Along with hardware, operating systems are the one you consider when choosing a device, whether it is a desktop, laptop, tablet, or a mobile phone. You’ll spend most of your time on that device looking on that operating system more than you will on the hardware, so I think operating systems are more important. Software companies are responsible for the user experience on these devices, and users often want newer, better, and faster experience. And these software companies do update their operating systems, and do bring new functionalities, but over time, these operating systems will start to feel like a messy, unorganized, and inconsistent piece of software.
Windows 7 is a great example. I love Windows 7 don’t get me wrong, I really do, and I don’t use a mac, but no matter how new Microsoft tells us Windows 7 is, which is true by the way, they changed many stuff, there are still some instances where you’ll find old icons and menus that were made way back 15 years ago. Long Zheng started a taskforce to notice these old icons and graphics that helped Microsoft to update from Vista to Windows 7. But old icons still exist today on Windows 7, and yet another taskforce was made in attempt to fully update the upcoming Windows version or update.
In the mobile space, icons are somewhat younger compared to the desktop operating systems. But the iPhone icons for example. Maybe four years ago, the rounded and glossy icons maybe cute before, but today for me they really look ugly and fat, and trying too hard. But what I like about the icons on iOS is that their shape is uniformed, unlike with other mobile OS’s like Android and webOs, where they allow different shapes of icons, those tend to look more messy in my eye. But what’s new in the market today is Windows Phone 7, where iconography is presented with a single color square with a simple icon on it, and are not presented on a grid. I obviously prefer Windows Phone 7’s icons over the other platforms, but it is hard to admit that maybe someday, they will also look outdated.
But icons are not the only problem. In fact, icons are in a way easier to implement than having a different feel into the operating systems. I’m not quite sure on how to explain this, but I’m just going to give you an example. I don’t think that any of the modern mobile operating systems are going to change their system fonts anytime soon, right? Plus, the way transitions are implemented, like the zoom in and out when you go to an application that can be found on iOS and Android, are really getting old. Take a look at this chart below for further examples:
So yeah. I bet these elements of the UI from these mobile operating systems are not going away anytime soon. I mean it is nice the first time you look at these designs, but specially for Android (which I am using for less than a month), I can honestly say that I am tired of seeing that gray app title. It is just so ugly.
That’s why I think Windows XP was so popular back then, because for the first time in 7 years from Windows 95, Microsoft change the appearance of Windows. It was also exciting when Vista was shown to people for the first time with those new awesome looking folder icons that shows your recent documents.
But the problem with Windows is that, we technically still have the same functionality of a desktop since Windows 95. Here’s a desktop from back then, with my current desktop:
A lot has changed, yes, but it is basically the same. You still have a desktop, a start menu, taskbar, and icons. That was the same problem that Microsoft faced with Windows Mobile. I remember back in 2003, there was a phone released in my country that was so popular and had Windows Mobile 2003 in it. Make it 7 years later, and Microsoft introduced Windows Mobile 6.5, in where how much Microsoft tried to modernize its operating system, you will still see old user interface designs on it, take a look at the settings on Windows Mobile for example:
SO WHAT COULD BE THE FIX?
Well, the easiest answer is a complete reboot of the operating system just like what Microsoft did with Windows Phone. I think that’s the only move to not only make underdog companies (or dying companies) compete with the more modern platforms but to make users satisfied as well (yes, I’m looking at you, RIM!).
But other than a completely different new operating system, I think the operating systems are forever doomed to have an ugly and outdated element on their platforms. I’m sure iOS and Android and other OS’s will continue to grow and have more and more apps with the coming years, but it will never be forever.
But who would really know what will happen?