When I first came across Windows 8 I thought to myself ‘Yes, that’s it: that’s what computing should be like.’ I pictured a future where we would need only one central device rather than having our computing power spread between desktop, laptop and tablet. In tablet form, Windows 8 would offer a beautiful, intuitive experience like that offered on current Windows Phone handsets; in desktop/laptop form, we would connect/slide out our keyboard and mouse and have all the detail and precision in the UI that lacks on iPads and other tablets. Everything would be there and everything would be beautiful and everything would be accessable inthe form that I needed it to be.
But Microsoft have just crushed my dream. Instead of allowing a single unit to provide its user with two different user experiences to the same data, the boundaries are not even blurred, but rather mashed together. The customer preview has just relvealed that not only has the (up to this point - magical) start button disappeared FOREVER, but also we will be switching between Metro and traditional desktop interfaces almost at random.
This is not one machine accessing the same resources in two diffferent ways, but a deliberately fragmented experience.
However, there is a light on the horizon. It seems that those wonderful people at Ubuntu have realised my dream and set on a path to make it a reality - in ‘proof-of-concept’, anyway.
Those chaps at Canonical have set up a mobile phone running Android to boot to a desktop version of Ubuntu when a keyboard, mouse and monitor are connected. All you have to do is plug in your peripherals and all your data is there; it will even continue playing videos from the same spot or open up a web brower at the same page you were looking at before. No switching back and forth between UIs; just the same data, hardware and power all in the same place. It’s the same kernal, just a different way of playing with it depending on what I need it to do. Put this into a form facter like the Asus Transformer and I’m sold. Simple.
I know this is very early days, but it frustrates me that the open source ‘complicated is good’ folks are developing something easier to work with than the people who are developing the software for my parents next computer. Any half tech-aware person KNOWS the hassel this is going to cause with phone calls in the early hours saying ‘I can’t find the start screen’ or ‘how do I get back to the desktop?’
Microsoft, you’re so close to getting this right. Metro is fresh and a brilliant tablet interface and the Windows 7 desktop worked just beautifully. So, for the love of my own sanity, please, please, please make the right choice here, otherwise I’m going to have to start teaching my parents how to work with Linux (oh, dear God…).