Six Things OS X Mountain Lion Should Steal From Windows 8

Apple's shiny new baby is about to slide out of the womb, and if you're a Mac user, it'll take over your computer soon. New features abound, but OS X Mountain Lion is missing some awesome stuff Microsoft has cooked up in Windows 8. Apple: copy this.

(Smart) Full Screen Apps

Mountain Lion is plenty proud of its ability to blow up windows to fill your display, a la Windows over a decade ago. It works, in that the apps do expand to the further possible edges of your screen. But it's goofily implemented, clumsy in appearance, and doesn't really help you do things any better. Full screened apps in Mountain Lion push everything else out of the way, forcing you to slide between multiple desktops if you want to look at more than one thing at a time. We're all about maximising pixel real estate, but only in a way that makes sense. Filling a screen with a slim white word processor and fat black bars isn't maximising much of anything.

Windows 8, by comparison, makes the most elegant and satisfying of screen space we've ever seen in any operating system. Not only are Metro's apps super-graphical and downright pretty — lending themselves to big screen loveliness by design — they're flexible. When you use a full screen app in Metro, you don't get the sense that you're hastily sweeping everything off your desktop with a crash, as one does in Mountain Lion. Rather, apps only take up as much space as makes sense — and you're in charge of that. It's your software. It's your computer. They're your eyeballs, your brain. Make the four dance together at will.

Want the Windows 8 weather app to take up your entire screen? Go for it. Want to check your email on the side? Pull up a smaller panel of your inbox, and check it in your periphery. Go ahead, swap the two, making weather the appetizer and email the entree. It doesn't matter. Fling and resize apps however you want them, whether it's to isolate one against distraction, or combine two into a multi-pane billboard of efficacy. Windows 8 makes full screen about far more than just stuffing your screen — and it's time for OS X to catch up.

A Sense Of Style

Remember when Apple was the one with the reputation for chic, daring new visuals and Microsoft was the stale, frumpy crone? The wheel of fate has turned, putting Apple in the fashion victim column and Microsoft — Microsoft! — of all companies, in the avant garde. Windows 8's Metro aesthetic is like nothing else we've ever seen. It's a large part of why we adore Windows Phone so much, and it's what makes Windows 8 look like an operating system from the future. It's superflat, colourful without being garish, as clean as we can imagine, and entirely modern. It embraces the fact that it's a digital interface on a computer, while at the same time hugging you as a user.

OS X, on the other hand, is starting to look confused. Grey gradients, translucent docks, shining icons, more gradients, stitched leather — Christ, the stitched leather. OS X has become a mish mosh of competing design ideas. Should your computer look like the things around you? Should iCal resemble a real calendar? Or should software look futuristic and virtual — like, y'know, software? Apple doesn't have a consensus, and Mountain Lion is the shrug of an answer. There's too much going on, a scattershot of design, rather than a consistent ideology a la Metro. It's distracting and turgid.

Yes, Apple needs to copy Microsoft's design. Get over it — this isn't a joke anymore, it's a strange computing reality.

Interesting Touch Gestures

Pinch to zoom, swipe to slide, twist to rotate — these are a given now. The standards. Every phone has them, every tablet at least attempts them, and they're no longer considered an achievement of modern navigation. Touch can be more than just the easy stuff, and Windows 8 makes this clear.

Take Microsoft's "semantic zoom" — which sort of amazingly changes how we've ever thought of "zooming". Rather than just making something larger, as is the case with OS X's zooming gestures, Windows 8 allows you to focus or pull out on levels of information detail. Look up there — "zooming" into the Windows 8 calendar app "zooms" you in time, rather than space.

You're getting a more detailed look at a given week, or day, or hour. This info-zoom is spread all over Windows 8, and should be standard for a Mac too. Imagine clicking an iMessage contact and zooming into her address book info, pulling back from an iPhoto album to see metadata plotted across a map, or being able to rapidly sprint between folders on your hard drive, making file hierarchy less of a labyrinth and more of a wormhole.

Microsoft is doing more with touch than Apple. It's being more creative. Apple: don't lose your lead. You made this stuff mainstream.

Picture Password

Typing passwords with "words" and "letters" is bo-oring, and not always enough to keep your gear locked down. So Windows 8 throws in image "passwords," which let you tap or swipe certain prats of a picture to prove you've memorized something and deserve access. Is it enough to replace text passwords entirely? Maybe not, but it's a clever way of making security more secure without being obtrusive in the slightest.

