Interesting developments tying together two of the recent mini-discussions from above, LCARS and the Windows 8
ruined desktop visuals ...
First we need to time travel back to early June ( Post #443
) where I noted a Register Article
in which the comments showed a post
from someone claiming significant importance in the design of the Longhorn ( Vista ) GUI. Later I found out he created his own ( seldom updated ) Wordpress blog
with three posts about the subject including a re-iteration of the Reg comment. Last week he popped up in a comment at the recently mentioned LCARS thread
at NeoWin ( where the OP was wishing for the Windows 9 GUI to become like Star Trek ). Unfortunate comment though because it can only serve to gather criticism, especially from Start Trek fans, but also those that can see through it as a whopper ...
Considering the fact that we based Metro very loosely on LCARS - arguably the first chromeless UI - you'dve thought someone would've picked up on this sooner lol.
LCARS was of course a prop and not a GUI, but a well-made and consistent prop throughout 7 years of TNG, the movies and later spin-offs also. Calling it chromeless misses the point as well as it exists only in our imaginations and if someone wants to play this game you have to assume other events have occurred during the interceding centuries that mitigate feature discoverability, i.e., they are voice-activated leaving the LCARS as mostly an output decoration. This lack of feature discoverability is one of the main criticisms of Metro
( "what do I click?" etc ). Using LCARS as a foil to excuse Windows 8
chromeless guess-what-you-should-do interface is sad really. It is also a fabrication since we are talking about 2007-2010, not 1997 when the series was over or 1987 when it began.. I would love to see this alleged important designer back up that claim, but of course he cannot. Furthermore, if you see some of the LCARS screenshots from the series ( again, they are props, made of illuminated plexiglass, they are art ), but they would still serve a better purpose than the current Windows abomination due to much higher information density ...
Shortly after that post
on Dec 30, a NeoWin global mod stepped in and took him to the woodshed
questioning his credentials. No reply back as yet. I do not want to be seen as piling on the guy, he probably means well but I suspect he is one of many wannabe softies out there who did something for them in the past and is proud of it but mistakes that for importance in the big picture. And besides, why would anyone want
to claim a significant part of the current fiasco is beyond me.
But back to the main point I want to make. When he offered that comment in the Register ( and on his blog ) last June he said many things, for example that Microsoft was worried about Apple letting the Mac OS be sold for any computer. Well they should worry. That would be the simplest way to take out their Windows cash cow. He also mentioned that WP7 was a pilot program for designs suggested for Blackcomb. The gist of the comment is rationalization which mirrors that of Jensen Harris. Here are the keys points he tried to pass off but are easily seen through as the real problem at Microsoft with the arrogance of believeing it is their right to decide how people work on their computers ...
As the person responsible for the original concept and a significant amount of the design work for Longhorn (which became Windows Vista), including Aero Glass, if anyone should have a problem with Metro it's me; but I don't.
The initial premise for Glass (as it was called back then, the Aero UX sprung up around the Glass model) was not - as most people believe - to provide eye candy for the end user. Instead, it was an attempt to pull the window chrome away from the content and make it as unobtrusive as possible. The whole point of the glass effect itself was to allow the end user to make better use of their screen real-estate by allowing them to see content beneath the active window.
The first concepts did exactly that - completely transparent window borders with floating titlebar controls, however, this proved distracting to the end user as when a window behind had a lot of text or otherwise "busy" content, the user had to fight to recognise the window caption. It was then that we decided to apply a blur filter to the surface beneath, still allowing recognition of the content beneath but without being distracting to the user. Many, many trials were done to ascertain the appropriate amount of blur, incidentally. Desktop compositing and the DWM window manager were born out of a desire to make this as smooth an experience for the end user. Things like Aero Peek and hover thumbnails were also designed to fit this goal of making the chrome less obtrusive.
Some of my other concepts promoted a VERY different approach to the user experience, much more in line with what is seen today in Windows 8. In fact, the premise for the shift in the desktop paradigm goes back as far as the early Blackcomb concepts first demoed by the MSN services division in 1999; it has ALWAYS been felt that the desktop itself is a rather clunky way of providing content to the end user, which is - after all - the purpose of computing devices, be they traditional desktops, laptops, phones, or even set-top boxes. Windowing systems were designed to allow users to work on multiple pieces of data in quick succession, and yet over the years usability studies have found that users rarely manipulate more than 2 documents simultaneously.
