I’ve never met the man, but I’d like to think that Jeff Atwood is my friend. He’s helped me to hone my craft, inspired me to become a better developer, and even helped me land new jobs. If that’s not a friend, then I don’t know a better way to define one.
But I think he’s a little mistaken on this one.
First, let me say this: Windows 8 is pretty. I’ve seen the phones, and I like it. But I have it on a desktop and I hate it. It’s the same operating system running in two different places, so what’s the problem here? The problem is context.
Look at a calculator.
Now look at a phone.
These are the same thing — 10-digit numeric entry. How many out there can punch in numbers on a calculator without looking? And on a phone? Now switch it up. Try dialing a 867-5309 on a calculator. Try multiplying 428 by 3775 on a phone. It’s hard. It’s hard because we are changing the context of the problem. In fact, this is so incredibly difficult because context is the problem!
I am a digital neat freak. I keep all of my documents well organized on my drives. I know where everything is. My bride probably wishes I was this organized and clean in the physical world as the digital. When I look at my desktop computer, do you know what I see? The Recycle Bin. That’s it. Yes, things do get put onto my desktop. My downloads go there until I decide where they should really go. And I will put documents and images that are in-progress on the desktop. But, they eventually make their way to a more permanent home, usually by the end of the day.
Then I look at my iPad and phone, with all kinds of application icons on the desktop. And generally I’m fine with that. In one context, it seems like disorganized clutter. In the other, it’s just the way it was meant to be. It’s the difference between having a mouse and a touch interface. As I write this, I realize just how weird this is. In its simplest terms, the mouse is an abstraction of icon interaction. i.e. It seems like touchable icons were the intent all the way back in the first graphical operating systems.
And what about documents? I keep my documents folders incredibly organized. But on my iPad? I have no idea where or how those files are stored. As long as my sheet music is there when I open up Musicnotes and my spreadsheets are in Numbers, then why should I care where they get stored?
I suppose the real answer is that I don’t care where they go.
So now we’re back to where we started. Is Windows 8 going to succeed? Probably, but only when the touchscreen is in play. Because that is where Windows 8 works well. Because context matters.