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Microsoft’s Second UI Innovation

Critics have always accused Microsoft of copying UI from Apple

Critics have always accused Microsoft of copying UI from Apple. As Chris Madden in this interesting post point out that Apple fans state that:

“…every Mac OS feature and icon eventually shows up in Windows (and in fairness many do)…”

First time Microsoft came up with a revolutionary UI design was when it created the Ribbon. Like most revolutionary design it was thoroughly criticized. Here is one such post – I am sure if you search you will find many more.

It was different and if you keep all your previous learning aside, it was much more intuitive. I think they did one big mistake of not putting the “File” tab.

What is more interesting is that Microsoft revealed the complete story of how they went about creating the ribbon. The story is fascinating and I strongly recommend that you listen to it. Here is the link for the complete presentation and here is the link to the presentation.

[Well, can you imagine Apple making such a presentation?]

You need to note two points highlighted in that presentation:

  1. Traditional interface which is a combination of pull down menu and toolbar is not very intuitive when you have close to 300 menu options and 18 toolbars
  2. It is important to base your UI design on the actual usage data

There are people who still don’t like ribbon but most people (including myself) find ribbons to be much more intuitive. In a nutshell, we can call ribbon a success and it can be said without any doubt that Microsoft is the creator.

Microsoft’s 2nd UI Innovation
By now it is obvious to us that WIMP interface does not work well on a touch device. That is why Windows CE based devices required a stylus. That is why Windows tablet never took off. That is why Apple created a different UI for iPhone – different from Mac OS.

But has the UI standard for touch reached a stage where we can consider it done? I don’t think so.

That is what makes Windows 8, Metro interface so promising. Why? Well there are several reasons:

  1. It works well on a touch device – of different size – even very large ones
  2. The interface is active – which opens up more possibilities
  3. They have managed to combine – very neatly – the WIMP and the Touch interface
  4. The interface is being designed for different types of processors
  5. For the app developer – same application will work on PC, tablet and smartphone

Will it succeed? Is Microsoft too late in the tablet and smartphone game? Will it go the Vista way?

Only time can tell – but you need to admit that Metro interface is very interesting and full of promise.

Also: see this and this.

More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
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