On New Operating Systems

There has been a great deal of buzz and speculation about operating systems lately so why not from me?  Are you old enough to remember OS2?  The advertising still is in my memory “a better DOS than DOS and a better Windows than Windows”.  In my job, I had to evaluate this thing and it was quite impressive – as long as you didn’t want to need to do anything legacy.  Consequently, there were people who really got on board with it and most people not.  Eventually, it just went away.

We’ve come a long way since those days.  We now have Windows running on a cell phone; we have applications running on tablets; we have applications running on music devices.  Things certainly have come a long way.  We even have a product that’s calling itself the “PERFECT Browser” and, guess what, it doesn’t run on a traditional computer – it runs on an iPad.  We’re weeks away from a preview of the new Macintosh Operating System and a little longer (a year?) from a new Windows Operating System.

It was with real interest that I watched this video, previewing what might be in a Windows 8.

When you watch all of this, you can’t help but think that there’s a real convergence of operating systems and technologies.  In the portable market, we’re swiping and pinching and tapping our way to productivity.  In the desktop market, we got a glimpse of what was possible with programs like CoolIris and things have just improved from there.  So what could this new operating system do for us?  I like the notion that Windows 8 may look and work the same on tablet devices and desktop devices.

I think it may well give leave to a device that is truly portable and dockable – not in the current notion of a docking station but that the portable part is essentially a tablet that just breaks away when you need it.  In fact, I do this right now with my iPad.  It’s a light, portable device that I can take anywhere I wish although I can’t tap, tap, tap documents easily.  However, with a Kensington bluetooth case, I can.

It works like the ultimate notebook which I can easily break apart and become portable.  Do new operating systems lead to new hardware that lets us do this?

I found the interface demonstrated in the video interesting.  Instead of the traditional icon that we fondly replaced the command line with, the demonstration proposes panels that are bigger, easier touched, and can display more preview information.  In fact, we may be able to experience this now.  If you’re using Google Chrome as a browser, load the NewsSquare application and feed it some news.  While it’s presently an awesome way to read RSS feeds, image that the big squares are applications, however, you choose to define the term application.  Just swipe, at present with your mouse, put imagine a touch screen to find the application that you want.  Across the bottom, imagine the most recent documents for that application.  A tap and you’re up and running.

Are you running an application?  Are you running a web based utility?  Are you in a browser?  In the end, does it really matter?  Just imagine.

The timing is right.  Less and less, we’re using our devices for traditional things like word processing, spreadsheeting, or traditional presenting.  We are more becoming consumers and connectors and I firmly believe that the ease of getting to interesting things is part of the impetus behind this.  Even in the video, Microsoft doesn’t show a new version of its Office suite; but a demonstration that the current version can run on it.  But, like opening a command.com box, Office looks out of place in the new interface.  I suspect that eventually we may be redefining just what we consider to be a productivity suite.

As per habit, there will be lots of people out taking shots at Microsoft and what Windows 8 might be.  But, step back and look at the big picture.  Much as the browser wars have given us better browsers, tablets, desktops, and phones are pushing towards better computing experiences.  Doesn’t it make sense that the experience is the same throughout?  Do you really need a different experience related to the device you’re presently using?  Or, does the functionality drive what you see?

If the functionality drives the experience, then there will be a lot of people left standing and watching much like the diehard DOS users who figured that Windows 3.1 was a fad.  Watch the video and ask yourself if you’re going to be stuck in a legacy world.  If you’re still using Windows XP or older versions of the Macintosh OS, you will be on the outside.  It only takes a few minutes of working in a swipeable environment to appreciate the functionality and ease of use.  Combine it with a focus on functionality as demoed in the video and you really have something.  Where does this leave education which is notoriously slow for technology change.

I see this as truly a big change in the way that we view personal computers.  We’re all going to benefit from this.  Apple is first up to help lead the way.  It will be interesting to see what’s unveiled there.

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3 Replies to “On New Operating Systems”

  1. OS2 and of course OS2 Warp

    I take your point about the convergence of OSs – but the benefits only come about because of the current divergence and competition.

    That W8 video is cringeworthy – isn’t it the most blatant ‘catch up’ promo you’ve seen? Windows 8 – ‘we can do ipad too!’ The guy is even wearing black, is bald and uses the word ‘cool’…

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  2. I’m not sure I understand why the appearance is an issue. I don’t see it as Microsoft catching up with iPad though — I see it as taking the OS that is currently on their phones and extending it to the desktop. I guess the swiping aspect may be similar to the iPad and we have Apple to thank for that concept. It really does make things more effective and productive. I’ve glad that you see about the convergence of OS. Wouldn’t it be something is Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Canonical poured their resources into one OS that had the best features and would run everywhere? But, that will never happen as you’d also have to be in the hardware business to sustain it.

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