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Windows 8, iOS and that weird post by Aaron Holsgrove

[Other](http://daringfireball.net/2011/06/windows_8_fundamentally_flawed) [people](http://curiousrat.com/home/2011/6/12/holesgrove-on-gruber-and-windows-8-a-public-trainwreck.html) have picked apart Aaron Holsgrove’s post on “[Why Windows 8 is not fundamentally flawed as a response to the iPad](http://www.businessinsider.com/why-windows-8-is-not-fundamentally-flawed-as-a-response-to-the-ipad-2011-6)”, but I think it’s worth going over more. It’s a catalogue of mistakes, which would keep the average commentator going for days. Take this, for example:

>If Apple never released the iPhone, we’d be sitting here today talking about how if it weren’t for Android, those three companies wouldn’t be making all of those same changes or something like that – the crippling of those companies was always inevitable. Or perhaps in your case John, you’d be saying it was the Mac and Mac OS X that proudly toppled those giants instead because Android wasn’t made by Apple and therefore doesn’t warrant the same amount of credit or boasting on your part.

I can only imagine that Aaron never saw the early demos of Android, which showed off a [phone much more akin to a BlackBerry](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoyoUpawfgU&feature=player_embedded), but with less features and a wonkier interface. Or perhaps he missed out on the later [demo of the HTC Dream](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arXolJrLVEg&feature=player_embedded) (which became the T-Mobile G1), which had an interface which was just about on a par with a decent Nokia phone of the era.

Had the iPhone not existed, would Android have been released and done reasonably well? Yes. Had the iPhone not existed, would Android have been as good as it is today? Not a chance. Would Nokia have been able to respond to Android, had Android’s development not been pushed on by the existence of the iPhone? Yes.

In fact, Aaron’s entire piece rewrites history. Take this:

>[Microsoft’s] biggest goal with Windows 7 was to develop an OS that was touch friendly and as we all found out, it was a good operating system for using computers with a keyboard and mouse but it wasn’t touch friendly at all.

“Touch friendliness” was a long way from being the biggest goal of Windows 7. Steve Ballmer put it [like this](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/microsoft/4176373/CES-2009-Microsoft-CEO-positive-after-Windows-7-launch.html):

> “We’ve been putting in all the right ingredients – simplicity, reliability and speed. We’re working hard to get it right, and get it ready.”

Or perhaps Aaron should remember Ballmer’s [remarks from Windows 7’s launch](http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/steve/2009/10-22win7launch.mspx):

>What were we really most trying to do? We were trying to make the everyday usage of the PC better in the ways our customers wanted: Simpler, faster, more responsive.

To be fair, Ballmer does mention touch. It comes in the “third bucket” of Windows 7 (where does he get this stuff?):

>And then No. 3, let’s enable a world of new things, new possibilities for software developers and hardware developers and for end users. So you get a technology like multi-touch, which enables people to build new computers and new software. You get literally, I would say, from an end user perspective, dozens or hundreds of new features.

There you go: touch, far from being, “the biggest goal” was one of “hundreds of new features”. And judging by the [image gallery for Windows 7’s launch](http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/gallery/screenshots/windows7.mspx), when it talked about touch, Microsoft was focusing much more heavily on touch-screen PC desktops than tablets.

I could forgive Aaron some of this if he’d actually bothered to do any research. But he hasn’t.

Take this statement about the relationship between OS X and iOS:
>Actually John, iOS IS built on top of Mac OS X and its core principles. It is common knowledge that it is a modified version of OS X with a touch centric shell on top. From the Wikipedia page about Mac OS X:
>Apple also produces specialized versions of Mac OS X for use on its consumer devices. iOS, which is based on Mac OS X, runs on the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and the 2nd generation Apple TV.
>Guess what Windows 8 for tablets is? You guessed it – the core of Windows – MinWin – with an alternate shell to Win32 on top that is touch friendly – the ‘Metro’ immersive shell we saw today.

Calling the bits which differentiate iOS from OS X “a touch centric [sic] shell is a bit like calling Android “Linux with a phone-centric shell”. iOS and OS X share core elements, notably the XNU kernel. Beyond that, Cocoa Touch (the API for building iOS programmes) is based on Cocoa, the API for building OS X programmes. But you can’t take a Cocoa-built application and run it on Cocoa Touch, unmodified.

And that’s the aim for Windows 8: Run current-generation Windows apps, unmodified, on touch-based Windows 8 tablets[^2]. The equivalent would be if Apple had aimed to create iOS and let OS X apps run, unmodified, on it. That Aaron doesn’t understand this fundamental difference is surprising. It’s a shame that, instead of relying on a single line in the Wikipedia entry on OS X to “prove” that iOS is just OS X-with-a-shell, he didn’t read the entry on [iOS](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOS_(Apple)), which has a good description of the layers of the operating system. You’d think that lack of multitasking available to developers prior to iOS 4 might have been a clue.

More evidence of Aaron’s lack of research comes when he starts talking about iWork for iPad:

>Now, the deal with iWork for iPad is that it’s a skinny rip-off of iWork for Mac because Apple’s original pitch for the iPad is that [it’s a consumption device](http://andheblogs.andyrush.net/ipad-its-a-consumption-device/), not a creation device[^1].

Odd that Apple should introduce iWork for iPad — something that’s all about creation — at the same time as the original iPad. You’d think they wouldn’t bother if it was a “consumption device”.

Also odd that the only evidence that Aaron can find of Apple saying this is a blog post from Andy Rush, who does not work for Apple. No quotes from Steve Jobs. No quotes from Scott Forstall. No quotes from *anyone* from Apple.

Because, of course, Apple’s original pitch for the iPad *wasn’t* that it was a consumption device. Aaron has just made that up.

Now I’m less bearish than either John or Harry about Windows 8. Windows 7 was such a vast improvement over Vista, and in such a short period of time, that it showed Microsoft can raise its game when it needs to. Microsoft also showed the right stuff when it ditched its previous mobile efforts in favour of Windows Phone 7, which has a genuinely innovative interface and some really nice touches — again, developed fast.

On those grounds, I think it’s foolish to write Microsoft off. But pretending that iPhone didn’t matter, rewriting the history of Windows and attributing stuff to Apple which Apple never said isn’t arguing the case for Windows 8 — it’s arguing the case that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

[^1]: I suspect the reason Aaron has chosen this link is pretty simple: Andy Rush’s blog post is top result if you Google “iPad is a consumption device”. Obviously, that’s good enough for Aaron.

[^2]: Or is it? It looks from some of the things that Microsoft [has said since](http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2011/06/html5-centric-windows-8-leaves-microsoft-developers-horrified.ars) that in fact, you’ll need to completely redevelop apps, possibly even in a different language, to use the touch-based “Metro” experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting and, it appears, well researched post. Thanks. I learned a thing or two.