Last month, for the first time, Microsoft demonstrated the newest version of Windows, “code named” Windows 8. According to a Windows 8 article on the Microsoft site, a major goal of this release is to bridge the usability gap between the traditional PC and the tablet/mobile device markets.
The traditional icon approach is replaced with a content enabled tile for that application. This allows for immediate delivery of content to the user, without launching the application specifically. Another key change is the focus on designing the OS for touch applications, as well as for the traditional inputs of keyboard and mouse.
The adoption of a touch-centric UI by Microsoft is significant and tells the story of how Microsoft perceives the way people want to work. The majority of tablet and mobile device adopters utilize them as supplements to their primary systems, not as full time replacements. This population has to contend with multiple operating systems, vastly different user interfaces, and a slew of alternative applications.
Forcing users to interact with their tablet and mobile devices in the same way PC users interact with their desktops is folly. Relying on a track pad, ball, or miniature QWERTY keyboard for input has hampered the utility of those devices significantly and relegated them to the status of useful versus usable. That is why traditional Windows OS versions are not viable on those platforms. And, hence, here lies the success of the iOS.
Windows 8 appears to have some other potential niceties as well. A new file system is reportedly being developed that would utilize database technologies for faster indexing, application data sharing/searching, and cloud synchronization tools.
Bridging the gap and providing a single UI between traditional PC and other device types could be the single biggest innovation for Microsoft since, well, the window.