Could Windows 8’s new UI be a sign of things to come?

If what Microsoft showed earlier this week is any indication, Windows 8 looks set to abandon age-old user interface paradigms and serve up a full-screen, touch-friendly user interface. Whither Mac OS X? Jesus Diaz over at Gizmodo has written an interesting opinion piece about the future of Apple’s operating systems, and he believes Lion may be the last Mac OS X as we know it.

Diaz says it’s no coincidence Apple choose the lion—the biggest and mightiest of the big cats—as a code name for OS X 10.7. "Lion is the last of the cats and it may be the last OS before a new generation that will have the same guts with a new user experience," he says. Whatever operating system comes next may have an iOS-style interface and may not even run on the same kind of hardware as today’s Macs, Diaz posits. Considering ARM-based processors are rapidly gaining cores and growing in performance, it’s not hard to imagine another architectural shift taking place at Apple. (The company already transitioned from 68K to PowerPC, then from PowerPC to x86, so another jump would be business as usual.)

Hardware is only part of the picture, though. Diaz reflects at length on the shift away from traditional windowed interfaces, which Windows 8 will be making next year—and which he expects Apple’s next-gen operating system to undergo. He doesn’t seem entirely unhappy about that prospect:

Clerks, designers, engineers, economists, illustrators, architects, gamers, photographers, journalists, film makers, teachers, students, or musicians… for those people, everyone in the planet except a very few, the file structures and the windowed user interface are imposed by paradigms that have long been obsolete, crumbling conventions that have been growing in complexity through the years.

I don’t know if I agree entirely with Diaz. Certainly, making user interfaces less complex is a good thing, but I can’t be the only one who’s grown rather attached to windowed interfaces over the years. Right now, for instance, I’m typing this in a text editor window on my first monitor while glancing at the Gizmodo piece and an IRC window on my second monitor. Would a full-screen interface offer the same level of multi-tasking efficiency, or would it be one of those "two steps forward, one step back" developments?

Comments closed
    • bbala466
    • 8 years ago

    I found this Metro Dynamis, is great to develop these new Windows 8 style applications. Check it out at [url<][/url<]

    • bluepiranha
    • 8 years ago

    I for one am looking forward to how the WP7-style “tiles” GUI will pan out. I’m hoping it’s going to be a little more intuitive to use compared to how the present Windows GUI looks.

    My mom and dad are presently trying to delve deeper into personal computing and they’ve complained that they find Windows clunky at best. While I’m not much of an Apple supporter (never bought an iPod, iPad or iPhone so far, despite how popular they are in the Philippines where I live), I can’t deny that both of them find their Apple iDevices much easier to use than either my Q6600-based rig running XP or my dad’s mini-ITX box running Windows 7.

    If the WP7 tiles GUI helps Microsoft find a new customer base — in my case, retiree parents approaching 60, wanting to become tech-immersed — I’m all for it. Properly executed, it’s a win for personal computing.

    My two cents

    • Aquilino
    • 8 years ago

    So, not-rounded corners are the new rounded corners?

    UI-wise Microsoft always does it wrong. And worse yet, doesn’t fix their previous botchups.

    • Arclight
    • 8 years ago

    I clicked on the article cause it said Windows 8 UI and the article is all about the Mac OS X. Wow!

    • Krogoth
    • 8 years ago


    Windows 8 appears to be Windows 7 Phone/Table Edition 2.0

    Touchscreens on the desktop/workstation will never take off, due to hardware requirements (FYI, you need new mointors or motion sensors).

    I suspect MS intends on keeping 7 on their desktop/workstation arena, while Windows 8 goes after the growing tablet/smartphone markets.

    It is another classic “me-too” from MS.

    • LaChupacabra
    • 8 years ago

    Thank you Microsoft, for finally getting it right.

    What I’ve always wanted out of a phone is a 4 to 4.5 inch touch screen for the on the go e-mail checking, light gaming, whatever. That’s done. But I’ve always wanted it to plug into a docking station that supports a full-sized monitor, keyboard and mouse. If the 2 UI’s are easily switchable I would image using the tile based UI when it is sitting as a phone, docking it, and having the “classic” UI kick in to do the full powered office, web browsing, real work that needs to get done. If the upcoming quad core arm chips are powerfull enough to do this, it would be perfect for a small client pc.

    This looks awesome

    • bjm
    • 8 years ago

    A lot of people are stuck on the whole desktop metaphor of managing windows, but give them time to be exposed to a tile-based system and they’ll soon see the advantages. The interface shown on the Windows 8 demo has many unique elements. The multi-touch aspects of it look great and are rather innovative, and so is the tiles-as-icons concept, but the idea of tile-based window management is not new.

