49 Comments

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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  11. Terrence Martineau Friday, April 27, 2012

    This is just not true.. 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… ” And not integrated or external touchpads? ;)

      Joking aside, if you read my post and thought I said iOS and OS X were merging, I wasn’t clear. I don’t see them forming one OS. I see the interfaces, apps and features merging: big difference.

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      1. Terrence Martineau Sunday, April 29, 2012

        i think you may be more confused than i though… i think you have this reversed… iOS and OS X actually are the same kernel are basically the same OS under the hood with different skins (GUI) and apps.. the kernel for both is the same.. it’s the GUI that is different..

        none of what you mentioned changes the fact that the desktop paradimn is not going away on Apple’s traditional computers (keyboard, mouse… even with external touchpad).. in fact that is the primary GUI paradigm.. with much larger screens allows for interaction just not ideal on smaller screens.. a windowed interface makes all kinds of sense on larger screened devices.. on an iPad with a user interface where you are directly interacting with GUI element right under your finger vs. one where you are using a touchpad to interact with GUI elements on a screen requires a different type of GUI to be optimized… e.g. the former requires a pointer.. can take advantage of things like pointer rollover etc… thing that make no sence or don’t/can’t exist on an iOS type interface … do you not see that they are two different interactions with different requirements for UI elements and user interaction.. it makes no logical sense that these two interfaces converge.. they are not converging except in superficial ways.. Tim Cook just went on record saying that it’s not what they are doing.. how delusional and blind really does one have to be to insist something is happening when anyone with eyes to see can see it isn’t.. when the CEO of the company plainly says we are not doing this and ridicules the competition for doing this?

        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.”

        what you think is happening is not happening… because it’s dumb idea and Apple is smarter than that..

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  12. Google is two or three moves ahead in this chess game. Being the only open source OS gives the same options MS had decades ago with PC’s. The answers on how to make the transition work will come from outside…not from within. Android is naturally collaborative and Chrome OS will evolve to meet the challenge.

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  13. A major oversight in this article is that many people use Windows primarily in the business environment, and Microsoft has repeatedly given companies significant power to avoid UI changes in Windows through policies. Especially given the mixed reviews of the Metro interface, risk-averse IT departments and managers have little incentive to try to force the big change of the Metro UI within their companies and thus are likely to implement Windows 8 without that interface. It is therefore simply not true that “Like it or not, but the new Metro UI with its colourful tiles is what you will be using in the future.”

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  14. Droid Bricker Friday, April 27, 2012

    I’d like to see Chrome OS integrated into Android one day, who knows if it will happen. Android however will not be going away anytime soon. Windows Mobile and IOS may be an OK mobile OS for the masses, but us geeks demand functionality and customization that can only come from an open source platform. Neither Windows Phone or IOS can offer that. I’d go back to a dumb phone before I bought either.

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  15. Willem Reyners Tay Friday, April 27, 2012

    This is sheer madness. Android is free, and open. Windows is going the other way. Especially with the crackdown on sideloaded apps/modding on windows phone. Which was stupid. And good luck seeing the metro interface in a business environment (sans tablet) for many, many years.

    And really, how can you compete with free? There are hundreds of devices on “Android” with no branding. This is what will keep android strong. Microsoft is really only fighting Apple, not Google.

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    1. Terrence Martineau Sunday, April 29, 2012

      A) it’s not free… all the major Android partners pay licensing fees to Microsoft for every device the ship with android
      B) Ask Apple.. the are completely kicking Android butt in the tablet space.. so far android has been a failure in tablets.. you compete with free with better.. you make a more simple, more seamless, better UX for users out of the box and you can compete with free
      C) you make it more free and better UX… jus ask Amazon.. you completely remove all the complex unessary crap that Google put in there and you go from 0 to 54% android marketshare in a few months..

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  16. this will make more people buy Macbooks. MS can’t just ramp down anything down users’ throat anymore. they shouldn’t take their dominance on desktop for granted, many people prefer windows just for familiarity, if they take away that, why should I get windows instead of iOS?

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  17. Yeah- android is in trouble. One of the things we’ve learned from tech is that there is room for two paradigms, but not three. There’s a clear paradigm in iOS. And MS has created another. That’s it. Ying and Yang. There’s not going to be Ying Yang and Yong.

