Dr. Jekyll, your new OS awaits.
Microsoft Windows 8 is not even here yet, and it’s already facing a huge challenge: its split personality.
If you haven’t been following some of the recent headlines about the consumer and developer previews, then here’s a quick recap regarding the much ballyhooed new look. Essentially Win 8 is two user interfaces in one. Think of it as your garden variety version of Windows 7, but with an extra touch friendly layer called Metro added on top. Many apps will have two different look -s- hence the split personality – depending if they’re running in the familiar icon-based desktop mode or in the new, colorful tile-based Metro mode.
The huge challenge could be the developers.
Now, instead of developing one version of a program, they’ll need to develop two. It’s not mandatory. A program could still run purely in desktop mode, and this will be necessary anyways for backwards compatibility. But most will want to take advantage of Metro, which represents the tablet face of Win 8.
A good example is Internet Explorer 10. CNET published a bit today comparing the two versions (“experiences”). Well, it’s one version. The Win 8 version. But with two different interfaces: the desktop interface, and the Metro interface.
Lance Whitney writes that “the Metro browser and the desktop browser can be clumsy and jarring. ” Worse still, “there’s a lack of consistency and standardization between the two. ” Uh oh. This is coming from a tech guy from a tech site. Can you imagine when Win 8 hits Mainstreet USA? Pop, goes the weasel.
There’s a lot of talk regarding Android fragmentation – the idea that too many versions of the OS are causing too many development and testing issues and slowing down progress, and ultimately the number of apps available on the platform. I used to not think much of it (What, Google Worry?), after all the market share numbers speak for themselves. Android is a smash hit – on smartphones. But with the recent Ice Cream Sandwich fiasco — hello, hello, come out wherever you are… please — I’m inclined to think that things such as too many versions of an OS floating around in the market, or a split personality such as the one we’re seeing with apps like Internet Explorer 10 in Win 8 are cautionary tales not to be ignored.