I had a chance to look over someones shoulder the other day while they got their first view of Microsoft’s new version of Windows called Vista. I was kind of disappointed because it is so similar to the Windows I know today. Sure it’s oh so trendy with it’s gradients and round buttons but the control panel is still there and there are still windows. It’s been almost 20 – 25 years since we first learnt how to drag and drop using a mouse. Personally, i’m thinking that this operating system might be the last one from Microsoft that uses actual windows. The ipod, xbox and tivo have opened up designers minds on how to provide functionality to users without the need for a keyboard and mouse and I can see operating systems heading in the same direction. It might be as simple as a web browser that allows plugins for you to design your own operating system. One unifed look and feel that allows apps to concentrate on tasks rather than presentation.
It’s not such a radical idea. Your gaming consoles and DVR’s are already doing it. For example, Tivo series 2 starts as a plain vanilla digital video recorder, but you can download plugins for it that let you do things such as watch photo slide shows, rent dvds by mail and read the feeds from your favourite websites. Xbox 360 does it in the same way. You get a consistent look and feel via the blade system they have but the ability to extend the functions to stream movies and photos from elsewhere. The interfaces are simple and intuitive so that the learning curve is small.
I want to see Microsoft stop flogging their dead windows horse and give us something more simple to achieve our tasks. I don’t want to install drivers and for linux I don’t want to solve a thousand library dependencies. I don’t want to tool around in a registry and I don’t want to think of a backup strategy. I’d rather spend time viewing my photos than figuring out that my photo application won’t start because it conflicts with code that is purely there to support some 16 bit call that some piece of software made in 1988.
Right now, I think the Xbox 360 has a way better operating system than anything i’ve seen in Vista. I’m not saying that just because the 360 gets released at 12.01 tonight either. 🙂