Built-In Clouds

iCloud is OK, but there's an enormous thing it's not doing: giving you a remote hard drive that no crook or act of God can touch. Microsoft's SkyDrive storage is baked right into Windows 8, giving you the option to offload your stuff where it'll be safe straight from the OS. iCloud can't do this — instead, you'll have to use a third party service like Dropbox. Dropbox is good, but if Apple adores its cloud so much, shouldn't it do the most obvious thing possible? Let us save to iCloud, drag and drop to iCoud, and generally pack as much stuff as we want into that fancy drive in the atmosphere. And maybe consider matching Microsoft's free 7GB of space.

Charms

Yeah, it's a dumb name. Whatever. Windows 8 sports a hidden toolbar that pops out from the side with access to search, settings, sharing, and other quick-trigger actions. Apple, make Mountain Lion's notification bar more than just notifications; give us shortcuts to the guts of the OS that need frequent changing.

So go forth, Cupertino. Windows spent the past two decades ripping you off as often and flagrantly as they pleased. Do us all a service and return the favour.


Comments

    This post was deemed inappropriate and has been moderated.

    Oooh, I'm off for popcorn, this is going to be riveting.

      I agree. I guess it's kind of funny that I don't like Macs but love my iPhone. Then again I only really "love" my iPhone once it's jailbroken and I can tweak it exactly how I want it and access the root file system. YES I know you can do all that on Android thanks, but I actually prefer a cutomised jailbroken iPhone to a rooted Android handset. There are thousands of 3rd party jailbroken apps now (and obviously a gazillion official iOS apps) and Its just more fun making the iPhone do stuff you know makes Apple cringe :)

      Back on topic, Windows 8 is definitely my next OS :)

        I agree regarding iPhone hacking. It's easier and more fun than Android. This LH article is spot on:

        http://lifehacker.com/5916593/forget-android-the-iphone-is-a-better-phone-for-hacking-tweaking-and-customization

    I wholeheartedly agree with this article.

    Apple used to be the underdog, the alternative, the computers for people who wanted to 'think differently'. These days, the hipsters all reach for their Windows Phones.

    Yep, Windows Phone is now the hip, new alternative. It's not hard to see why either, they've become genuinely innovative and fresh in their design.

    What are Apple doing these days? Suing anyone who makes a device that could potentially compete with them (and eventually winning maybe 1/5 of these cases), and releasing updates that have only higher resolution screens and faster processors. Seriously, Apple and Microsoft seem to have swapped their corporate cultures.

      You may well be eating those words once iOS6 gets.... (wait for if). FACEBOOK INTEGRATION ;) (I can hear your jaw dropping to the floor from here).

        Holy crap, I'm going to sell my One X right now!

        Great, another feature copied from another OS. How original.

      Actually they wanted people to think 'different'.

      Yeah.

      *strokes pretty Lumia*

      Recently I facepalmed when someone offered to take a group photo, and they were confused because "there's no camera button". Dingbat, it's right under your finger! Or you could just touch the screen!

      The incident reminded me that sometimes things we think of as intuitive are still only training. My favourite thing about Win8 is Metro, and the statement it makes: this is a computer, made out of glass and plastic and circuitry and an advanced piece of Information Technology. It's not a freakin' leather-bound notebook or card-file!

    Picture password. Seriously... Good... Idea...

    We can't criticise Apple's new aesthetic enough, in my opinion. Their hardware is beautifully minimal, plain aluminium. Why do they add so much crap to their stock applications? Calendars with horrendous fake leather, a notebook with an ugly yellow legal pad-esque look, 'stickies' that attempt to look like sticky notes for no goddamn reason. It's a display - it can look like anything, so why do they attempt to emulate horrible real life?

      Even as a frequent user and fan of iOS, I wholeheartedly agree. As do most Apple users fro my experience (those with any sense of good design anyway).

      The good news is the majority of third party apps still look really good and Apple are due to overhaul all their stock apps with iOS6.

      Hopefully some of the more modern flat, untextured UI's and updated apps make their way to MacOS as well.

      I agree. The first time I had a serious look at an iPhone I was aghast at the Fisher-Price look of the interface, especially compared to the pared-back elegance of OS X.

    Actually, the picture passord is an innovation that microsoft first introduced back with the origami project for windows vista. Otherwise known as UMPC.

    I think people are starting to see past the Apple propaganda and realizing that windows is actually a good product. The big brother 1984 Apple commercial was just a prediction of what Apple were to become. Microsoft should sue them for defamation and loss of revenue because the sheep believed every word.

    Here here, about time Microsoft products got some attention and excitement. I long for a Macbook air equivalent with windows 8 and we may just get it, but windows is excellent. Who cares who is the most creative, just make it good and reliable. Security will always be a realm of patches and updates, hacking works this way.

