Consumers downloaded the Windows 8 Consumer Preview over a million times in less than 24 hours, but we're willing to bet that the majority of those downloads came from the technically inclined rather than, say, your parents. The tech world has already proclaimed what it likes and doesn't like in Windows 8 -- but do everyday people really care if W8 has an enhanced contact app? Can everyday people even locate the contact app in W8? Lockergnome's Chris Pirillo decided to put the W8 interface to the test by plopping his elderly father down in front of the new OS with no introduction.
Windows 8 isn't the only upcoming operating system that's kicking traditional GUI models to the curb. Ubuntu Linux is getting in on the paradigm-breaking action with the introduction of "The HUD" (yes, that means Heads-Up Display) in the next version of Ubuntu. No, Ubuntu's HUD has nothing to do with tracking ammo or teammates; instead, it's a new "Vocabulary UI" that aims to crush, kill and eventually replace the standard file menus we've used for over 30 years.
After giving Google users a few months to get accustomed to the ongoing redesign of Google services, Mountain View has unleashed the designers on the one and only Gmail. The new Gmail UI is similar to the preview theme released in July, but makes better use of negative space. If you’ve seen the Reader, Docs, and Calendar redesigns, you’ll know what to expect.
When you’re getting ready for the big dance, you slip into something nice, clean and pretty to try and put your best foot forward for the crowd. Two major sites did that today. Facebook doffed the equivalent of a new pair of shoes in anticipation of tomorrow’s F8 conference, drastically changing users’ News Feeds while keeping the rest of the layout the same. Pandora took the opposite route; they overhauled their ensemble from the ground up in a quest to impress. Unfortunately, one of them dashed its prom queen hopes after getting a big FAIL from unhappy users.
In the midst of all the NFC Google news, the search giant also announced it will be rolling out a fairly major cosmetic change to Gmail over the coming weeks. The new People widget will occupy the top right hand portion of the interface and give users quick access to contacts. The widget surfaces content available in the Google ecosystem as a sort of ambient information display.
Firefox 4 may be only a few weeks old, but Mozilla’s adoption of a Chrome style rapid release schedule has led to several leaks about upcoming Firefox 5 features, which believe it or not, should be released by the end of June. Users who want to gain access to the latest preview build can download a copy directly from Mozilla, or just hit the jump for a quick overview of what you can expect to see down the road.
Things are looking grim for the once king of social networking, MySpace. The site's numbers have been plummeting since Facebook and Twitter started to really gain traction. In December of 2008, MySpace had 43 billion page views. Last month they were down to only 12 billion according to ComScore. But on October 15, MySpace is expected to take one last stab at this whole social networking thing with a complete redesign of the site.
The new design is being called Project Futura internally. It is described as a much lighter interface. It will have less clutter and will focus on the news stream. Sound like any wildly successful website you know? Parent company News Corp. is expected to be keeping a close eye on the project. It's no secret that the value of MySpace has plummeted since it was acquired.
Can a redesign, however needed, stop the bleeding? It might just be too late for MySpace. With Facebook and Twitter both growing by leaps and bounds, News Corp. might be looking at an unpleasant reality in the coming months.
The Russian press site of software giant Microsoft may have gotten a little overzealous today and posted a screen shot showing off the new UI for Internet Explorer 9. The preview builds have this far shown no evolution of the interface, but everyone was expecting some big changes come the beta. Immediately after the image was posted, it was pulled back down, but ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley managed to grab the image first.
What we're looking at here is a vastly different look for Microsoft's browser. Frankly, that's a good start as IE8 was starting to look ancient compared to other browsers. The window is much more minimalist. Toward the left there are back and forward buttons, then immediately to the right is a unified Search/URL bar. As we continue across the top of the window, we come upon the tab area, which is on the same level as the URL bar. We can assume this area will dynamically shrink the Search/URL bar as more tabs are open. It could get cluttered, but will offer more space for the web page.
There really isn't much more to the interface. The Home, Favorites, and Menu icons are over on the right, much like Chrome. The top of the window has the Windows Aero glass effect going on, also like Chrome. The Russian site also mentions "tear off tabs" which will be an extension of Aero Snap for viewing tabs in a split screen view. We're very interested to see how this browser looks when the bets is finally released. Sources have previously stated that should happen in September. What are your thoughts about the new Internet Explorer UI?
A recently uncovered patent application submitted in January 2009 by Microsoft is threatening to open up the old wounds we sustained when the Courier was canceled. The patent is for an animated page turn effect not unlike that seen in the iPad's iBooks and Kindle apps.
Part of the application reads, "The virtual page turn actively follows the page-turning gesture. The virtual page turn curls a lifted portion of the page to progressively reveal a back side of the page while progressively revealing a front side of a subsequent page." Sounds familiar, right? Neither Microsoft nor Apple can claim to have invented this, and it's unclear if this patent would have been granted.
If the application were granted, Microsoft would seemingly have no place to implement it. Add it to Windows 7 tablets? Maybe. More likely, this will just stand as another reminder of what the Courier could have been.
Google has been iterating Android at an astounding pace since it was first introduced in the fall of 2008. Barely a few months have passed in between releases, and now much of the feature set has been fleshed out. Ask most people familiar with the operating system what's still missing, and they'll probably say the user experience needs work. Google has apparently gotten the message, because sources within the Android team are saying the upcoming Gingerbread release will focus on improving the user interface.
The overall polish of the operating system has been a sore spot for the open source software. Apple's iPhone OS is much more tightly controlled, but more cohesive experience. Various third parties have tried to build skins for Android to clean up some of the rough edges. The most obvious example of this is HTC's Sense UI. Google may not be looking to squash these ventures, but maybe make them less necessary.
It's hard to build a really slick user interface when you have so many different devices floating around. But Google's recent hiring of Palm UI engineer Matias Duarte could be a sign the search giant is serious. We're looking forward to trying some tasty Gingerbread, but we haven't even had our Froyo (Android 2.2) yet.