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User Interface

One of the better aspects of technology writing is searching for concept interfaces and fake user interfaces. The following images are from Microsoft and may or may not show up in future Windows’ releases.

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The above image is (guessing) a design study for the Start menu and desktop. Given the way the Start Menu looks this may be a study looking for Windows 10 Mobile.

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Design study (again guessing) for Windows 10 Mobile. Notice the Tile sizes; looks like a refinement.

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More Windows Mobile designs. Looks like Aero fans will be entertained. Interesting looking mail and messaging icons.

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More Start Screen designs.

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Last image is a look at the Start Menu on a PC. In a few concepts Microsoft has experimented with the Taskbar; adding features that make it work more like the MacOS launcher and making work when PC is in tablet mode.

And that’s it for now folks.

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Before reading the article posted today on Windows Central I have to admit I was nonplused by what was coming down the pike for Windows. The fact is Windows as an OS needs a make over but can’t get one because legacy keeps it afloat while drowning it.

And I know a lot of people need and require software built on top of x86 but it does prevent things moving forward.

Then Neon happened and my inner UI nerd fainted.

 

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image: New Creation

 

Metro 2.0

According to Zac Bowden at Windows Central and Cassim Kefti at Numerama Neon is the codename for the next interface update to Windows 10. Kefti says internally Neon is being described as “Metro 2.0” in reference to the UI introduced with Windows Phone. Windows Central describes it as a streamlining of various efforts to bring level of coherency throughout the system. Neon also looks to add new animations and transitions to Windows 10. Neon also appears to be an effort to integrate new UI elements for augmented and virtual reality headsets. The timeline for the changes according to both articles seems to be Redstone 3, the update planned for 2017.

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So what do I think? Honestly I am hyped by the news nd the possibilities. The news follows reporting from ZDNet about x86 emulation running on ARM for Windows Mobile. The emulation news was preceded by new mobile features coming with Windows’ next update. All this adds up to interesting times ahead for Windows mobile users and enthusiasts.

Now that was the hope. Here is the wants and needs.

First, there needs to be a visual update to both the Start Screen of Windows mobile and the start menu/tablet mode on Windows 10. I include them together because those are the public facing parts of the OS and the ones users use when mobile or without a keyboard. Windows 10 is fine for tablets but can always use improvements.

Second more features for Live Tiles and the lock screen. Neon is the perfect opportunity for features like Interactive Tiles or anything that moves the Tile metaphor forward. Also the Lock screen has been there sitting waiting to be unleashed; maybe the work of Microsoft’s Arrow Launcher could help.

Last, seamless integration of mixed reality into the platform. Windows has merged touch with the mouse and keyboard and no it was not easy. Hopefully they learned from those growing pains.

Honestly it’s early days and I will be revisiting this topic in future.

Microsoft has always had its eyes on the future. Bill Gates was well known for making predictions on the future of computing (even wrote a book on it). In fact Microsoft has maintained a section of the company that works on thinking about the future.

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For the last decade, starting in 2006, Microsoft has made a series of videos that show a vision of the future. For most people who follow such things the series was made famous in 2009. This past week a new video came out that once again put out a Microsoft colored vision of the world in 5-10 years.

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Now some have criticized the Productivity Future Vision (PFV) videos for the fact they didn’t reflect products that Microsoft was working on. Critics wondered why the software giant would focus on making science fiction while Apple and Google made reality. For Microsoft the answer has been about creating a conversation by providing a glimpse on things Microsoft is working on.

This year’s video is interesting because much of what’s on screen now reflects products Microsoft makes. The video’s focus also seems to coincide with the new focus the idea of the ubiquity of experience and mobility┬áthat’s been the focus of Nadella’s tenure.

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For me the PFV is a vision of computing and of Microsoft that I want the company to strive for. The idea of computing being this thing that travels cross devices where you walk in, log on and use a device and everything is there; and when you go your stuff just goes with you.

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Productivity Future Vision (link)

(You just don’t know how much this video has me like a kid on Christmas day)

images: Microsoft

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Since the release of the second preview for Windows 10 I’ve been going over the presentation and the latest Build looking at the changes for Windows and the Metro interface. Visually there have been clear changes made to core applications as they make the shift from Windows/Windows Phone 8.1 to the Universal app model. Reception for the overhaul has been mixed to be polite. I’ve read a few user comments saying Windows 10 sucks for tablet users. Also a few feel the new interface with new app controls and the hamburger menu means Windows is losing its unique accents.

While the overall ideas and final look for Windows 10 is far from finished, there is enough stuff there to make a preliminary brief.

Up first let’s talk about the Hamburger. The Hamburger menu is a button composed of three lines which represents menu selection or more options. It is used a lot for mobile websites and apps across platforms. The menu is a bit controversial in design circles; some consider it the mystery meat of design. Now in Windows and Windows Phone the Hamburger was rarely used; instead pivot and panorama controls were used on Phones and edge UI elements used on tablets. The new Modern UI is moving beyond both. Now one thing I observed with the new menu is how much it also resembles the look of the Mail app in Windows 8. When you shrink it down the Map app’s settings resemble the template used in creating the new Map app. Photos, and others. The Hamburger menu simply lets you hide them.

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One of the things some of the early applications show is that the shift in design is partly about providing an experience that moves easier between screens. The transfer of Metro from mobile to tablets wasn’t as easy because the teams designing them were coming from different directions. Another aspect I am noticing is the new Modern design might’ve been created to with an eye on reducing app repetition. By repetition I mean how a lot of Metro apps just used the basic templates which resulted in a bunch of similar apps.

The new Modern language deviates from some of what Metro was but not much. It’s not backing away from minimalism or a focus on content over superfluous elements. The Universal app model carries an inherent need for the reuse of elements, but not necessarily shrinking the interface. There is a merger of ideas in some places and changes in others. The edge UI’s in Windows 8 and 8.1 have been replaced easily available quick app settings (hamburger). The app bar remains but rules on controls have be relaxed. Commands can now be on top or bottom. One thing to note is that some apps appear to use motion and animation when switching controls. An example of this is in the new Mail app. App controls look to be heading for a change in styling. A new design for App controls was seen.

Beyond applications there has been work done to modernize the desktop. The taskbar has a new highlight feature with opened programs. Microsoft has tweaked the flat color and style introduced in Windows 8 along with the title bars and the minimize, maximize, and close buttons. The Start menu continues to be iterated on. In an interesting move the Start Menu has been rebuilt in XAML, a software language used to make applications. This is interesting because Microsoft is using its tools to build apps; these tools are available to developers.

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The interface and experience that has been made public has divided Windows users especially those who loved the Metro design language. The new Modern language. Windows 10’s rough sketch is showing an OS that is trying to think about mobile from a new perspective and balance the needs of traditional PC users while not abandoning users who adopted touch and tablets. This approach is obviously something to get used to and refine.

images: Microsoft