Part 1 – The Enchantment
I was actually in the room at CHI 2001 when Bill Gates introduced the Tablet PC. Taking notes on my Pocket PC, mobile and tablets, I was all over it. I became an early adopter soon afterward, using my convertible notebook/tablet doing UX design consulting. And let me tell you that in those days, jaws would drop in amazement when folks saw you draw on the screen. Nothing impressed the natives more. “Look, him draw on screen! Him must be a god!” Alias sketch, Microsoft OneNote, and all those new app user interfaces that were going to change the way we interacted with computers,
Part 2 – The disappointment
except that it didn’t happen. None of the MS Office apps ever budged to utilize pen input, nor did Adobe, or anyone else. Instead Microsoft abandoned us early tablet adopters like freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs.
Then a few years later, Apple invented both the pocket PC and the tablet. And everyone swooned. And for good cause, this time it worked. Plus it had the Apple and third party support to make it really productive and price point lower, not higher, than a regular laptop. Google joins in the fun steeling Microsoft’s role as the “other leading brand” to be compared with Apple, mimicking their every move, yet with an open hardware platform.
Part 2b – More Disappointment
Fast-forward again to 2012. Microsoft introduces Windows 8 and the Surface. There has probably never been someone so late to their own party and awkwardly dressed for the occasion. Microsoft launches an Apple-esque store in the mall with Kool-Aid drunken sales people mimicking the weirdoes at the Apple store. So I stopped in to check out the Surface. The name itself speaks of another great concept that couldn’t find a market and so left its name to be adopted by this iPad wannabe.
Somewhere in the windows 8 mix, I was hoping to find my old tablet PC reborn with a contemporary vigor. No such luck. What I discover is a lesser knock off of tablets that are already too dumb for my professional taste. That may sound lofty, but this was my daily work tool for four years, constantly with me in airports, airplanes, hotels, coffee shops, and offices everywhere.
Part 2c – Even More Disappointment
Windows 8 — Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users http://www.useit.com/alertbox/windows-8.html
Disappointment. The word that Jakob Nielson uses to describe the Windows 8 experience. I am compelled to agree. Not that I am or have ever been a firm Jakob follower. I just hoped that we would see the high end supported with trickle down impact to the lesser demanding users. Instead what I see at every turn is the computing environment reduced to a contest between Dumb and Dumber.
Looking at Nielsen’s article, it is confirmed. Power users have been thrown under the Windows 8 bus. Nielsen’s description of the modern style induced usability problems in Windows 8 sound all too familiar. It seems that Microsoft has confused minimalist with primitive. Can you say pre-Win 95? No, wait, more like pre-Win 3.1! It’s like Microsoft has unlearned all the lessons of the past twenty years. I wouldn’t mind except that I depend on their products to do actual work, not just goofing off.
Makes me think of the “Apple Wheel” as reported by the Onion
It feels like Microsoft is sacrificing the power user desktop which is still dominates to become a tag along in the tablet space. It seems, there may be a clear opening for a high performance user experience Operating system environment. Silicon Graphics Irix, where are you?
Part 3 – The Enlightenment
On the other hand, if Microsoft believes that the desktop is vanishing from the earth no matter what, then it might seem prudent to use their window of time to convert that desktop lead while it exists into a tablet contender. It still leaves many of power windows users in a hard way and opens the door for a new aggregator to jump in and direct the larger virtual platform.
Pondering this a bit more, this may indicate a milestone in the abandonment of the desktop by Microsoft as something that they see that cannot be held onto. The computing environment that was once the virtual desktop metaphor invented at Xerox PARC is now being replaced by a ubiquitous heterogeneous environment that exists both in real space and in the cloud. An aggregation of real and virtual devices is needed to perform the same role that the proprietary desktop once played. I see that mobile devices may have their own avatars in this virtual space.
Who will define this space? Who will own it? How about me and you?
I am pretty sure this is the theme of my next techy art piece. “MyFavoritemachine, In the Cloud” or maybe “Escape from Desktop’.
copyright 2012 r.e.belveal