Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.

Longhorn? Looks Like It Should Have Been Called Mongrel.

I’ve just finished looking at a PC World article on Microsoft’s upcoming (and much trumpeted) Longhorn operating system. And I have to say, they should have called it Mongrel. They’ve succeeded in designing what is quite possibly the ugliest and most counter-intuitive user interface to date, in spite of the fact that they’ve copied Apple’s idea of a composited graphics system. The Explorer window screenshots from the article look pretty confusing, with at least two lots of things that look like menus, two toolbar-like things and a number of other controls; plus part of the interface is metal, part is blue (why?), and there’s a wierd-looking blue thing in some sort of drop-down well at the top left (what could that possibly be?!). But what I really can’t believe they’ve still got that stupid two-column Start menu, which fails the “My Mum” test (“If my mum can’t use it, it’s a bad user interface”), let alone any formal test on usability; hell, even I have trouble with it, and it isn’t as if I’m an inexperienced user.

More to the point, they’ve decided not to include WinFS! This loses Microsoft all of the extra features WinFS was supposed to provide, although they still have search and smart-folder type features in their new Explorer. Still, at least they’re finally putting the NTFS attribute forks to use to hold metadata (although that is likely to herald a new wave of malware… not that NTFS fork-based malware is entirely unknown at present, of course).

Plus, Microsoft say they aren’t extending their operating system search facility to developers. At least, not until WinFS débuts (and who knows when that will be).

I must say, I’m surprised. I would have thought that, with the new graphics interface, and all of the hype from Microsoft, they were on the verge of releasing something really special. It isn’t exactly as if they haven’t had long enough to do it.

I’m just looking forward to seeing what Apple do with their next OS release.