      What are you talking about, I've had one for months already. Feature for feature, spec for spec, an Asus Zenbook comes out ahead of a MacBook Air whilst being several hundred dollars cheaper and looking nicer, too. It is also handy when you need to slice fruit.

    I currently have 14GB synced to SkyDrive. I got in early while it was still 25GB free :) Their upgrades are pretty damn cheap too; 100GB extra for $50 per year is the biggest plan. SkyDrive has been great for me. Good to see MS getting their shit together

      I agree, I used to have to e-mail all my uni work to myself, because I didn't really like using usb drives, since I got my windows phone like a year ago, I've been using the skydrive feature non stop, it's a lot easier and makes more sense.

      My Hotmail account has been my primary for a while now, but it's only recently with the elimination of Mesh that SkyDrive has really come into its own. Since I get 25GB on SkyDrive, I actually have my Dropbox folder inside my Skydrive folder! ^_^

      *cue Xzibit yo dawg*

    Nothing better and user friendly than a Macbook running Windows 7.
    I LOVE my iPhone and my daughter loves her iPad but I missed too many features when I tried to run OSX.
    Apple makes great hardware and Microsoft makes a great OS. Still not sold on Metro but looking forward to buying the new release of the Macbook after WWDC on Tuesday and formatting that drive and putting Windows on it. mmmmmmmmmm Sexy laptop with a sexy OS

      You know there are much better laptops around, don't you? Apple's hardware is middle-of-the-road, at best. Maybe the equivalent of the Dell XPS line but no match for a Dell Precision or serious HP or Lenovo mobile workstation.

        FFS please give it a rest MotorMouth! Everyone knows you loathe everything about Apple. You don't need to remind us every single Apple related story!

        Believe it or not some people love the stability, build quality and excellent lperformance of MacBook Pros. And given the entire PC industry is copying Apple's unibody design, it fair to say that they lead the way, aesthetically speaking, with modern laptop design. Just becuase you can buy a PC with comparable specs cheaper, doesn't necessarily make it better.

        Different people like different things for different reasons you know. Is it really so hard for you to grasp that some people would prefer a Mac over a PC? I've never even owned a Mac, but I still appreciate a lot about them. They often get great features like advanced multi-touch trackpads, SSDs and thunderbolt, before the PC industry catches up.

        Motormouth, I'm genuinely asking you nicely to please stop trolling every Apple related story or comment. I'm definitely not the first person to pull you up on this and you know it. If you hate them so much why do you read the stories and feel the need to comment in the first place?

    Wow no, fanboyism of his/her preferance. This is awesome.
    I will give windows 8 a shot, I've been a iOS user all my life and this OS is intrigued me.

    Always good to try something new, sometimes.

    I guess it's ok if Apple copy others... :-P

    In all seriousness though it's good to see a distinct lack of trolling on this article :-)

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    Theres a sense that even though they compete in the same fields, they specialise in different areas, this is true. Apple are great at mobile products but as a consequence are falling behind in personal computer solutions.

    Though I still have a problem with the windows 8 desktop mode, it could have easily been integrated more with the metro UI, a flat coloured superbar, white icons, flat block colour windows with white outlines for window seperation.

    Apple porducts are formost great products, sure they know about marketing but they really are a class above microsoft products. Apple customer buy thier products for that reason, not becuse they are sheep. You right. Windows is a good product (finally) and I'm please that people who have had to suffer it through the years now have something aproximation good.

      Ha! Give us some examples. e.g. Which MacBook outperforms a similarly priced PC laptop? Which MacBook is more rugged than an equivalent PC laptop? Which MacBook can even match the specs of any similarly priced PC laptop?

      "Apple customer buy thier products" because they think what you are saying is true but no-one is ever able to come up with so much as a single example to corroborate this. i.e. Apple's success is built entirely on the perception of their products being better, which is 100% down to their brilliant marketing. Take a MacBook apart and it will contain the same components as any similar PC laptop.

      On the hardware front, I'd suggest my Microsoft ZuneHD is a far more compelling music player than any iPod. It is beautifully designed, incredibly well made and packs the same amount of storage into a package half the size. I can also attest to the supremacy of Microsoft's mouse and keyboard products over the ridiculous things Apple provide. Typing on an Apple keyboard at work is worse than the awful keyboard on my Zenbook. It constantly misses key presses, whereas MS keyboards are generally fantastic. And Apples mouses have been consistently awful since teh original iMacs hocky-puck abortion. Those of us at work who use a mouse in preference to a Wacom tablet (I use both) all bring our own mouse in because the Apple mouse is so freakishly bad at being a mouse. It looks lovely but it gives you hand-cramps like you wouldn't believe. MS even build far more desirable mouses, like the Arc and Arc Touch mouse.

