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What Apple could learn from Windows 10

Ryan Faas | Jan. 4, 2016
Microsoft's OS offers advances that rival Apple should consider implementing on its own.

Given that a fair percentage of people buying Apple products are switching from a different platform - PC to Mac or Android to iOS - this would be a valuable tool for Apple to offer, perhaps with an option to let experienced users skip the process. While Apple doesn't do a great job in this regard for its OSes, many Apple apps do provide a solid introduction when first used or after an upgrade.

Live Tiles

Most people were introduced to the concept of Live Tiles via Windows 8's Start screen and many took an immediate dislike to them. The complaints about the Start screen and its radical departure from other desktop interfaces were legitimate and Microsoft did shoot itself in the foot by forcing the concept on users. Having used them on Windows Phone, I had a more nuanced view. On a phone, they actually work very well as an alternative to the generally static home screen of iOS.

By moving the tiles into the resurrected Start menu in Windows 10, Microsoft managed to retain much of their value - providing easy access to apps, news and weather, social media updates, and other content -- while not disrupting the standard desktop workflow. On the desktop, Live Tiles are similar to the Today view in OS X's Notification Center. The difference is that they're more flexible; items can be pinned and most tiles don't need of a specific widget or extension as is the case with Notification Center.

On Windows Phone, the tiles serve as a dynamic interface that can be arranged as needed and they eliminate the need for multiple home screens; Windows Phone simply presents a scrolling list of tiles. The easy access to apps and immediate access to content actually serves as a middle ground between the iOS list of app icons and home screen widgets on Android.

Although I don't see Apple mimicking this functionality, having an easy-to-manage dynamic list of apps and content similar to them would be a welcome addition to both OS X and iOS. In some ways, OS X's now-defunct Dashboard (replaced by Notification Center) was analogous to this type of flexible functionality. Although Notification Center does offer some similar capabilities, it's much more limited, particularly on iOS.

Expanding Notification Center along these lines and allowing content (and perhaps apps) to be pinned without the need for extensions would be a welcome upgrade.

Continuum and converged computing

Both Apple and Microsoft have visions for converged computing, but they are somewhat different.

Apple calls its vision Continuity and it's focused on tasks and data flowing seamlessly across the company's platforms. The biggest example is Handoff, which allows a task to be started in an app on one device (Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch) and completed seamlessly by a matching app on another. Other features allow any device to answer a call from an iPhone and automatic sharing of an iPhone or iPad's LTE connection.


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