The Windows 8 Touch UI

I don’t get it.

They obvi­ously went to a lot of trou­ble to design a new touch-based inter­face. But because they need back­wards com­pat­i­bil­ity as well, they have a “tra­di­tional” apps iso­lated into a kind of “Win­dows 7 ghetto”, some­thing that looks just like Win­dows 7, and with no vis­i­ble trace of being inte­grated into the whole Win8/touch thing… And this is for tra­di­tional PC’s. On my PC, I’m appar­ently going to have to choose which envi­ron­ment I’m using cur­rently, because there’s lim­ited inter­ac­tion between them. And both worlds are going to suf­fer from that.

But why did they do this? A tra­di­tional PC doesn’t ben­e­fit from a touch inter­face. So on a PC, they went to the trou­ble of pro­vid­ing a new, shiny-looking UI, which doesn’t inte­grate well with what a PC needs to do, or with the apps that already exist on a PC.

And on tablets? Well, they’re most likely going to use the infa­mous ARM port of Win­dows, aren’t they? And that means they won’t be able to run exist­ing appli­ca­tions any­way. But they still get to drag around the entire legacy desk­top “ghetto” UI. Why? So that they can run the PC ver­sions of Excel or Visual Stu­dio (assum­ing an ARM port exists)? Yeah, that’ll be hilar­i­ous to use.

From what we’ve seen so far, Microsoft has man­aged to pro­duce a good touch-based UI — some­thing that might actu­ally give them a fight­ing chance in the tablet space. And they’ve got a good keyboard/mouse-based UI already. (A good command-line based UI is still MIA, of course) — and at the same time, Win­dows Phone makes no attempt at com­pat­i­bil­ity, and lives in its own lit­tle world.

I sus­pect that one of the keys to Apple’s suc­cess is that they’ve exploited each platform’s dif­fer­ences. They didn’t try to make OSX run on the iPhone or iPad. They wrote iOS for that (admit­tedly with a lot of code reuse, but as sep­a­rate beasts with sep­a­rate APIs and UIs). The result is that every iPad app is writ­ten for iOS and for touch. Every OSX app is writ­ten for OSX and for the “PC” plat­form, for mouse and keyboard.

Try­ing to make every device do every­thing, as Microsoft is seem­ingly doing, sounds like it will merely give us the “tra­di­tional” Win­dows expe­ri­ence, the feel­ing that every app is writ­ten in another era, for a very dif­fer­ent plat­form, with no attempt at fit­ting in. So our mouse-based apps on our tablets will get a fresh brush of paint, and then they’ll be let loose on the WinTablet. We’ll get touch-based apps designed for tablets, run­ning on PC Win­dows, and try­ing to coex­ist with Excel, Visual Stu­dio, Minesweeper, Notepad and Out­look. And no mat­ter where the user turns, he’ll be faced with apps designed for a com­pletely dif­fer­ent UI par­a­digm. But for what pur­pose? Does Microsoft seri­ously think peo­ple will buy their tablet over the iPad because it runs MS Word? And are peo­ple going to buy a Win­dows 8 PC just so they can, using a mouse, play a port of Angry Birds or another touch-based game?

I don’t under­stand the attempt to make both coex­ist on every device. Nei­ther PC’s nor tablets need both. Do they? Both seem to be weak­ened by the pres­ence of the other. Can you hon­estly say that you’d like your iPad more, if it allowed you to run OSX apps out of the box, with­out requir­ing the apps to be rewrit­ten and redesigned for touch? I doubt it.

I don’t get it.

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2 Responses to The Windows 8 Touch UI

  1. Adam Schepis says:

    I had the same ini­tial reac­tion. I was watch­ing the video they posted and think­ing “Ok, Win­dows 8 might be pretty cool for touch devices” but its so strange that i can still get to the win­dows 7 expe­ri­ence. They are hedg­ing their bets or try­ing to make it one-size-fits-all. the dif­fer­ence switch­ing between the two is jarring.

  2. I’m hop­ing the Win7 clas­sic mode will at least be one of those global options you set when you install a fresh OS.

    Win8 looks great as an exten­sion to WP7, but not sure I’d be happy with it for my desk­top and laptop.

    I was hop­ing for an opti­mized Win7 kind of like apple did snow leopard.

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