A radical shift away from the desktop metaphor WAS considered for Longhorn, but rejected for numerous reasons; primarily due to the scale of the undertaking that was already planned for Longhorn. Various features got dropped over the course of the development - NOT the ones that were complained about by the public and the media at the time - but other technologies first proposed in Cairo and later carried forward to Windows 7 - and the focus slowly shifted towards the HAL, networking and the Aero UX, luckily for myself.
One of the other reasons for keeping the traditional desktop paradigm was Mac OS X. There were rumours that Apple would be making the switch to x86 and there was always a possibility that they would open OS X up to non-Apple hardware, in either a full or limited capacity. It was felt - most notably by Jim Allchin - that the familiarity of the Windows interface would offer people a strong incentive to upgrade to Vista, rather than exploring alternatives. Linux has never been considered a credible threat due to its inaccessibility to the average user, but OS X already had a niche - but highly vocal - following and was well-known by the public. The possibility of it being available as a competitor, which opening the OS up to generic hardware would have started, was a compelling reason to keep the familiar experience for those afraid of change.
Now, however, it's become clear that both OS X and Linux have been unable to provide a credible alternative to the general public, and so the plans for a content-centric interface were finally put into place. While some have suggested that Windows 8's interface is "touch-only" or "based on Windows Phone 7", that couldn't be further from the truth. Windows Phone 7 was instead a pilot program - in a relatively low risk sector - for the designs originally suggested for Blackcomb, which have now found their way into Windows 8. At the time, touch interfaces hadn't even been conceived of - remember, back then touch sensitive screens were Resistive nasties that required at best a stylus, or at worst jabbing at them hard with a finger or pen.
The fact is that Metro just happened to be easily accessible for touch devices, and that has been touted as one of its benefits; it is NOT, and never has been, the original aim of the design. The aim of the design is exactly the same as Aero was - to take the chrome away from the content, and allow the user to focus on what they're doing rather than unnecessary clutter. A perfect example of this is internet Explorer on Metro; in its default state, all you see is a webpage; chrome CAN be pulled up if the user requires, but is otherwise absent. The majority of Metro applications are like this - in fact it's part of the Metro UX specifications.
This has always been the way that computing has been going; customisation features have subtly been taken out of each successive version of Windows, as users have - on the whole - moved on from eye candy and instead focus on productivity. This isn't specific to the software sector; even social networking has experienced this shift - from the cluttered, flashing, marquee-laden MySpace profiles of 2003 to the clean, customization-free Facebook profiles of today.
Personally, I see Metro as a good thing; it allows me to do my work without distraction, and I'm just disappointed that I wasn't the one who did the design work for it this time around.
Yep. We're doing it wrong. We are distracted by the chrome. We cannot do our work. I think those of us on the outside should now have a pretty clear view of what kind of thinking is going on in the inside of Microsoft ( employee or not, this is the thinking they attract and nurture ). Nothing is really safe anymore. Anything is subject to change at a moment's notice. They would redesign the proverbial steering wheel if for no other reason than they can. Their rationalizations are lunacy. Telemetry is always popping up in their thinking even though they know full well it is tainted because very few savvy users will leave it enabled. Most importantly they break the cardinal rule of design which is do not fix what is not broken in the first place. No-one I know is demanding that Microsoft turn Windows into version 1.0 again because they are lost in the chrome and cannot see their content. There are far far more complaints that there is a lack of content to bother seeing.
Finally, every single complaint is easily bypassed by having settings that enable or disable items in question. Leaving them out is not a sensible option, it is controversial and arrogant and dictatorial. Worrying about battery life and power savings on computers without a battery is simply ridiculous. The mechanism for handling power and performance issues was already in place. This wheel did not need to be re-invented now, did it? ...
So Microsoft screwed the pooch once again and are left wondering how much better the reception for Windows 8
would have been if they had not declared war on the Windows desktop and attacked their loyal veterans and proponents in the process. Those that write these rationalizations should ponder this and pat themselves on the back for helping to accelerate the death of what was probably the most important software ever written in the history of computers. Good work guys.EDIT:
typo, updated image URLs, and again
Edited by CharlotteTheHarlot, 06 May 2013 - 07:48 PM.