        Come up from the basement please Motor! Your lunch is getting cold.

          MotorMouth....man, you have to stop...you're giving us all a headache. I have been in the IT industry for 28 years now and I made the switch from Microsoft to Apple. I used to teach MS Windows over a 2 day course for years to the average user who just wanted to know how to use a computer. For most people it's not about the hardware as the average consumer wouldn't know. It's about the software and the UI. If people don't like the UI they won't use it. I have shown my IT colleagues Windows 8 and they agree that the UI in Windows 8 RP is terrible. From my MS perspective I got bored with the UI, I hated the fact that every time I turned on my Microsoft based Laptop or PC I was bombarded with updates and I got tired of system crashes which usually result in bad hardware manufacturers. This why I chose Apple for their hardware and for their software. Windows Vista was the last straw for me. I hated what Microsoft did to the hardware market. As for Windows 7, works great but it's the same old, same old. Every time I turned a Windows machine I was flooded with updates. Man...sometimes you want to check a file or write a simple email but noooooo I had to install patches instead. As for Windows 8, I have been trialing it now for the last month and personally I think it's another MS disaster. I can't wait to see how enterprise corporations adapt to it (if they adapt to it at all). Time will tell....as for me, I'll take OSX over Windows at any offer now.

        I can only assume MotorMouth is also impressed by done up commodores with neon lights under them.

        Also if you really do use a wacom, how could you ever consider using any mouse again for anything? ;)

          Someone who doesn't like apple products must be a bogan? How typically pretentious of apple fans.

        You really don't understand what you're saying here, do you?
        MacBooks are just laptops. They run an OS that is less common, they cost a bit more, but they are just laptops. Some people like one mouse, some people like another. Personally, I love my MacBook's design and function, and it was worth the extra x-many dollars. You don't think so, fine. But don't call me stupid, dumb or misled for buying it.

        I hate replying to fanboys, but I have to disagree with you here.
        I am a massive windows (and Android) fan as well, and until a few years ago I had a similar view on macs to you (PCs are cheaper/faster/etc.) But then I not only got an iPod Touch, but last year I was forced to get a Macbook Pro.
        And I have to say I was surprised. I still don't like Apple, don't get me wrong. I dislike Apple intensely, not just because of their mantra of simplicity over functionality, but their need to control the market and their incessant patent-trolling. However, I realised that they certainly have a point with their products. The MacBook Pro is fast, the keyboard is fantastic (despite rearranging most of the important buttons and removing the Delete key), and the trackpad is still on top in my opinion: palm recognition is great and multi-touch is spot on.
        I still hate how the USB ports are so few and close together that you can only really use one device at a time, as well as the fact that simply bumping the thing dents it out of proportion. I also hate how the CD drive sounds like it eats CDs, and it's already 5 years out of date. But it looks nice, it works well, and it's certainly unique in the current laptop market.
        I have realised that it's not just the specs that matter, not at all. It's also not just the perception that they are better, though that is still a huge impact. Rather, it is the 'experience', as cheesy as that sounds, that makes the MacBook a good product. And now that Microsoft is trying to accomplish this on the software front, and all the Ultrabooks are beginning to accomplish this in their hardware, It's beginning to look like Apple has lost the exclusivity in this regard. I am certainly excited to see where the PC market goes in the next few years, and I certainly hope that it moves from archaic spec-checking.

    Thats right apple. Copy something, patent it, and then sue anyone who keeps using that idea / design. Maybe block imports *cough - htc, samsung gs3 - cough*

    My hatred for apple grows on a daily basis, they are suffocating ideas and design with litigation.

      Correct Grant, that is how patents work. Have for quite a while now. You can waste your life whinging about it, or get on with doing something :)

    Microsoft is about arrogance ... Apple is about beauty. Wait for Mac OS 11 sometime soon and then see the difference! :0)

    I'd love to know what all these people are smoking. Windows 8 looks 'orrible. Why would anyone want to copy this trash??

    it's people like you that ruin the innovation these days. If apple copied microsoft and others it would just degrade everything and make it dull. Companies need to step forward and create new and better things not copy each other.

    Windows 8 has definitely shaken things up.

    Here is is a purely simple view of the design; it kicks ass. When placed together in a group, tablets and laptops with Windows 8 make a real visual statement that commands attention. If Windows 8 burns and flops, at least it will go down in style, boy.

    Usability seems to be the real thorn that people can't get out of their head, and may prove to be the undoing of this bold new direction from Microsoft.

    My big wish for Windows 8 and the strategy MS is using, is that the pc, smartphone, tablet and Xbox are truly brought together as one, to unify the experience and simply my life.

    "certain prats of a picture"
    Freudian slip much? :--P

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