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    1. Unfortunately, as is all too common, you got the Yong hooked to the wrong OS. The paradigms are…walled garden iOS and Open Community Android. For all it virtues…such as they are..WP7 is a walled garden wanbe.

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  18. Wow…what’s this guy been smoking. Google is already a couple steps ahead of Apple and MS. By having a file manager built into Android OS…they don’t have to merge the two platforms. They complement each other in a way that gives maximum flexibility to transition into the post PC world.

    As far as a long timer user of Windows is concerned…MS is on the edge of a very steep cliff. After 30 years of fine tuning Windows to a very high level of usefulness, they are going to crap in their own back yard. They are trying to force a one size fits all solution where a problem shouldn’t exist. I will take my chances with Android/Chrome…thank you very much.

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  19. Doesn’t change the fact that the desktop paradimn is not going away on traditional (keyboard, mouse… external touchpad) computers.. the much larger screen allows for interaction just not ideal on smaller screens a windowed interface makes all kinds of sense there.. a user interface where you are directly interacting with GUI element right under your finger vs. one where you are using a touchpad to interact with GUI elements on a screen requires a different type of GUI to be optomized eg it requires a pointer.. can take advantage of things like pointer rollover etc thing that make no sence or don’t exist on an iOS type interface … do you not see that they are two different interactions with different requirements for UI elements and and UI elements.. it makes no logical sense that these two interfaces converge.. they are not converging except in superficial way.. Tim Cook just went on record saying that it’s not what they are doing.. how dilusiknal and blind does one have to be to insist something is happening when anyone with eyes to see can see it isn’t..

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  20. LeBeau Kpadenou Saturday, April 28, 2012

    I think the LapDock merger is a brilliant idea, but overall, I don;’t know that mobile/desktop fusion is really the way to go. I think those who care about intuitive interface mainly use all these devices for accessing the internet, and google’s web presence and lead in web technology give them an oppurtunity and incentive to ‘skin’ the web.

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  21. Lindsworth Horatio Deer Saturday, April 28, 2012

    Nothing beats Open Source!! Great for everything ‘cept the kitchen sink!!!

    http://www.geezam.com/how-to-boot-or-install-fedora-linux-from-a-thumb-drive/

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  22. I agree and wrote on my blog a while back thats Windoes 8 is the trojan horse that will get WIndows phone boosting up in the smartphone world
    http://tech-sanity.com/index.php?id=3257284246087236026

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  23. You gotta be kidding me… Android is way superior than all systems because they integrate with the web…. Why do you think cloud technology was born… Eventually all you need is a device interfacing with the web! Please do not post such poorly researched articles!

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    1. Great point: If iOS and Windows Phone ever integrate with the web, all three platforms will be on equal footing. ;)

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    2. Well said… The cloud and web integration is the most essential…However we can’t ask Kevin to give us a 30 page research article ;)

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  24. Sofia Fenichell Sunday, April 29, 2012

    I agree with Ryan. I think we need to be careful re making linear extrapolations from windows to windows8. The comparison is ios to win8 and here the consumer has learned to navigate intuitively. Tiles vs icons are purely a graphic design choice.

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  25. Unity UI in Ubuntu anyone?

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  26. What makes the author think that 5 yrs from now all UI interfaces going to be flat surfaced touch screen. 10yrs back who would have though about the adoption of touch screen. The truth is we will never who is the last two OS standing. It only depends on how desperate and resource full these companies are. Who ever blinks first will loose, simple as that.

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  27. Why isn’t anyone focusing on cloud based OS/apps which might be “the thing” a decade from now? With that said, we can expect doing all our day-to-day tasks inside a browser or a cloud based UI. For powerful computing needs like design etc., the world might still stick with Windows/Linux/OSx. The best cloud based complete platform available currently for any desktop OS is Google Chrome Browser. The number of apps with chrome browser is already overwhelming.

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  28. Is everyone drunk? The Metro interface is horrible. It destroys productivity.

    Tell me has the Metro interface of Windows phone destroy Android? Give me a break.

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  29. James Keith Clarence Carter Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    Besides doubling the time you have to look at an ugly, boring UI, what can this integration(phone and pc) really offer? I don’t really see what you can’t do already between Android and Windows. Also I really do not see 90% using Metro, especially from a business perspective.

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