It’s almost a week after Microsoft’s exciting Windows 8 Consumer Preview launch and it’s a good time for reflection on usage experience. It’s the time to share some thoughts on what’s good, what’s bad and what could be the Next Big Thing of the Post-PC World. Why Microsoft brought such a radical change to Windows to life? As usual, let’s start with history lessons.
THE INFORMATION AGE: THE PC & POST-PC WORLD
THE RISE OF THE PC
KEY PC VALUE: A TOOL FOR INFORMATION CONSUMPTION TOWARD INFORMATION CREATION
THE RISE OF TABLETS: A BRAVE NEW POST-PC WORLD
TABLETS - THE SECOND COMING
INTRODUCING FIRST POST-PC HABITS
INFORMATION CREATION MODE
Device: PC/Mac This mode consists of several activities including consumption (reading, analysis) and creation itself (making notes, creating new documents, reviewing existing, etc.). Web browser with multiple open tabs, several text documents, electronic tables, slide decks are usually open, and a lot of information is transferred back and force between different content editors to foster new information creation.
INFORMATION CONSUMPTION MODE
Device: iPad/Android-tablet This mode consists of several activities largely focused in consuming existing information for entertainment purposes. It is not that users of tablets never create information, they do – they post status updates in Facebook, they triage emails (short answers given the lack of fast information input mechanism), they post new photos etc., but the focus is largely on information consumption.
THE POST-PC WORLD BEFORE WINDOWS 8
WINDOWS 8 CONSUMER PREVIEW
Actually, though in a different way, Apple is porting its Information Consumption UX to its Mac (which is a PC from the form-factor perspective), and getting not that much love it was expecting (see Mac OS X Lion Review: This Is Not the Future We Were Hoping For, Gizmodo, 2011 and Mountain Lion Review: What Happened to Apple’s Innovation, Gizmodo, 2012).
CONFLICT OF TWO INFORMATION PROCESSING MODES
- They involve different user interface paradigms,
- They introduce different interaction models,
- And because information consumption is integral part of information creation mode, two new user experience modes introduced by Windows 8 enforce fast context switching where these mentioned differences are so hugethat the cost of each context switch will be way too high.
OPEN QUESTIONS OF WINDOWS 8 WORLD
THE NEXT BIG THING
THE NEW DEVICES OF THE POST-PC WORLD
TABLETS & SLATES
Also modern tablets based on ARM processors are gaining more and more computational power but have OS-based limitations of software that makes it impossible to handle heavy information creation tasks leaving them to their PC-counterparts, slates. There are several examples of slates that are combining the sleek look-n-feel of modern tablets but slates are evolutionary belonging to the old Tablet PCs camp. A typical example is a Samsung Slate 7 Series which is combining the power of the traditional PC, sleek user experience and wireless keyboard with dock-station, helping its owner to make a transition between these two user experiences.
After the well-known industry story about Microsoft’s secret tablet, Courier (that never shipped), some focus shifted to two-screen tablets, like an Iconia; however these devices seem to not being able to attract user’s interest as they lack simple and effective ways of entering information as quick as it is possible with other keyboard-enabled devices.
There are several examples of the so-called transformers out there, like Acer Iconia W500.
Convertibles are also evolutionary belonging to the old Tablet PC’s camp. For instance, an HP 2760p laptop is a good example of such convertible device, providing support for traditional user experience of laptop in combination with a modern tablet user experience with a one turn of the display.
SEARCH FOR NEW DEVICE FORM-FACTORS IS JUST STARTED
THE NEW SOFTWARE OF THE POST-PC WORLD
- This software will extend the beauty and touchy experiences of modern information consumption applications to the creation mode without having a compromise on features,
- This software will be designed to support touch input as a first-class citizen for information analysis tasks,
- This software will use attractive, actionable visualizations enabling fast and direct interaction with information,
- This software will work in both online and offline modes, enabling working and being entertained everywhere without constant need to be online,
- This software will be cloud-connected, which means that its data will be securely backed up by cloud services; it will also make it quite easy to transition between different devices with need from user to only provide their credentials to set everything up and run,
- This software will provide user with ability to work on multiple documents of the same and different kinds and quickly transfer information between them; it should continue on ideas lying in Android Intents and Windows 8 Charms which could be also safely called as system-wide semantic actions;
- This software will support new information creation on-the-fly, and as its philosophy will continue the directions of natural user interfaces, content will be the king; this software will have content and people as first-class citizens as opposed to apps that are in the focus of modern Post-PC ecosystem; and any kind of content (people, articles, documents, companies, places, etc.) should be pinnable on the new infinite desktop of this digital work environment;
- This software will be intelligent; it will provide semantic and contextual recommendations based on current users activities, enable a cross-content search (in a manner similar to Windows 8);
- This software will enable users to focus on their current activities and being saved from constant interruptions (see Reading Books on a Tablet is Dumb, Gizmodo, 2012); at the same time this software will help users to see the big picture and be never lost in the massive information piles stored in their devices; this software will help users to quickly switch between their different activities ranging from home to work, and quickly restore the context of each activity by providing access to all the content users worked with before they left that activity to transition to something else;
- This software will have integrated communication support to enable information sharing and people-to-people communications also as first-class citizens of the system;
- This software will provide collaborative work environment as its integral part, extending the power of existing collaborative tools like Google Docs to the complex information creation software;
- The software components enabling content consumption and creation (the new “apps”) should be easily suspended and restored when needed;
- This software will help users to instantly link various content together, as well as make link traversal along these links to discover the relations between different information pieces of the modern complex information world.