Learning the Ropes

Abdel Ibrahim and Jon Dick, “Microsoft Poised for Tablet Resurgence”:

That’s because the software company isn’t planning to simply share features between distinct operating systems, as will Apple. Rather, Microsoft hopes to introduce nearly identical experiences (or as close as the hardware will allow) to each.

If Microsoft pulls that off, and we have no reason to suspect it won’t, it’ll make a very powerful argument to embrace whatever tablets it simultaneously debuts. And it’ll do that for the same reason consumers have gone gaga for all things iOS: people like intuitiveness and familiarity; they like unwrapping a new product and not having to learn the ropes.

Windows 8 is certainly attractive and original, and it may well lead to success in the tablet market. (Where by “success” I simply mean a statistically meaningful slice of the market, not necessarily “beating the iPad”, which I would in fact bet against.)

But whatever success Windows 8 achieves, on PCs and on touchscreen tablets, certainly won’t be attributable to “familiarity” and “not having to learn the ropes”. What makes Windows 8 so interesting is that Metro is the first-ever complete break in the conceptual design of the Windows UI. (The Mac has never had such a break; even Mountain Lion is conceptually an evolution of the 1984 original Mac.)

I suppose Ibrahim and Dick’s argument is that Windows 8’s success in the PC market is assured, and that those users who start using Metro on PCs will then find using Metro on touchscreen tablets to be utterly familiar. I’m just not as sure as they are that Metro will prove to be a hit on PCs, exactly because people favor the familiar and are reluctant to “learn the ropes” of a new concept.

I think iOS-on-a-tablet would have been an utter failure if Apple had positioned it as Mac OS 11 instead of something separate and new.

Monday, 5 March 2012