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Summary:

Microsoft’s effort to merge the Windows Phone look and feel with Windows 8 will pay off in the form of causing Google Android to “fade away” says a mobile market watcher. That’s possible because Microsoft — and Apple, as well — have something that Google doesn’t.

windows8-metro

Microsoft’s effort to merge the Windows Phone look and feel with Windows 8 will pay off in the form of causing Google Android to “fade away.” So says Ville Aho, a European follower of the mobile industry, on his blog. There’s merit in Aho’s perspective as I’ve noted that while Apple and Microsoft are moving towards a user interface merger between desktop and mobile systems. Google, by comparison either isn’t or is taking its time in doing so.

Aho explains it this way in his thought piece, which if I found by way of the All About Windows Phone enthusiast site:

“Apple is approaching this challenge by adding elements from iOS to OS X, whereas Microsoft has boldly decided to revamp Windows in its entirety. Like it or not, but the new Metro UI with its colourful tiles is what you will be using in the future. This is the way 90% of people will be using their computers from now on. If you are a PC or an Xbox user there will be no escaping the tiles. Microsoft will tile up your life for good.”

Having used all of the systems Aho points out, I’m in general agreement with him. I found that using the Windows 8 preview edition on netbook is very intuitive and simple for me, as I’ve also used a number of Windows Phone handsets in the past 1.5 years. There’s little to no learning curve for Microsoft’s Metro UI on a desktop if you’ve experienced it on a smartphone, or even on an Xbox 360. The device you’re using isn’t in the way of the experience when the user interface is the same from desktop to mobile to home entertainment console.

I’ve seen the same on OS X as I’ve been running the 10.8 developer preview of Mountain Lion. The overall experience between iOS and OS X isn’t completely the same, but common elements and apps — such as Messages — abound while iCloud pulls together important data (think Reminders and Notifications) between Apple’s mobile devices and its desktops. In February I noted this commonality could help blunt Android’s momentum because it’s an effective value-add for end-users.

On a related note, I suggested just yesterday that PC makers should be concerned that 1-in-4 new iPad owners made the tablet their first Apple purchase: The positive, intuitive experience from iOS can help convert more OS X hardware sales. That could happen with Windows Phone smartphone or Windows 8 tablet purchases as well, due to the similar experience and UI, but we won’t know for sure until the final Windows 8 computers hit the market.

Unfortunately for Google, it doesn’t have the same luxury as Apple and Microsoft to work with: Yes, Android is heavily adopted mobile platform, but on the desktop, ChromeOS doesn’t have nearly the same following. I hit upon this point recently when pondering what Google might yet do with Motorola Mobility if its acquisition goes through. Motorola offers a LapDock that runs a custom version of Linux, but the hardware is actually powered by an Android handset. Google can attack two problems at once by using the LapDock concept with its ChromeOS, helping to boost its user base, while also bringing a merger of sorts between its mobile and desktop environments.

While I agree with Aho in general, I think there’s still time for Google to react; either through my LapDock suggestion or some other method. The thought that Android will “fade away” is only likely if Google can’t find an answer to the mobile / desktop integration that Apple and Microsoft are bringing to the table. And even if Google fails to find that solution, Android won’t disappear overnight, mainly due to the mobile broadband contracts tied to Android handsets and tablets.

  1. Yeah admittedly Chrome OS shows no signs of merging, but with Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0, haven’t they merged their tablet and phone UI’s?

    Given the shift towards tablets from traditional laptops / netbooks, do you not think this will keep Android relevant for a long time to come?

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  2. I have been using the Windows 8 Preview on my work laptop and I don’t find it at all intuitive. Words make more sense to me than pictures.

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  3. Too little, too late. Problem is that Windows 8 isn’t intuitive to Windows users. To Windows users it just feels like MS forcing Metro down their throats, and if you’ve been around Windows since the beginning, it feels like a step backwards to Windows 1 and tiled Windows. Will Windows 9 re-invent overlapping windows?

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  4. You forgot one thing, Kevin. Microsoft has tried this common interface before, and it failed, and will fail again.

    With Windows Mobile, Microsoft tried to give its mobile devices a similar interface to its desktop OS. The mobile devices even had a start button. It failed.

    Now Microsoft is trying to do it again, this time the other way ’round, by putting its mobile interface (metro) on the desktop. It will please nobody.

    Microsoft hasn’t changed its attitude over the years, still trying to tether every new product to the Windows desktop. The result is that people want to have anything BUT Windows on their phones.

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    1. Don’t be so sure.

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    2. Not at all the same thing. This time Microsoft is following Apple’s lead. Bringing the ease of use and intuitive simplicity of a good smartphone interface to the PC desktop makes a whole hell of a lot more sense than trying to shoehorn Windows 95 into a 320×240 smartphone screen EVER did. Wait and see.

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      1. If we were only talking about a UI skin here, your argument would have some validity. But when you start talking about unifying platforms, your getting deep down in the trenches where the real work gets done. And that’s where iOS and WP7 are both train wrecks waiting to happen. The lack of a solid file management system in either iOS or WP7 mean neither will ever be more than a dumb device in the Post PC world.

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  5. Quentin Dewolf Friday, April 27, 2012

    Google wins even if Android and Chrome fade. Remember that their main business is search/advertisement. Android was necessary to bust the lock Iphone had but if Windows phone or windows 8 on the phone accomplishes that also. I think that Chrome will be like Linux and never fully surface but Android will continue as a mainstream phone O.S. due to its following.

