Windows Stands to Benefit From Mac-Like Functionality

By  |  Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Two prominent Microsoft bloggers in the past week or so have stepped out and voiced concerns over what they see as the increasing Mac-like feel of Windows 7. Paul Thurrott has blogged on his concerns that Microsoft doesn’t understand “simple” and “easy,” and says it’s copying the worst of Mac OS, while meanwhile my good friend Mary Jo Foley has made an impassioned plea to the Microsoft team to keep the Windows in Windows 7.

While I agree with Thurrott’s general premise that Microsoft really doesn’t understand how to do things in a simple manner, and with Mary Jo that maybe Windows 7 is a little too much like the Mac, I firmly believe that Windows users stand to gain far more than they would lose.

I think I come at this from an interesting perspective that is somewhat rare in the Apple community. I was a diehard Windows user. In fact, I hated Macs. Up until about three years ago, I had vowed never to buy a Mac, and was using just about every new bell and whistle that Redmond put out.

However when I first started working at BetaNews full time in 2005, things changed. My boss there, also a Mac convert, sent me a PowerBook G4 for work which opened my eyes. While yes, those first few weeks were a mess, soon after I realized that working on a Mac was a whole lot easier than Windows.

Things just worked. And Mac OS is completely scalable to your preferences. I know users who completely control their experience from the command line; and yet others who are simple-point-and-clickers. And the beauty of it is the simplicity, yet the power underneath it all.

(That’s a nod to you Linux/Unix fans.)

Performing tasks typically are one click endeavors, rather than multi-click mazes. I always like to say that the one-button mouse was the best thing to happen to Macs: it forced developers to carefully think out their user interfaces. A common shortcut for Windows developers is to throw the command in the right click menu when they can’t figure out how to integrate it. While there is a right click menu in Mac OS, its not as easy to get to.

Yes, as Paul seems to lament, this kind of limitation does put a strain on the Mac developer, and the simplicity and ease of use makes it harder. But unlike in Windows, developers are forced to think out their applications before they create them. This benefits the end user immensely through a much more well structured UI and overall, a better application.

How many Mac OS programs do you know that are poorly done? There’s not too many.

I think the biggest problem I have with Paul’s take is his misrepresentation of the Dock, a Mac OS X staple. It is not Mac’s version that is bad, it is Windows 7’s. My first time on a Mac, I knew that was the application bar, and when the little blue light lit up it was running. Simple enough, right?

Look at Windows 7’s implementation, about halfway down the page of Paul’s second post. That is awful. What’s with the bezeling? It’s hard to even tell that it is different from the rest. Then what’s with the bezeling and green stripe of the other one? I have no clue what that’s supposed to mean. This isn’t a Apple problem, the dock is great there — it’s Microsoft’s bad attempt at copying that gets an F.

Mary Jo, while making good points on Microsoft’s slightly overdone copy job of Mac OS in Windows 7, also seems to repeat the inaccurate assumption that Apple is about form over function. As I’ve said above, Mac OS is as powerful, or as simple, as the user wants it to be.

Nothing will change with Windows 7 on the inside. What will change is the way Windows users interact with their PCs. And believe me, that’s a good thing. Apple is not gaining market share just due to hype.

If that’s going to disappoint a few users, then so be it.



7 Comments For This Post

  1. NanoGeek Says:

    “That’s a nod to you Linux/Unix fans.”

    And we think you for it. 😉

  2. nkeil Says:

    I agree. I was also a diehard Windows user (I didn’t mind Vista) until 1 month ago when my 2 year old Compaq laptop died. I decided to focus on very high quality hardware this time, and looked at the MacBook Pro. Having had it a month now, I have to say OS X is the easiest OS I’ve ever worked with. It is very easy to use…now I know what Microsoft was attempting to do with Vista. Hopefully they will get it right with 7…if so I might give it a try on my Mac via bootcamp.

  3. Zero Says:

    How much have you even researched about Windows 7? That green stripe is a progress bar, that way you can find out the progress of a file transfer or download even when other windows are overlapping the window with the info in. Not only that but Windows 7 has color hot-track. The open app icons will literally light up when you place your mouse over them.

  4. NanoGeek Says:

    Zero, I think that was the point of the articles. If you have to research how it works, then it is not “easy” to use. Microsoft is making Windows 7 so simplistic that it is in some cases difficult to use.

  5. Ed Oswald Says:

    Yeah, but would I intuitively know what that green stripe is? I thought looking at it that it meant it was the active window, truthfully.

  6. nowimnothing Says:

    Was that from looking at a screenshot? I could see that.

    But from using it? You’d never think it was the active window. Since the first time you’d see it would be – that’s right – after you opened a window that had a progress bar on it. Its an intuitive design that doesn’t show up well in screenshots and short video clips.

  7. Robert K Says:

    What people don’t understand is this is just a beta of Windows 7, not all the options have been implemented yet. Who knows what the final version will look like. They could be listening to what people are saying and are going to make some good changes in it. Paul Thurrott article had some good points to it and it looks like people at MS talk to him. Its good people are giving their thoughts on the OS and hopefully MS will listen. From what I hear though its a smaller footprint, and has some pretty nice features, so I think they’re going in the right direction.

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