Microsoft and Apple are the developers of three of the most popular operating systems in the world (Windows, iOS & Mac OS X), yet their approaches to building the infrastructure that powers laptops, tablets and phones couldn’t be more divergent.
The Windows 8 team specifically tackles the complaint that the new Windows 8 start screen, which uses the app-style metro interface, isn’t effective at organizing apps (it was originally organized alphabetically) and doesn’t display enough apps on one screen (it originally displayed about 20 apps). Microsoft dives deep into the UX issues of start menus, even calculating how many apps Windows 8 can theoretically fit onto one display at different monitor resolutions.
In the end though, Microsoft concluded that its users were right about the Windows 8 start menu and made two important changes to it as a result. First, it now supports folder-style organization of apps. Secondly, Microsoft is making the start screen denser, meaning that more apps will be visible on a single screen.
The Apple Approach to OS Development
Microsoft’s approach lies in stark contrast to Apple‘s approach to OS development. The notoriously secretive company doesn’t like unveiling products until they are polished. It doesn’t publish detailed stats about how people are using its products. And it rarely makes dramatic changes based on user feedback.
It’s an approach that has worked just fine for Apple (more than fine, in fact). Steve Jobs and his team have been able to develop products and features that users wanted long before users they even knew they wanted them.
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups,” Steve Jobs told BusinessWeek in 1998. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
This is why you won’t find an Apple blog that details user behavior in iOS. This is why Apple only gives developers a few months to play with new versions of Mac OS X before they get released to the public, while Microsoft will release a new version of Windows to developers more than a year before its official debut.
Both companies are wildly successful with their operating systems. Windows is still the world’s most popular OS, while Apple keeps selling iPhone and iPads by the millions. But we’re about to see what happens when these two opposing philosophies to development butt heads. Microsoft is preparing for war against the iPad, and Windows 8 is its weapon of choice.
Will Microsoft’s philosophy to development trump Apple’s approach? We don’t know the answer to that question yet, but we do know that the fireworks are just getting started.
Check out the galleries below if you want to do a side-by-side comparison of Apple and Microsoft’s approaches to building an OS. Let us know which philosophy you prefer in the comments.
Gallery: Windows 8
Windows 8 Metro Home Screen
This is the Metro interface in Windows 8
Gallery: iOS 5
New Home Screen With Notification
Notifications are a big deal in iOS 5. Taking some cues from Android, iOS has finally unified the notification system and made it less clumsy and intrusive.
Message now appear at the top of the screen (though you can choose to allow them to display in the middle) while you are using the phone and they don’t interrupt what you are already doing.
For more Dev & Design coverage:
- Follow Mashable Dev & Design on Twitter
- Become a Fan on Facebook
- Subscribe to the Dev & Design channel
- Download our free apps for Android, Mac, iPhone and iPad