Microsoft appears to finally be taking a step in the right direction with what they’ve shown us thus far with Windows 8. As with Windows Phone 7, they are actually innovating instead of merely copying the competition, their typical strategy in the past when they had the comfortable lead to do so. There’s already been much heated discussion regarding the subject, ranging from the opinion that Windows 8 is fundamentally flawed to touting that it’s the biggest change since Windows was invented. Everyone is busy comparing it to iOS, but I’d like to point out another similarity - OS X.
Once upon a time Mac OS was… well… garbage, in my opinion. I’m talking about the days of OS 8 and 9, etc. Many of you will remember those days - where Apple zealots were few and far between, it was just “for designers” we all used to say. I was busy over-clocking my homemade PC and using NeXT machines (little did I know how valuable that experience was) in the labs in college. I had already abandoned Windows as my primary OS, and thought I was just so cool being one of those nerdy Linux guys which was a rarity back then.
Steve came back to Apple and well, things started to change. The sexy hardware caught our eyes first, then as I worked with OpenStep and saw it evolve into Rhapsody I still didn’t really envision what the future held. A little later early betas of Mac OS X Desktop were shown to me and I’ll admit I was more impressed by the eye candy than the underpinnings back in those days. The combination of that well designed hardware and a great-looking functional OS sucked me into purchasing a used G4 PowerMac. OS X 10.0 was utter crap, beleaguered with countless bugs and it was just dog slow. It took them a few years IMHO to get it right, but boy did they get it right, and I left Linux behind as a desktop OS. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s products just degraded and degraded.
Sorry for the back story, but I tell it because I believe Microsoft is doing what Apple did 10 years ago with thier OS right now. It’s reboot time. People are complaining that Windows 8 will have to support legacy apps and it will ruin the experience, but we had to do the same thing with Classic Mode back in OS X 10.0. It’s such a completely different UI than their standard OS, so users might get confused - just like they did with OS X. I remember people not wanting to switch to OS X. It’s a basic fact that Microsoft can’t redo everything at once. There has to be a transition, so chastising them for mixing the UI’s at this point is a little premature. They have to start somewhere.
This could lead us all to believe that Microsoft is 10 years behind Apple in terms of the OS if they are just now “rebooting” their UI and underpinnings, but the fact is Microsoft needs to start over and stop playing catch-up to Apple. We’ve all been waiting for OS X and iOS to merge, but guess what? Microsoft is doing that right now. I’m no Microsoft fanboy by any means, so there’s a big chance they’ll screw this up, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Apple took a gigantic endgame risk going away from their core OS to NeXT based OS of the future a little of 10 years ago, and here’s to hoping Microsoft can do the same. They may finally give Apple a run for the money this decade.