Although users are flocking to mobile devices in droves, a large segment of consumers remain interested in desktop and laptop computers.
Tablets and mobile apps are rapidly increasing the level of productivity they allow, but traditional desktop operating systems are still king for maximum flexibility of applications, activities and connectivity.
Microsoft and Apple continue to iterate on their core operating systems, Windows and OS X, adding features and improving interfacing with modern advancements, such as the cloud. Both are looking for ways to keep their operating systems current with mobile trends while successfully retaining the core desktop experience. This balancing act is difficult; stressing one aspect over the other can seriously change the public perception of the brand.
Windows 7 was, by and large, a great success. The operating system was fast, stable and fixed the most glaring problems of its predecessor, Vista.
Windows 8 should have followed 7’s upward trajectory, but it didn’t. It was fast, like Windows 7, but marred by a new, easily misunderstood interface. Microsoft wanted Windows 8’s touch and gesture-friendly interface to cater to the tablet and mobile set, but didn’t realize how jarring and unintuitive these features would be to desktop users. Hot corners and a new home screen, features not widely used in Microsoft products previously, were suddenly front and center.
Thankfully, Microsoft has recognized how disastrous Windows 8 was for desktop users and has started the road to recovery, restoring removed features such as the Start button and announcing plans to bring back the old Start menu in a future update. The transition from Windows 7 to 8 should be a textbook example of how not to fix what isn’t broken.
With Windows 9, CEO Satya Nadella says Microsoft will be working to bring the operating system under a more singular code base. News had somewhat spread this week that Microsoft was aiming for one version of Windows for all platforms, which would be intriguing. One of Window’s biggest problems is the fragmentation of features and available software across desktop Windows, Windows RT and Windows Phone.
However, a one-true-Windows doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Mary Jo Foley reports that while all Windows versions may have a single “core,” consumers will still be subject to an array of different Windows versions, differing by platform.
While I’m not sure if one version of Windows is the answer, it’s clear that Microsoft cannot continue attempting to cater to all platforms on all platforms to be successful. If it wants to integrate mobile, it needs to do so where it makes sense and where users can intuitively work with it. Keep an eye on Windows 8.2 to see how Microsoft handles the growing mobile market on desktop.
Apple has handled the integration of mobile features into OS X quite well.
OS X’s interface has remained largely the same through the ascent of mobile, with additions accenting the desktop product and only pulling from mobile when it makes sense.
Touch features didn’t at all translate to Windows 8, but work seamlessly on OS X. Pinch to zoom, multifinger gesturing and other touch controls work the same as they do on iOS, which users are familiar with.
Apple also understands that users want their mobile devices and their desktop to work together, not necessarily replace each other.
To wit, the upcoming version of OS X, Yosemite, will include new “Continuity” features designed to make working between your Mac and iOS mobile devices easier. Along with the ability to allow any of your OS X devices to answer your iPhone calls or SMS texts, Continuity lets the phone and desktop trade and pick up activities.
In contrast to Windows 8’s odd interface choices and omissions, OS X’s leaves the desktop experience intact, integrating mobile-friendly features only when it makes sense and in a way users are familiar with.
Users interested in taking the Yosemite beta for a test drive can sign up on Apple’s website at https://appleseed.apple.com/sp/betaprogram. Computers with 2GB RAM capable of running OS X Mavericks are eligible to run OS X Yosemite.