Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Windows Phone 9 Concept

This is a concept user interface for Microsoft Windows Phone.  I have retained the “Phone” in the title because Microsoft’s plan to brand the software of their phones, tablets and PCs as Windows might end up causing the same confusion that they are trying to correct. 

This concept is an evolution of a previous concept started in 2010. Screenshots of Version 1 can be found on Twitter and on Nokia Ideas Project. Version 2 can be found here. This version, 4.6, represents what I believe to be the way forward for Microsoft’s One Windows strategy. From all indications, the One Windows plan is meant to harmonise the code base between the various types of Windows OS. However, I reckon that harmonisation of the code base represents only one side of the coin. The user interface (UI) must also be harmonized. While there is some similarity on the Metro Modern side of things, the traditional desktop side creates a chasm. This concept is an attempt to create a consistent and uniform user interface across all form factors whilst avoiding the dichotomy between Modern UI and the desktop.

If Microsoft adopts this they will have the distinction of being the only OEM:

-        - with a symmetry of user interfaces across all devices. In other words, you can transition from a Windows Phone to a PC with no learning curve required. Currently, no OEM can claim this.

-        - The only OEM with an OS in which EVERY feature is accessible in less than three taps/clicks.
This is a work in progress; more screenshots will be added soon.

Start Screen

System Apps

Task Manager


Power Options

Full size images can be downloaded/viewed at:

1. Google Drive

Update: 01 October 2014
The next version of Windows wasn’t christened Windows 9 like we expected; Microsoft skipped a number and jumped to Windows 10. The reason for this remains a mystery. They say Windows 10 will be available across several form factors with a user interface that adjusts accordingly. While this sounds elegant (and indeed it is), what it truly is an official sanction of what the situation is today. The UI of the Xbox One is different from that of Windows Phone and they are both different from that of Windows PCs. The same applies to Apple’s OS X and iOS as well as Google’s ChromeOS and Android. In essence, they really haven’t moved the game forward. A similar sentiment was shared in a TechRadar article in which the author, Juan Martinez ,says they might be better off calling it Windows 7.5.

From what was previewed yesterday, depending on the form factor, certain features/functions of the OS will have different locations and different/distinct methods of access. This strategy is going to cause a fragmented user experience; a jarring effect/paradigm shift. 
More on the story as it develops…

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Apple Watch: iamConfused

Apple Watch: iamConfused

So Apple’s foray into wearable computers has begun. Yesterday saw the unveiling of the Apple Watch. Surprisingly, it wasn’t christened the iWatch like most of us expected. Though it's a bit inconsistent with their nomenclature, it's okay. Using the ‘i’ prefix has almost run its course anyway. Until now, I have not given smartwatches much thought or attention. This is because they don’t do anything that a smartphone cannot already do (and do better). It was its circular icon grid and digital crown that caught my attention. But before I get to that, let’s extol its virtues.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Will Facebook leverage the connection to the rest of the world that has scarce or no internet access?

Facebook has a campaign that goes by the name Internet.org. The main aim of this campaign is to connect the five billion people in the world that to date have poor, inadequate, sparse and expensive or nonexistent access to the internet.

Fixing Microsoft's Windows Strategy

Bill Gates had a vision/goal: a Windows PC in every home. That vision was largely accomplished. Today's computing landscape is different and Microsoft is finding it hard/difficult to maintain that dream/goal. This is because it failed to acknowledge the changing phase and face of computing. The world went mobile while Microsoft still wanted us chained to desktops and laptops. In a desperate third attempt to make amends, it hastily put together Windows 8 which turned out to be a poorly- conceived smorgasbord. It further compounded the situation by releasing Windows RT. And then there was also Windows Phone. Three products that bore the Windows name but couldn’t work together. Of course, from a capabilities and features standpoint, Windows Phone and Windows RT are the same. They run on the same hardware; the latter only has a different interface. So, is it still possible to have Windows in every home on different form factors without having disparate product lines? The answer is yes. This is what needs to be done.

1.         Admit that Windows 8/Windows RT are failures
No one is perfect. People hardly get it right all the time. Windows 8.1 didn’t solve much. Microsoft should quit trying to patch the mess and just move on to Windows 9 or whatever they want to call the next major version.

2.         Harmonise Windows across all platforms
There is some work on this already. MS is working on fusing Windows Phone and Windows RT. However, there are some finer details to this. True harmonisation means the EXACT SAME EXPERIENCE & FEATURES across all platforms; form-factor permitting. For example, the full Bluetooth stack is open on Windows PC. Why not let it be open on Windows Phone/RT? 

Another example is the incompatibility between Windows Phone 7 and Outlook on PC. Outlook couldn’t transfer or sync contacts with a Windows Phone 7 device that I had.  A Microsoft product that couldn’t sync with Outlook. Go figure. I confess I haven’t bothered to try out Windows Phone 8 so I don’t know if this is still the case.

Also, if Windows on PC has a file manager (Windows Explorer), then why not Windows Phone?

3.         Strip windows down to the absolute essentials needed for mainstream casual computing.
Most people don't need IIS, Active Directory, Domain Services, Kerberos, etc. These advanced components could be downloaded at will when needed; perhaps a nominal one-time fee could be charged for each of component/module.

4.         Simplify and streamline the UI
Microsoft should give up the Windows 8 and 8.1 experiment. The user interface just doesn’t cut. Every newer release of a UI should enable the faster accomplishment of tasks and functions. As we know, this is not the case with Windows 8; it seems the developers took the approach of designing an adventure game where for the sake of replay value, things are designed to take longer.

5.         Abandon WMA and WMV
WMA and WMV are failed projects; nobody uses them. Their performance is neither comparable nor superior. MS should throw in the towel and embrace MKV (Matroska video). In my opinion, this is the best video container under the sun. I am not an audiophile but I think mp3 is good enough. That being said, Windows should also have native support for the lossless format of choice: FLAC and also support surround sound tech like DTS. Support for all the above should be built-in and should work right out of the box. 

6.         Simplify the Windows lineup
Cancel Windows Starter edition. It is a non-starter. And while at it, simplify the entire Windows lineup. I haven’t known them by heart since Vista’s release.

7.         Reduce the Price of Windows or Make It Free of Charge
This is a controversial one. Reducing the price of Windows would definitely have a heavy impact on Microsoft's revenue but then they would still be getting something for it. And then they would have increased market share/mindshare. They could also make it free. There are rumours that Microsoft is considering a free version of Windows that would be tied to Microsoft services – Bing Search, Nokia Here Maps, etc. This free approach contributed in no small way to Android’s success and dominance. They could make the basic but full-featured consumer version for PC free. This would be unlike Blackberry and its BBM on iPhone and Android efforts. I'm not sure how this would help the company stay afloat but that's another matter.

8.         Confine Zune to the shameful annals of history

Don’t require/mandate any special software to use/activate or transfer media to the device. 

These are my two cents.