Desktop and laptop computers
Phone and tablet computers
For an unknown reason, all applications that have been started, are demoted and hidden to a task switcher view. A design that looks and works like an afterthought. Windowed apps are slowly starting to appear, but still feel clunky and bolted-on solutions. The experience doesn't change when the device is connected to a larger screen. Only WP and Ubuntu phone are pursuing scenarios beyond the traditional desktop and mobile divide. Kudos for both for focusing on the future.
There's no support for multiple screens, and these computers are sometimes even more limited than mobile ones, due to shortcomings of gamepad input. Xbox OS has an edge over its competition in doing several things at the same time by allowing windowed operation of some of its core features, without breaking the context user was in.
The verdictEven though all computers and their operating systems are near identical in terms of what they do; companies developing them have chosen very different graphical user interfaces for them to do it. It means, that:
- users have to memorize different interface conventions between different computers
- multiple OS'es (or variants of them) are needed to support different devices
- only big companies have resources to develop multiple products from different categories
- massive overlap in required effort when developing software for multiple devices and/or operating systems
Back in the days, with just few computers around, there was no need for a common approach to GUIs. Instead, there was plenty of time, ignorance, workforce and money. As a result, we have several user interface paradigms, that all fail with various degrees. The shared mistake is focusing on building physical products with 'art directed' interfaces. A direction based on a personal perception how a particular device should be used, easily masks any digital similarities underneath the glamorous surface, abstracting important qualities all operating systems commonly share.
To sum it up..
Every 'signature charasteristics' that desktop, mobile and other interface paradigms have managed to pile up over these years, are merely distractions. They occupy minds of designers, developers and and end users alike. Our digital world is a hot mess - partly because of our obsession over the current categorization of computer GUIs and OS'es.
If something is certain, it's that software has never needed such arbitrary categorization - and neither do people using them. Future user interfaces will leverage different screen sizes and input types when they become available; instead stubbornly serving a single form factor, like they do today.
How can we help people to see beyond their lust for yesterday? How can future user interfaces better focus on increasing our human potential, if our preferences and behavior explicitly tells them otherwise?
Thanks for reading and see you in the next post. In the meantime, agree or disagree, debate or shout. Bring it on and spread the word.