    Many *nix users out there are familiar with such setups: Ion3, Awesome, Xmonad, ratpoison. In my opinion, tile based window managers are superior to the current floating/layered widow system. Combining it with multi-touch capabilities is an even greater idea.

    To everyone who thinks “oh my god, my arms are going to be tired using this thing! this is stupid wtf wtf wtf”, keep in mind that tile-based window managers on *nix were designed to be keyboard-based GUIs. The potential is there for Windows 8, if implemented properly, to be Microsoft’s best implementation of a keyboard-controlled interface. They aren’t going to market that of course, because multi-touch is the cool kid on the block, but the potential is there. And to everyone who thinks tile-based window managers mean only full screen apps on a single monitor, take a look at this screenshot:

    [url<][/url<] Three monitors using a tile based window manager. (Yes, I know its crude, but I'd imagine Microsoft is capable of "beautifying" it for the masses) All of it controlled via the keyboard, but of course, the mouse can be used. YouTube also has an abundant set of videos showing tile-based window managers in action. Here's a video: [url<][/url<] Remember folks, what we saw was only a preview of whats to come with a strong focus on tablets. Scaling this baby to a 2560x1600 resolution is definitely possible, and even more so for a 2560x1600 triple-monitor setup. It can be done, and it's been shown to be possible before, even without multi-touch. As a huge fan of tile-based window managers, I can't wait to see more.

      • Cuhulin
      • 8 years ago

      Hmm, this is not three steps back; it’s more like 6. Windows was tiled when it came out. The market preferred the desktop approach then; for larger screened or multi-monitor setups, it will be preferable now.

      I can understand the tiles for a small tablet or phone screen: there’s not much point to windowing a small display. It’s just a bad idea on modern desktop hardware.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 8 years ago

      And yet traditional window managers remain by far the most popular Linux GUIs.

    • hakioawa
    • 8 years ago

    What I don’t understand is why people think this is an either/or decision? It would be trivial to support both shells. Do you really think that number crunchers want to use a tablet to enter data? Authors? Devs? Of course not. Office will remain the bread and butter application for 100+million people. Microsoft will HAVE to maintain some semblance of an existing shell, and if you watch the videos it’s right there.

    For tables/reading/surfing/phones/social networking . . . . a touch shell might make sense. And this is precisely why Microsoft should do well. The touch shell doesn’t have to be great, just good, and it will enable dozes of new sized and for factors.

    For example, I want a 13″ tablet with an ARM processor, touch screen, 64GB SSD boot drive, that connects to a 8 core Intel docking station/keyboard with 1 TB of storage, secondary monitor and high end graphics. Right now I have 3 machines that this could replace. These sorts of things will become common place soon.

    Oh and I want the two paired with hardware encryption that allows me to get at my base station anywhere in the world securely.

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      Maybe MS knows they’re gradually loosing the Office market too, because of
      So, they try something else.
      If it sells, it’s sells. That’s all the company is about.

    • Rza79
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]"two steps forward, one step back"[/quote<] I hope you mean: "one step forward, two steps back"

      • Stargazer
      • 8 years ago

      It’s just a jump to the left…

    • ShadowTiger
    • 8 years ago

    Am I the only one who imagines a future where everyone is a power user and can even do a little programming?

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      Yup. Computers are becoming more and more a click and go appliance and not a personal computing device.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    I’m excited to see how the new windows has evolved. I don’t think that windows needs to leave its current space but could definitely benefit from a more flexible and touch friendly interface. Its sad to see how great win 7 is and how much a departure from that success win 8 will be. I’m not to scared though, win 7 will always be there if it fails epically

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      This was an interesting article:

      [url<][/url<] Simple OS tweaks made an x86 tablet super responsive.

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      “I’m excited to see how the new windows has evolved.”
      Ah, the usual “it’s all fantastic” blah blah.
      It’s like porno: in the beginning it’s exciting, but in the end it turns out to be nothing but sticky.

    • Malphas
    • 8 years ago

    People will always complain about change, this isn’t the first paradigm shift in OS UI’s and won’t be the last. Some pople whined about switching from command line to GUI, some people whined about the switch from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, people whined (and many still whine) about the switch from XP/Vista to the Windows 7 taskbar, and now people are whining about Windows 8’s new GUI (which is optional and designed for tablets anyway).

      • donkeycrock
      • 8 years ago

      You would believe the amount of whiners in Counter Strike every time they bring out an update.