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  6. “Like it or not, but the new Metro UI with its colourful tiles is what you will be using in the future.”

    Count me in the “not” category. I don’t like the direction both Microsoft and Apple are going, with Microsoft being the most egregious. Even Canonical is being stupid with Unity. When will the insanity end?!

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    1. even if you and all other commentators shift to ChromeOS(which is highly unlikely). Windows share will be more that 85%. i.e. 85% of world adopted for Metro UI and developers will have a market to target them all. So it is material.

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  7. The best tool is one in which both software and hardware are optimised for the task at hand. Some similar PRINCIPLES and FUNCTIONS are certainly nice where applicable, but forcing the same UI across very different hardware (and, therefore, use cases), just for the sake of familiarity, is not smart at all. It’s more like trying to design a hammer that works by twisting its handle, just because that is what we are used to with a screwdriver.

    Most of us have no problem with being able to use both a pen and a keyboard…

    So, Google is just fine. As is Apple, which is integrating services from the iPhone without really bringing over much of the UI. The tiles everywhere approach, on the other hand, will backfire, I suspect.

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    1. Mohnish Chaudhary Saturday, April 28, 2012

      Exactly! I can foresee Windows market share falling due the new interface and apple desktop sales jumping due to it.

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  8. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are not the same. Windows 8 gives the end-user unlimited ability to customize, install whatever software they want from whatever source they want. I don’t use IE on my desktop, do you think I can use another browser on WP8?

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    1. Of course, everybody can even download Google search app from WP7.

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    2. Stuart, I’m not suggesting that the apps themselves will be the same on Windows Phone / Windows 8 (nor on iOS / OS X) although that would be an interesting scenario.

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      1. It shouldn’t be too hard for some forward thinking company to put telephone in Windows 8 so that you have the best of both worlds. It has been done for other versions of windows in a less than ideal fashion. With the advance of IMS and LTE Voice there will be less need for all the complicated telephony that exists today. I’m sure someone is aware that the future the artificial distinctions we make now will be less relevant. Will Windows 9 also be Windows Phone 9

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        1. “It shouldn’t be too hard for some forward thinking company to put telephone in Windows 8″

          Microsoft did buy Skype. ;)

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  9. Nofreeliving Friday, April 27, 2012

    Never doubted that Android will suck someday. Google is an advertising company, well known for creating half-baked products releasing it for free just to spread their claws on ads for their empire. That’s the beauty of evil hiding in sheep’s clothing.

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    1. When did Android NOT suck? It’s always sucked. The sooner it’s dead or relegated to bargain basement Chinese junk phones where it belongs, the better.

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  10. This is just nonsense.. Apple an MS are on two separate paths… MS IS trying to merge touch based and desktop interfaces… Apple ISN’T.. Apple is merging features, apps some gestures if you use a touchpads.. but the desktop paradigm is alive and well and front and centre and not going away.. no compromises for desktop and touch devices… People who are saying that they see iOS and OS X merging just don’t really know what they are looking at.. The basic user interaction of OS X is still optimized for use with mouse and keyboard… not so with Win8

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    1. “The basic user interaction of OS X is still optimized for use with mouse and keyboard…”

      yeah, they should release a touch based mini tablet surface thingy that people could use with the OS to control the Mac in the same way as the iPad / iPod Touch.

      They could call it something like “magic trackpad” and then people could use gestures to control the Mac. That would be so cool.

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      1. magic track pad doesn’t change the fact that OS X is driven with a pointer.. has to be driven with a pointer… unless Apple starts producing 21 and 27inch iPads (max-i-Pads.. lol..)… iOS GUI is driven with finger directly on GUI elements and it’s optimized for that… two different situations with two different set of needs, pros, cons etc.. e.g. try to do a mouse rollover on an iPad.. useful feature, but just not possible on an iPad type device… also, traditional desktops also have large screens.. which means it makes sense to enable simultanious multi-window interactions.. why would you give the advantages of each setup up just to merge the two UI’s? it makes no sense and it’s completely unnecessary.. all Apples is going for is feature parity on both systems for each type of system and leave each optimized for it’s own specific situation… you can see it desktop paradigm is still the goto paradigm on OS X a magic track pad hasn’t changed that..

        Tim Cook on Windows 8 when asked about iOS and OS X converging…

        “Anything can be forced to converge. Trade offs at end of the day don’t please anyone. You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but won’t please anyone.”

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      2. Actually it has changed the way the OS works. With the trackpad you can actually move between different spaces and the other gestures are useful too.

        But you can use also use apps in full screen as per iOS if you want and it works well.

        The Microsoft approach is a complete disaster though. Confusing and not thought through. It is being driven by someone who won’t let go and insists that it should be “Windows Everywhere”. It is going to be an expensive mistake.

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      3. Terrence Martineau Sunday, April 29, 2012

        @John Molloy… sure the way the OS is evolving.. but this really new or just a new way to do something that you could do before and can still do.. swipe gesture is just another way of just doing cmd + tab to switch between apps.. gestures like short cut for key combinations..

        but again, you have a pointer driven interface (whether you are using mouse+keyboard or keyboard+trackpad) with large screens on traditional computer or a finger driven touch-screen interface.. two different requirements and use cases.. two different UI.. thats why they are and should be different..

        MS is trying way too hard trying to put a square peg in a round hole and have put together a schizophrenic, try to please everyone, but end up disappointing everyone solution.. by trying to shove these two interfaces together in a single solution for desktop and tablet.. has more to do with strategic solution rather than a solution for users..

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