Addendum: Six SKUs of Separation

Microsoft is currently planning on six versions of Windows Vista, including two versions of Vista Home.

Gone is an earlier SKU oriented towards idiots gamers. Or maybe that’s the “ultimate” edition.

This seems like a bad idea to me, but then I’m not a Microsoft Marketing Genius™. From a developer’s perspective, the more I can rely on the target platform to be similar to the development/testing platform, the better. This in turn means that the fewer variations of the overall platform that are out there the better.

(Note: this is one reason why Linux remains such a terrible desktop platform.)

Currently, XP has Home, Media Center Edition, Tablet, Professional, and Server. From a development standpoint, this equates to Home/MCE/Professional, Tablet, and Server. So while the retail picture of XP is pretty complex, from a developer’s point of view we have a single, pretty unified, target platform (since a server app is a server app and we probably don’t care about Tablet).

But in the new world we have Home Basic and Home Premium which will have different looking GUIs just for starters. So when I write documentation for my users, I’m now going to need to do a lot more work (forget testing, etc.).

Annals of Usability: Windows Vista

Disclaimer: I haven’t used Windows Vista for even five minutes, so my opinions on it are just that valuable.

Windows Vista is the new version of Windows Microsoft plans to ship in 2004*. It features many groundbreaking new features, such as a search field on its file browser, a 3D chess game, and pixel-shader-powered rectangular window frames.

Ed Bott has posted thirty screen shots highlighting features of Windows Vista which he thinks particularly noteworthy, and it’s certainly interesting.

Ed Bott’s Blog Entry and Screen Shots.

Until I looked at this I really couldn’t think of any reason one might want to use Vista (aside from the distant prospect of Microsoft dropping support for XP), but these two links show that the jump from XP to Vista looks at least as compelling as that from Win2k to XP… i.e. not very compelling, but a lot better than say the jump from Windows 98SE to Windows ME.

Of course, screenshots don’t crash or take four days to install.

The biggest benefit for me: Microsoft is so busy imitating the Mac GUI in Vista that all the folks who claim they prefer the Windows UI are going to be explaining why Vista is better to themselves and their fanboi friends. This was fun back when they were claiming command line UIs were better than graphical UIs, and that mice were toys. It’s still fun now.

That said, it’s pretty hilarious that the performance rating system rates his Dual 3GHz PC with 3GB RAM etc. as “3/5”.

* Based on the assumption that Jesus Christ was actually born in 5AD.

The Ribbon of Life Has a Powerful Beat

I’ve just read Jakob Neilson expounding the virtues of “Microsoft’s” “New” “What You Get Is What You See” usability initiative in Office (versus Apple’s “What You See Is What You Get” concept). Along with many in the Windows world who have been treated to betas of Office 12, he has swallowed a good deal of kool-aid and come to a bunch of erroneous conclusions.

  1. This is new (it isn’t; heck the “bold” button in Word has always been a bold b)
  2. This is one in the eye for Apple (KeyNote, Pages, several iApps, do this kind of thing already, and they do it better)
  3. It works

I can’t be bothered going into detail here, but first of all this is a step further down the path of obfuscating more efficient ways of using software (e.g., in the case of Word, using stylesheets) in favor of wasting huge amounts of space on fancy toolbars and palettes.

Ultimately, the trend (for both Apple and Microsoft) seems to be to produce a word processor with icons that create an entire “fill in the blanks” document, produced by a “design professional”. So Word’s icons might have something like a “Moby Dick” icon, where you tab to the field containing “Ishmael” to rename the main character.