced. I started to check it out and contemplate how much I wanted to attend, since I missed the first one and decided to skip the last one and go to PDC instead... which was cancelled *grumble, grumble* Well, I'm not making that mistake this year. However, another conference I have an interest in attending just popped up: SD West 2008. At first, I was thinking how nice it'd be to check out both. Mix started out being a web developer conference, but has become more about user experience, which I have a great deal of interest in. SD West is an architecture forum. Unfortunately, I just found out they're both happening the same week. Decisions, decisions...
Given the fact that Mix has slightly moved away from the more technical developer content, I think I might opt for SD West. Of course, SD West has more non-Microsoft content I may not be interested in. I'd be lying if I said location doesn't matter. Mix is in Vegas, which is definitely fun; but SD West is in Santa Clara, which would be a first. I've been to San Fancisco, but that was quite a while ago. I'd like to get some feedback from someone who's been to both, but I guess I'll have to take a deeper look at the content of each to see which one would be more valuable.
Anyone who knows about the history of Microsoft knows the company works best when challenged. While I can't imagine many reasons people would question XP vs. Vista, nobody can argue Microsoft has made a lot of stupid mistakes with this release. I foresee a change with Windows "7," tho. I'm expecting Windows "7" to be more focused on user experience and consumerisms than some of the previous releases. If not "7," then the follow-on release. Why? Because Apple is picking up steam.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Apple gets user interface design. Microsoft needs to take this to heart a bit more and strive to innovate on how users interact with the OS. I see this being the key differentiator in years to come. We've grown accustomed to the same old thing and I think we think there has to be a better way. I'm not saying today's computing experience is flawed. I merely think there's probably a better way to make the computer act like we do and predict our actions more than it does today... which is none. Microsoft started with Office 2007, so now it's time to do it with Windows.
Usability is one thing, but there's more to the equation. Let's face it, consumers have different needs than enterprises and Microsoft has seemingly put more effort in meeting enterprise needs than those of the consumer. How will Microsoft seek to improve on this? Today, I think the answer to that question is easy: Windows Live. The itch of the consumer is scratched with what comes in Windows Vista, but there's still much to be desired. What's the answer here? The growing suite of Windows Live products, of course. We're starting to see a one-to-one mapping of core Windows apps (i.e. mail and photo management) to Windows Live apps. Coincidence? I think not. Microsoft is treading new territory with the Windows Live suite, tho. It'll be interesting to see how things pan out over the next year or two; especially with the next release of Windows. With or without Windows Live, Windows is what needs to change to keep people from switching. Perhaps the Windows Live suite will replace what's built into Windows, perhaps not. I have to admit I can see that being a possibility. My only concern would be antitrust issues. Then again, most of the Windows Live apps I've used work with other services, as well, so maybe that won't be a problem. I imagine we simply need more of a plugin model or standardized service interfaces to augment that more for other service vendors. Hmm... maybe I'll stick with that. Windows Live being part of Windows just seems to make sense. With this, the software plus services (S+S) vision could almost be fully realized within Windows "7."
I was brought up on the Mac. I switched over to Windows a long time ago because of the power of the platform. For the most part, I haven't looked back. There is one thing that always seems to catch the corner of my eye, tho: user experience. Well, I've seen some pretty bad user experiences coming from Apple, so let me classify a bit more by saying user interface design. Apple does a good job of making things look great and feel pretty good. Microsoft has incrementally tried to fix this, but there's one major stop-gap: hardware. As long as Microsoft depends on 3rd party vendors to develop the hardware Windows lives on, Microsoft will be plagued with poor implementations. For this reason, I really want to see Microsoft start selling hardware; specifically, laptops. I honestly think the desktop market is somewhat stable. Sure, there can probably be some improvements, but with the increasing need for mobility, I'm more interested in laptops. Either way, the need is the same: a new infusion of fresh blood in the hardware industry. I don't want another Dell or HP, tho. I'm looking for one line of laptops tweaked for power users. I want it setup and configured for success. Forget the crap software vendors put on there -- you gotta love that Apple ad, Bloated. For once in my life, I'd like to get something I don't feel the need to format right off the bat. The key to this is very solid hardware. I want it pretty, I want it functional, and I want some out-of-the-box thinking in its design. I've been screaming for this in the back of my mind for over a year, now. There's only one problem... Microsoft.
Microsoft is not a hardware company. Look at the Xbox. Sure, the damn thing sells like candy, but how much of a loss has Microsoft taken because of faulty hardware? Yeah, that's right, a billion. Sure, it's pocket change, but that's money that could be used to innovate on a better platform. If I remember correctly, the Xbox itself (not the games) was a loss for the first few years and only recently saw its first profits -- gee, those didn't last long, did they? I honestly don't follow that market, but it just goes to show how bad Microsoft is at major hardware initiatives. Zune hasn't really proven itself, but there are other factors there. Besides, Zune is built by Toshiba... perhaps one of the worst hardware companies around, which doesn't make me feel any better. Where I'm going with all this, tho, is I don't want Microsoft proper to build this laptop line. I want a subsidiary who's dynamic and flexible. Someone with the resources of big daddy to ensure success, but with the ability to innovate and go to market with more agility -- something the hardware industry sucks at. Of course, maybe this isn't right, but I'd like to see it implemented before arguing one way or another. Take some notes from Apple and Lenovo and pull together a strong team who can build solid computers. Point them to the Windows, Office, Windows Live, and Research groups and let them show the world how Microsoft software was meant to be experienced.
...oh, and for God sakes, give me a good laptop keyboard!
Looks like Lenovo is releasing a consumer laptop. While it doesn't look as nice as the ThinkPad, I'm excited to see Lenovo joining the game. They didn't address all my keyboard concerns, but it is nice to see some change. The stupid mouse "nub" is gone and the Esc key seems to be in the right place, but, unfortunately, they still have the damn Fn key out of whack... of course, the most annoying of all the issues. On the positive side, it has an integrated camera, what sounds like a nice sound system, and a 6-in-1 card reader. Nothing revolutionary, but they are at least nice features. Hopefully, we'll see these improve over time. I'm really hoping to see some change in look and feel of the laptop. It's about time for some out-of-the-box thinking. Then again, maybe they should focus on tablet PCs first, since I'll be getting one of those in June