The New Era of Computing
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The New Era of Computing
by Jon Buys - Mar. 09, 2012Comments (16)
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For the first time in decades, the major players in the computing industry are making sweeping changes to the core of how we interact with computers. Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Canonical are reinventing the graphical user interface, leaving the desktop metaphor behind, and moving into a newer, and hopefully simpler, age of computer interaction. We have Apple to blame for this. In January 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, the public got the first glimpse of what the future might hold. The iPhone was like nothing that had come before it, a simple, hand-held computer that just worked, and worked well. The iPhone brought the concept of touch interaction into the mainstream, and changed users expectations of how computers should work. Apple, already on a popularity upswing after the success of the iMac and iPod, rocketed past it’s competition over the next few years to become one of the most successful businesses in history. The popularity of the iPhone was followed by the success of the iPad, a device who’s story is still being written. The iPad’s popularity has been growing exponentially, and there is no end in sight. Apple’s success with the iPad and iPhone has prompted a sleeping giant to wake. Microsoft, a slow, stodgy, and entrenched giant, but a giant none the less, has revamped both their mobile and desktop operating systems into something completely new, the Metro interface. To Microsoft’s credit, Metro is a refreshingly new experience, an unexpected turn from the company who brought the Windows desktop to almost every computer in the world. Metro is designed for touch, like iOS, but integrates well with a keyboard and mouse as well. Microsoft’s aim is to have a single, unified experience across all devices, PCs, tablets, and phones. To do so, they’ve scaled the Windows Phone interface up to the desktop, the opposite of what they did with Windows Mobile before, which was the Windows desktop scaled down, start button and all. Metro is compelling on a number of levels, primarily because there is very little to learn to use it. Big tiled buttons, unified color schemes, and a reduction of user interface elements all combine into a less complex user interface. So, where does this move to mobile leave Linux? Android and iOS follow each other fairly well, but Android does not currently scale up to the desktop. Most Linux distributions have not abandoned the desktop metaphor, and have done very little to modernize the interface. The notable exception to this is the Ubuntu Unity interface, which I’ve written about before. Unity is different, but it is not yet better than what has come before. It is built on top of the existing interface, where the major competitors to Linux have rethought the entire interface from top to bottom. Linux has always been a bit of a follower in user interface design. KDE and GNOME were both reimplementations of concepts that were already popular. However, change is in the air, and the open source community has the chance to completely rethink what it means to use a computer, and how the computing part of the computer can be abstracted away from the user, opening up open source to a whole new market. Android, iOS, and even stodgy old Windows each show how powerful a simple interface can be, so where can we go with the Linux desktop?
Windows Android ubuntu UI Unity iOS
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by an anonymous user on Mar. 09, 2012Let those of us who like the desktop the way it is continue working productively. I work with 2 20"+ monitors and a keyboard and mouse. I have no desire to mash my fingers against my monitors. I hate having finger prints on screens.
The paradigm of the 4" screen on my smart phone can and should be different from that on the 40" screens of my computer.
by tracyanne on Mar. 09, 2012I am really surprised that so many people have bought into the idea that a mobile phone or tablet/ touch metaphore will work better on a high resolution multi monitor system than does the current WIMP metaphore.
The only desktop developers to have managed to get it right are KDE, with their Plasma Workspaces for said high resolution multi monitor systems, Plasma Netbook, Plasma Touch, for Tablets, and soon Plasma Phone, all of which can intechange as the device gains or loses external monitors and Mouse and keyboard.
by an anonymous user on Mar. 10, 2012Hey ! Wake up ! Gnome has thrown away the desktop metaphore months before microsoft or ubuntu. This is all the gnome 3 thing ! In this case linux is by no way a follower but is the one who has been inovating first.
I'd rather say that you can find a modern desktop that fits your need under linux should it be windows95-like such as xfce, windows7-like such as kde or macos/ios/win8-like such as gnome 3.
Who was first is not important (even when it is gnome !). What is important is to feel compfortable with one's destop. However, please don't say such crap as linux is a follower. This is untrue in almost every computer science field I can think of. I would even say it is well ahead. Please search a bit on google before posting such an "article".
by an anonymous user on Mar. 10, 2012I should add I find kde, gnome3 and macosx much more well suited to large screen than the typical smartphone interface. Windows 8 looks like an attempt of utter laziness in my point of view rather than an inovation.
One can rethink an interface without saying : desktop metaphor looks old, smartphone interface is shinny, let's make a smartphone interface on a desktop computer.
By design, smartphones are limited : no "3 buttons and a wheel" mouse, a keyboard so uneasy to use that it should be used as rarely as possible. Desktop users has the chance to own a full fledged keyboard and a mouse. You've got more space on a computer screen too. Don't tell me inovation is consisting in limiting the user interaction with software even when the hardware is available.
by Diskinonamous on Mar. 10, 2012Wow.
