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Windows 8 and Mountain Lion Will Transform Your PC

Apple’s Mountain Lion, and Microsoft’s Windows 8 will be released this year.

The desktop operating system, as we know it, is about to turn the corner and start firmly heading down a path that takes it away from the “mouse and windows” paradigm that has persisted for nearly three decades.

Last column I wrote about Apple’s multi-touch revolution making the jump from phones and tablets to the desktop. Windows 8 is tackling both the desktop and mobile as well. Windows 8 is landing on tablets, and may prove to be the best competition yet for Apple’s iPad.

It’s probably also inevitable that Microsoft will put out their own version Apple’s Magic Touchpad.

Microsoft is going all-in with their Metro interface.

It’s their iOS competitor, yet they are sticking it on top of regular Windows on the desktop as well. In the past I’ve argued for, and predicted that Apple would do this with iOS – stick an iOS layer on top of OS X. Apple sort of did this in the lightest way possible with Launchpad’s icon array in Lion.

But Microsoft is taking it much further – putting Metro apps in a layer atop Windows.

Yet just as Microsoft seemed to beating Apple to the punch with Windows 8, Apple unveiled Mountain Lion, which doesn’t feature iOS atop OS X, but instead interweaves popular, signature iOS elements directly into OS X itself.

I’m really loving what both companies are doing. They are both taking huge user interface leaps forward.
Apple’s mobile revolution with iOS may have sown the seeds, but finally we are seeing the big two desktop operating systems jump ahead in major way for the first time in decades with real UI innovation on the desktop.
This is the future.
Microsoft is pushing it’s Metro UI, which is a tiled interface.

Apple’s OS X is still composed of windows, with a dock, but they’ve added a notification center, and are pushing multi-touch gestures even further, so that getting around the OS becomes less about point-and-click, and more about gestures. It’s less about minimizing, maximizing, and dragging windows around, and it’s more about sliding and swapping.

Both Windows 8 and Mountain Lion are real, bold signs, that that standard desktop UI is finally morphing into something new and interesting.
Touch is a big part of that. Swiping, pinching, etc. People love these gestures on the iPad, and Apple is integrating them heavily into OS X. The result will transform how we interact with our desktops. The same can be said for Microsoft’s Metro UI.
This all spawned from iOS, there is no doubt. But it doesn’t mean that desktop is being fully dumbed down.
What it seems to mean, based on the previews we are seeing, is that the core elements of what people like the most about a mobile OS, are integrating on top of, and into the desktop. And it makes perfect sense.
After years of using an iPhone and iPad, the old fashioned desktops of OS X and Windows do feel old and clunky.
Windows 7 was a major step for Microsoft in the sense that it was stable, shiny, modern. And Apple progressed in iterations, some small, some big, up through Lion.
But Windows 8 and Mountain Lion are the real breakthroughs.
Make no mistake – the traditional desktop will still exist in both Mountain Lion and Windows 8. But the Metro and iOS are the future, and it’s in these 2012 releases from Apple and Microsoft that we are seeing the first major significant signs that the traditional desktop really is transforming, there is no doubt.
As is typical of tech junkies like myself, what most excites me most about Windows 8 and Mountain Lion is pondering what comes next.
Windows 9 and OS X 10.9 will probably be truly massive. Windows 10 and OS 11? Tantalizing to ponder.
Computers keep getting better and better and easier to use – faster, smoother, more powerful, more useful than ever before.
The PC revolution may have kicked off decades ago, but the sci-fi promise of futuristic interfaces with that offer real power with clever simplicity is really beginning to take off now in a new direction that is extremely exciting. The future of personal tech is brighter than ever.
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