29 October, 2012

The Merging Of Computer And Portable Device OSes

Starting with OS X 10.7 Lion, OS X has begun looking more and more like iOS. I mentioned it in my post on the launch of Lion in 2010, and it's not just my opinion - a cursory search for "iosification of os x" (without ") finds many articles on this topic.

iOS-like features of Lion
  • Interfaces of Address Book, iCal and Mail
  • Auto-Save
  • Autocorrect
  • Full-screen apps - this is particularly ironic since this is exactly what the Maximize button in Windows does, yet OS X has always had the maximize button use as much space as the app needs, not the full screen. Here OS X has become more like Windows. Actually as screen sizes and resolution increases, full screen makes less sense. Especially on a computer with proper multi-tasking.
  • Launchpad - "an iOS-like icon grid of installed applications". All your applications in one place, i.e. a Start Menu, another thing OS X seems to have lifted from Windows. It's something I've always done by dragging the Applications folder onto the Dock. It works better than dragging Program Files onto the Taskbar because OS X applications are mostly individual .app files, with no other support files in the Applications folder.
  • App Store

iOS-like features of Mountain Lion, OS X 10.8
  • Notification Center
  • Notes
  • Game Center
  • Address Book renamed Contacts, iCal renamed Calendar
  • Most worryingly, Gatekeeper - only lets you install apps from the App Store. You can change it, but how long before this option disappears totally, and you have to jailbreak Macs? It's like that point in Animal Farm when the animals become like humans, or when Anakin joins the dark side. You get the feeling things have taken a turn for the worse.

Anyway, my point in writing this isn't to just talk about OS X, but WINDOWS as well. It seems Microsoft has noticed it was missing out on the tablet market, and wants to make up for lost time with Windows 8. Shunning the gradual approach of Apple, it made Windows 8 an OS for both computers and tablets. I think it's counting on people's familiarity/dependence on Windows to sell tablets. However, I don't think PC users will appreciate having to learn the Metro interface (see Office's Ribbon interface), and usability for PCs seems to be badly affected. See Heisenfeatures - "Heisenfeatures are documented features of Metro the new interface that may or may not work at any given time."

PS: When writing this I discovered the interesting term "skeuomorphism", which is "when a product imitates design elements functionally necessary in the original product design, but that becomes ornamental in the new product design". Seems very common in Apple software.

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