      • Stargazer
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]people whined (and many still whine) about the switch from XP/Vista to the Windows 7 taskbar[/quote<] It's not technically part of the taskbar, but the mandatory focus-grabbing (*) search bar in the Win 7 Start Menu is horribly (well, relatively speaking) inefficient for a subset of use cases, so it's a shame that the option to use the Classic Start Menu no longer exists. Fortunately, there are 3rd party alternatives... (*)Ok, you *can* get rid of it, but then you also lose control over the focus

      • impar
      • 8 years ago

      Windows 7 taskbar is awful. Dont have a clue why Microsoft developed it.
      Glad there are ways to bypass it entirely and put the proper style back.

    • XaiaX
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]Diaz says it's no coincidence Apple choose the lion—the biggest and mightiest of the big cats—[/quote<] Tigers are bigger than Lions, actually. Lions just have better marketing. /pedantry

      • bitcat70
      • 8 years ago

      Hahaha!!! I was just to post my comment on that when it disappeared and I saw yours after the refresh. Coincidence? Anyway, yeah the tiger is biggest. Did Apple have a successful top-secret breeding program? Or maybe they should’ve called it “Liger”?

      And before the crazies come out:


      • hansmuff
      • 8 years ago

      So one more update.

        • Peldor
        • 8 years ago

        They already did Tiger though. They should go for a Sabertooth (Smilodon). Probably get a Cougar.

          • willyolio
          • 8 years ago

          the day they name an OSX update Sabertooth is the day OSX goes extinct.

      • Damage
      • 8 years ago

      Ligers are larger than either. 🙂

        • CuttinHobo
        • 8 years ago

        And not only that, but ligers are also bred for their skills in magic!

    • indeego
    • 8 years ago

    Multitouch is three steps back. Honestly just attach retina detection cameras on our devices and get this silliness over with.

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      Na we just need bluetooth neural interfaces.

    • Farting Bob
    • 8 years ago

    Touchscreen layouts work ok on portable screens when running 1 program. But i dont use my main PC like that. And the bigger the screen the harder it is to hold (weight and general akwardness), but touchscreen is terrible on a vertical mounted screen at arms length.

    Laptops could see benefits, but it would still need a good keyboard and mouse, touch would just be an optional extra.

      • Bauxite
      • 8 years ago

      My x220T agrees with you. Touch/pen is awesome for casual use, particularly surfing but having a real keyboard and mouse is critical to do useful things beyond “television style interaction” which is what these full screen interfaces boil down to.

      Also the thought of holding my arm out at length on a screen 8+ hours a day is absolutely retarded, as is the idea of hunching over a flat surface. TS desktops are almost 100% /facepalm for anything beyond a kiosk.

    • Rulo
    • 8 years ago

    Computers need to evolve, this needs to happen.

      • herothezero
      • 8 years ago

      ^ Tiles is not an evolution; it’s a devolution of the interface–for the sake of device-specific considerations. I saw the W8 tile-touch interface today for the first time on a YouTube clip. I was horrified. That’s no way to use a damn computer.

        • WaltC
        • 8 years ago

        Eh…don’t worry about it–the standard Windows/7 GUI will be fully supported in Win8, and Microsoft has confirmed this (of course). The context of this info was particularly Win7 Phone-ish, simply to demonstrate that the Win7 Phone GUI was going to have longer and longer legs. It doesn’t mean the standard GUI is dead by any means, it simply means that Windows will be more open to official GUI shell implementation and allow the user/device manufacturer to configure the GUI best suited for the device. This all seems very superficial to me–much ado about nothing.

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      Computers need to evlove, because otherwise you wouldn’t get anybody in this right mind crazy enough to buy a new one.
      It’s mere bookkeeping.

    • DancinJack
    • 8 years ago

    They’re going to have to change the name to “Tiles.”

    Don’t mess with my Windows. I like it how it is. I may very well be switching to Linux full-time if things progress like this pretty quickly on the Windows front.

      • AlvinTheNerd
      • 8 years ago

      Thats the advantage to Linux.

      You may not have the latest UI or the newest software, but you have just about everything that ever was in improved fashion.

      I do a huge amount of work in commandline. Not that a GUI isn’t nice, but commandline lets me script so many things that it is easier to type and use commands than find a GUI program that does what I want. Most of my work is commandline using far more advanced programs than what you find in Window’s CMD.

      Similarly, there are a number of minimalist GUI’s out there that don’t look much better than Win95, but utilize screen space so well that some people highly prefer the efficient boxiness to the more polished KDE and Gnome.

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