Brandon Watson (Microsoft’s Director of Product Management in the Development Platform) compares Microsoft to Apple in David Worthington’s “Microsoft: iPad’s Closed Platform is ‘Humorous’” at Technologizer:
It is a humorous world in how Microsoft is much more open than Apple. With Microsoft’s platforms, developers can build whatever they want, and target a broad array of devices using the same skill set.
This is exactly why Microsoft will continue to fail to make stuff with exceptional experiences. Brandon is saying with Windows you can integrate it into anything you want: smartphone, tablet PC, notebook, all-in-one, desktop PC, etc.
I remember using Motorola’s Q a long time ago. It had a version of Microsoft’s Windows and the experience was, at best, painful. Because it was ported from the regular Windows paradigm the cursor replaced the mouse and had to be controlled by a d-pad. A dedicated Windows button existed to replicate the Start menu found on the regular Windows OS. Today with the ingenuity of third-party UI developers a lot has been done to cover up the pain and actually make it quite useful, though I haven’t touched a Windows-based smartphone since the Q.
Windows 7 has multitouch capabilities built in. A fact that many hardware manufacturers have noticed. Now we have notebooks, all-in-ones, and tablet PCs that sport multitouch displays running Windows 7. And how good is the experience? To put it nicely: not so great. The reason is simple: simply replacing the mouse with the finger will not improve much of anything, quite the contrary. The mouse pointer is designed so that tiny icons, menus, buttons, etc. can be precisely targeted. Using a significantly-less precise finger will make it very difficult to control those UI elements designed for a mouse and keyboard. Again, third-party companies like HP has done a solid job of replacing the standard Windows 7 UI with one that is much more approachable with a finger.
I agree with Brandon that with the same skill set developers can build whatever they want targeting a broad array of Windows devices. But the experiences on those devices, with the exception of standard notebook and desktop PCs without multitouch running Windows, will be mediocre at best. Let me tell you why.
I don’t think the iPhone’s 3.5-inch LCD can be any wider (in landscape mode). Why? Because the average human being has hands with thumbs that are a certain length. If the iPhone had a wider screen it would be uncomfortable to thumb-type. Apple thought long and hard to make sure the hardware worked perfectly with the OS and vice versa. For Microsoft this would be considered a humorous limitation since there is just one iPhone with just one display size. Microsoft wouldn’t limit implementing Windows on just one display size for a smartphone, the company would want the developer to apply Windows Mobile 6.5 to as many different-sized displays on smartphones and anything that is pocketable. The bigger the better, why limit yourself! The experience on a multitouch 5-inch MID with Windows would be … terrible: touch type? thumb type? peck?
The bottomline is that the UI, software and hardware must be crafted to work seamlessly together. And I think Apple has done and continues to do a fantastic job. The iPad might be a less-open system compared to devices running Windows but I believe it will open up opportunities for developers who will create apps providing incredible experiences.