It is/was well known that Apple is the king of UX/UI, their UI designs are awesome and you can see that UX is big deal from the moment you unpack your Apple product. But I believe that’s about to change, Apple will keep their great UX/UI, the point is that Microsoft will provide even a greater UX to their users (I never thought I would never say this words). It’s clear that Microsoft is investing a lot on the UX of their products and I believe the results are about to come, and this is why:
1. Apple real world vs. Microsoft brand new virtual world
Apple relies on the user’s knowledge of the real world to create great UI. For example since the user already saw and knows how to “use” a bookshelf, why not create a virtual one? That’s exactly what iBooks does, even the book’s pages look like a real book. The iPhone contacts app also rely on that, it’s exactly the same as the old paper address book, the user can put their finger on a letter and he will get the contacts that start with that letter.
This path has brought Apple to top of UX providers. People love their products, and most of peoples comments about are always related with how easy to use the product is. The problem that I see is that the success of relating the real world with the virtual world is about to end. An example of that is a discussion on UX Stack Exchange about the use of the floppy disk for the save icon. The main idea is why use the floppy disk to save if nobody uses it anymore, a teenager has no idea of what a floppy disk is. This show a detachment from the virtual and the real world. More and more we can see that the virtual reality is creating its own language.
Another problem is that when the decision is made to bring the real to the virtual world you create a limitation. Basic is if you create a rule for your design you’re gonna have to follow it. For example, maybe (just maybe) the next logical step for book readers are to be continues text flowing on the screen like a web site, with no pages. Since the electronic reader (iBook) looks like a book, if Apple does that the user will be confused since the user never saw that happening with a real book.
Enough about Apple, let’s talk about Microsoft. I don’t even want to talk about the UI Microsoft provided until, what I want to highlight are the next steps Microsoft is taking. With the design guideline called Metro style Microsoft is redesigning all of their interfaces. They decided to toss everything they had before and start from scratch. A new virtual language has been created, with no attachment to the reality. I believe this is the next reasonable step, the next generation is so deeply involved with the digital world that UI that are related with the reality will be considered old-fashioned.
To exemplify this I want to go back to the address book app. Windows phone’s address book doesn’t have any limitations, as you can see on the video below Microsoft is free to create something more than an address book because it doesn’t have any relation with the reality.
Another example is the semantic zoom, it’s a new concept where the zoom doesn’t actually makes things smaller. When when the user zooms out that meas that the user is looking to see the big picture, not exactly to see things smaller, here is another great example:
Another great thing about the Metro style is that it’s prepared for any type of media, from phones, to tablets, to desktops and even TVs. For this reason I believe Microsoft will get a lot of the Mobile market once the Windows 8 is released. Users that have PCs will have the opportunity to have a desktop, a tablet, a video game console and a phone all with the same user interface and language.
I love Apple products, but Microsoft’s strategy to adopt the Metro style is going to turn the table, and maybe soon they’ll will be considered the kings of UX (calm down Apple fans, I just said maybe).