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article imageOp-Ed: Mobile versus desktop — Windows 8, Mountain Lion 'phone-like'

By Paul Wallis     Mar 1, 2012 in Technology
Sydney - You could be forgiven for thinking that computer design had become more like fashion design reading the information about the new Windows and Apple systems. "Market wisdom" is pitting the boxes against the phones.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald:
These days much of the action in the world of gadgets is happening in smartphones - like their sophisticated design and the apps that run on them. That has left desktop and laptop computers looking a little dull in comparison.
So computers are suddenly getting more phonelike.
This is a case of the market driving itself. If you actually check out the app stores, you will find literally hundreds of thousands of apps, complete with reviews saying why users hate them. Like the market's infatuation with social media, upon which it has conspicuously failed to deliver anything of note, the mythology is now driving the bus.
One of the more disingenuous bits of logic in this process is the theory that if your computer acts like a phone, or your phone acts like a computer, you'll be more interested in buying the phone or computer. The theory is that Windows 8 will have a phone-like look which will "save" Windows from the encroaching "threats" of mobile technology.
The market reality, not that markets worry much about reality, is that the actual market demographics haven't moved very much and that the new devices are already being bought in the current PC dominated commercial environment. The new technology like tablets and the older notebooks now basically sawn off versions of PCs. There are things that they can and can't do, and the huge irony is that the most likely successors to the PC, the iPads, already have a lot of basic computing grunt power.
That, naturally hasn't shut up the experts. They are now getting lyrical:
This idea of a "continuum of computing" across various devices has long been "a promise of the future," said Carolina Milanesi, a research analyst who covers the mobile industry for Gartner. "But now it is critical for success among consumers."
The "continuum of computing" happens to be inevitable. Unless somebody replaces old inefficient binary code, the real story is still "Duhhh…. What do the switches do if we put them in this order?" These guys are essentially claiming to have reinvented the light switch.
Anybody who has been awake in the last 20 years will have seen another type of evolution at work:
Computer technology is regularly streamlined
Device costs are the primary drivers in mobile devices
The actual core functions of mobile devices have actually been following, not leading, mainstream computer tech
Gaming consoles have effectively granted themselves onto new TV technology combined with baseline computer technology and software
HDMI is also opening wide another window that nobody is apparently looking at – A TV version of the cloud with hundreds of thousands of digital channels
The New Windows 8 Consumer Preview Start Screen
The New Windows 8 Consumer Preview Start Screen
At the risk of seeming something less than starry eyed about yet another collection of soggy prophecies, the word being left out of all these prophetic sales pitches is "functionality". There is another bit of market wisdom which has also been a bit overlooked – "what works, sells".
It is understandable that computer technology manufacturers and software experts don't quite understand the fact that "new" can also be a synonym for "irritating". Nobody wants new technology for the sake of new technology – they want new technology to do things better. That said, if anybody believes that people are going to throw out billions of dollars’ worth of computer technology for the sake of buying the latest gizmo, they’re out of their minds.
Users are not looking for zillions of functions they don't need. The very obvious technological crossovers between phones and computers are actually expected to be built in. It is not some sort of major consumer revelation that phones and computers have a whole range of common technologies already.
Which leaves the computer industry and phone industry with one question –
What will sell?
Sorry to introduce this question into what was looking like the beginnings of yet another economic recovery based on plagues of technological mumbo-jumbo, but consumers have other priorities. They need a phone that works, and the computer functions that they need to do their jobs. It doesn't really matter how those functions are delivered.
The real challenge for Windows 8 is more likely to be maintaining Microsoft's reputation, which was significantly repaired by Windows 7 but the taste of Vista still remains and the suspicion of requiring expensive new hardware hasn't gone away yet, either. Apple may find itself competing with itself against its own iPads rather than its iPhones.
Google, in contrast, has the embryonic Chrome cloud computing system and Android to work with. This is the one and only valid point in the whole debate. Google's combination of open source technology and different approaches to standard functions is a real threat to Windows and Apple's rather predictable approaches to market technology. One new idea could blow the whole super-safe computer market profile clear out of the water.
If, for example, somebody simply came up with a single-stream, go-anywhere software platform which could be used on any type of technology, and work with any hardware, there wouldn't even be a problem. This type of software could be adapted to anything and operating systems would be as straightforward as possible.
One of the great ironies of the current "debate" is apparently nobody remembers the idiotic situations created by multiple computer languages which couldn't interoperate. Nor, obviously do they remember the basis of the current business ERP systems, which are based very much on single stream interoperative system design.
"What works" is ultimately going to be the most cost efficient, simplest and easiest to use technology. It's simply a matter of how often this lesson needs to be learned.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about windows 8, Apple mountain lion, Desktop versus mobile, ERP systems, System functionality
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