All this article needed was a pair of pom-poms and a megaphone.
by an anonymous user on Mar. 10, 2012Perhaps not users, but writers seem to say 'The desktop is dead !'. People will continue to have a desktop PC as a primary device, and someting else as per timely fashion. The netbook madness is not too far behind and yet the netbook is dead. Almost every one would need a mobile phone and not every one would need a tablet. In a few years, the tablet may die also. People won't write a long essay on a tablet, not even a lengthy email. Real work will continue to be done on a real computers and the desktop has still a long way to go. When we have a keyboard and a mouse to interact with the machine, it's not intelligent to tap on a screen for those simple continuous tasks. We can't carry a mouse and a keyboard with a phone, it has its own pointing requirements. So how the hell can people come to think that everything has to work like a mobile phone ? I think rather that writers need to write, anything that can be written !
by Robert Pogson on Mar. 10, 2012Right you are, tracyanne. I have just one 20" monitor and I can move the mouse pointer across it by moving my mouse 1" on my desk. I put a lot of mileage on that mouse. Imagine the arm-strain if I were waving my arms around on the screen all day long... Another thing. My old eyes like the monitor to be positioned beyond arm's length to minimize eye-strain and to permit a sharp focus. Touch does not work for me.
by Djahma on Mar. 10, 2012what about bodhi linux? I find it a courageous move that no one talks about.
I hope some day, the community will take this distro up to the mobile+desktop 21st century environment it deserves.
by Tanja on Mar. 10, 2012"Linux" is not a follower in user interface design, if you search a bit you will find a lot of wild user interface experiments, especially in window management. Each of those has a group of users who think it's the best thing since sliced bread.
Then why do so many users use traditional desktops that the author of this article hasn't noticed the innovative non-desktops at all? I guess most people want unsurprising desktops, not something surprising... like a phone interface on a big screen...
(Years ago I used the matchbox window manager for a while, which is meant for PDAs and phones. That's right, I used a phone interface on my desktop computer before doing so was mainstream :D )
by johnson on Mar. 11, 2012Despite of what may be coming I am so relieved that in 10 years from now I will be able to open a terminal window and start to actually work productively within seconds, no matter what people then call a good interface. My major feature in linux is that I still benefit from what i've learned 15 years ago. Look at all the poor windows admins who need to relearn where all the buttons went in every new major release...
by shelley on Mar. 12, 2012I am a programmer and all this new interface seems crap to me....I along with my friends use the computer for doing productive work....We use Linux Mint 12 with Cinnamon desktop...We hate Gnome Shell and Unity...
The Desktop is not going to die....
by anonymouser on Mar. 12, 2012Was the writer in a rush to go to the washroom?
Incomplete at best.
>Linux has always been a bit of a follower in user interface design.
Yes, it has traditionally been that way but the past few years Id say that the desktops have caught up and moved ahead.
Which is only normal. Free software releases a technology when its ready while proprietary ones only make the changes when they have a new version to sell so in those cases they sit on the technology for marketing reasons: to monetize it.
>Most Linux distributions have not abandoned the desktop metaphor, and >have done very little to modernize the interface. The notable exception to >this is the Ubuntu Unity interface,
Oh goody, i havent called a blogger an idiot yet this week: this twit gets to be the first simply for being an incompetent and incomplete thought.
KDE has both the desktop AND netbook versions installed and at the click of a button you can switch from one to the other.
While their touch look which anyone writing on this stuff would have noticed running when the Spark tablet was announced (Spark you say? Im not surprised considering the total lack of understanding of the topic the author has) is called Plasma Active One makes KDE the leader in how to approach the desktop.
But hey, thats not a notable exception it seems.
Im not going to be an idiot like Torvalds and ask the author to kill himself (I think the 'humor' in telling someone this is something that is said to justify bad manners and despicable no matter what apologists claim. If you dont agree, please continue asking people to commit suicide when you have a freakout) but I would ask that someone so incompetent not write about things they know nothing about. Thats why CNET exists already.
by an anonymous user on Mar. 12, 2012Apparently Android does scale up to the desktop, Android-x86.
by an anonymous user on Mar. 14, 2012How could somebody be so clueless to think that Apple brought this with the iPhone. Decades before the iPhone we already had tall this in the way of PDAs and smartPhones. Apple just popularized them with amazing marketing.
by leh lohc on Mar. 20, 2012I will bet in Windows 8. If (big if) Mircrosoft can handle to put a good Win8 installed on tablets and they can run smoothly with compatibility to older software like Office, Adobe Photoshop, Corel, million of games and applications .... then Windows 8 will really really a big competitor if not the biggest.
by an anonymous user on Mar. 27, 2012My question is who exactly determined that the desktop paradigm was broken? I LIKE having multiple open windows on my *gasp* desktop, because I like to do multiple things while I'm at the computer. In fact, the reason I've invested in large, high resolution monitors is so that I don't have to toggle between full screen apps like I did back in the day with Norton Commander. Forcing users into a new paradigm originally targeted for smart phones sounds quite dumb to me.
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The New Era of Computing