Windows 8, from an iPad user's view

Too many gestures spoil the soup

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The yet-unnamed control bar requires a swipe on the right side of the screen and appears to be the only way to exit an app, image or anything. Swiping on the left seems to be the core way to switch between apps. It's also how you use the new snap feature; which feature occurs depends on how you swipe. Then there's the vertical swipe gesture in Internet Explorer 10 to see the address bar. An upward swipe is needed to unlock a device.

That's a lot of context-specific gestures. While those kinds of movements aren't unheard of in other mobile platforms, they're usually limited and somewhat universal. To use an iPad or Android phone for the first time, you don't need to pick up anything but the very basics. WebOS, on the other hand, requires context-specific gestures and, quite frankly, is confusing if you don't know them.

This isn't a deal-breaker, but I think new Windows 8 users might find this confusing, particularly if there are more context-specific gestures than we've seen, which wouldn't surprise me. I think all of these will be incredibly non-intuitive with a mouse, but we'll get to that in a minute.

For what it's worth, Apple has built a lot of advanced gesture support into Mac OS X with its Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad and notebook trackpads, and guess what: I use almost none of them, because it's usually too much effort to remember they're all there. Simplicity in gesture use is probably best for almost everyone.

The app question

The other issue I think Microsoft has to contend with is ensuring a selection of touch-centric apps designed to run in the interface. No matter how great the new interface is, if there isn't a robust selection of applications designed for it, no one will use it. Sure, you can run your old Windows apps (if you're not using an Intel machine), but they won't be touch-optimized and will run in a standard Windows 7 interface. That defeats the purpose of this great new touch setup.

Microsoft probably doesn't have a lot to worry about, since any Web developer should be able to create apps, but it will have to stay on the ball here. As I said, if the company makes it easy for Windows Phone apps to run (and scale visually) on Windows 8, it can easily have a viable selection. If the company works with existing WP7 developers to make an easy transition to the larger interface, it should avoid any problems.

The app issue will really impact Windows 8 on tablets more than traditional PCs because they are touch devices. If there isn't a diverse ecosystem, Windows 8 tablets will be stuck somewhere between Windows 7 tablets and Android tablets, where there is a dearth of Honeycomb apps compared to the iPad.

Touch on desktops and desktop-style tablet apps

The new touch interface is great for touch-enabled devices, be they tablets, hybrids or touch-screen notebooks, but it will seem stupid on traditional keyboard/mouse machines. Yes, it will work with a mouse, but many gestures will seem completely foreign to most users. And clicking the large tiles and other elements will feel like the interface was designed as a kindergarten computer.

This is going be problematic, since Microsoft is planning to make this UI the default on all devices. No matter how easy it may be to use this interface to launch traditional desktop-based apps or even to switch to just a Windows 7-style desktop, a lot of users are going to be confused -- particularly those who aren't that technically literate.

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