Upgrades: Are Computers
Just Big Smartphones?
in making its
OS look and
work like a
THE BETA VERSIONS of Mac OS X (code-named Mountain Lion) and Windows 8 are now being tested worldwide, and although they are quite different from one another, they share one characteristic: Both take designs and features built for smartphones and tablets
Preston Gralla is a
and the author of
more than 35 books,
including How the
and tack them onto desktops and laptops. Does
that mean that Apple and Microsoft believe that
your computer is really just a big smartphone?
And what do these new upgrades mean for IT?
Microsoft has gone much further than Apple
in making its operating system look and work
like a smartphone. The Windows 8 tiled interface
is taken straight from Windows Phone 7 and is
clearly designed for touchscreens rather than mice
and keyboards. The familiar Windows desktop is
downplayed — you don’t even boot directly into it
— and little effort has been put into changing it.
What you boot into is the tiled interface known
as Metro, which represents one of the more
dramatic makeovers of the operating system.
Metro was originally designed for phones, and at
this point, it seems like it will be much more at
home on tablets than on desktops. But its presence
in Windows 8 suggests that Microsoft is intent
on unifying the Windows interface across all
platforms. What we’re seeing, then, is a complete
reversal of the early days of Windows Mobile,
when Microsoft designed a phone interface to look
like the desktop version of Windows.
Apple’s changes in the just-released beta of Mac
OS X aren’t as dramatic, but they, too, are aimed
at making desktops and laptops look and work
more like smartphones and tablets. Several apps
originally developed for iOS have been ported
over to Mac OS X. But the bigger news is that
Mountain Lion fully integrates with iCloud so that
data and settings can now sync across all Apple
devices, including iPads and iPhones.
Based on initial reports, Apple appears to have
done a better job than Microsoft of picking and
choosing mobility-related features that it can
roll into its operating system while keeping the
operating system clearly aimed at desktops and
laptops. The main elements of Mac OS X haven’t
changed so much as undergone a variety of tweaks
and additions, notably iOS integration. Windows
8, on the other hand, doesn’t look like a desktop or
laptop operating system and hasn’t been opti-
mized to work on one.
Impact on IT
The Mac OS X upgrade won’t have much of an
effect on IT shops. Although Apple hardware is
becoming increasingly popular in enterprises, it’s
still not the standard in most places, and therefore
many IT shops simply won’t have to deal with it.
In companies that do have a significant number
of iPads and Mac laptops and desktops in use,
the redesign will have a slightly beneficial impact
because of its integration with iCloud.
The Windows 8 overhaul represents a classic
“good news and bad news” situation for IT. The
bad news is that Metro will present serious headaches for IT because of support issues and because
new Metro apps may not play well with existing
enterprise software. The good news is that the
Windows 8 kernel will be used for Windows 8
tablets, so enterprises will be able to deploy and
manage tablets more easily than they can now.
Eventually, the Windows 8 kernel will be used on
smartphones as well. So Windows 8 will ultimately make it easier for I T to deploy desktop, laptop
and mobile hardware with a single tool. u