OS-licious!

You may recall my post from way back in August about future OS interfaces…well, Newsweek (which is apparently now part of MSNBC) has a good article that gives a decent overview of Apple’s Mac OS X, Microsoft’s .NET and Eazel’s Nautilus environment. Mmmm…tasty!

Although I haven’t actually used any of the interfaces mentioned in the article, I have seen demos of all three. Of course, since I haven’t used them, I can only make off-the-cuff comments, but here goes anyway:

It seems that Apple’s solution goes the furthest to solve what I think is the biggest problem with current OS interfaces – window management. With OS X, dialog boxes always appear with the correct window and I imagine the need to re-size and move windows around will be drastically reduced with the advent of the “dock.”

In typical Microsoft fashion, the .NET solution seems to be focused on technical accomplishment rather than solving actual usability problems or improving user experience. Their solution, to make everything a web page, must surely have been born in the executive washroom, rather than in a meeting of skilled interaction designers. I do like the idea of a “universal type-in” bar though. Jef Raskin discusses this is his fabulous book, “The Humane Interface.” It’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft implements it.

Eazel’s inclusion of a “beginner, intermediate, expert” selector seems like the kind of solution that people who don’t really know too much about interaction design would support. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard frustrated computer users say, “I wish I could just set this to beginner,” as if that would magically solve all the human-computer interaction problems. Further supporting my opinion is the fact that their solution seems to be getting a lot of support from industry heavyweights like Dell and Sun (or at least from their execs – who probably don’t know the first thing about HCI). I must applaud Eazel’s efforts though. They’ll need big industry support to capture the market away from other desktop environments, such as KDE. I also like their inclusion of a zoomable interface. Unfortunately, I think the idea of having to worry about files and know about the file system is an idea whose time had passed.

I don’t really think any of the solutions above solves all of the problems with current OS interfaces, but I feel confident in saying that they are all taking at least some steps in the right direction. Plus, all this activity at the same time is exciting!

By the way, Andy Hertzfeld, of Eazel, will be giving a talk entitled, “Improving the Usability of Free Software” at the 01/BayCHI meeting tomorrow. Anyone want to join me?