September 24, 2012, 11:20 AM — We tend to look at products and companies-and, for that matter, people-as unchanging, but they all change dramatically over their lives. IBM has little in common with the IBM of the early 1900s, and today's Ford is not the one-size-fits-all company of Henry Ford and the Model T. Apple, meanwhile, had clearly broadened its focus beyond the hobbyists it first targeted, and Microsoft is about as far from the platform and tool company that it once was.
Windows is about to undergo the biggest change it has ever attempted. Windows 8 isn't the PC-centric product it has been since its inception. It is a multi-platform offering that goes farther than anything either Apple or Google has attempted. Recognize, too, that this isn't a single-step move but a process, likely changing over the next decade, to get to a place we may not yet see clearly.
Windows of All Shapes and Sizes
The name "Windows" never really made that much sense tied to an operating system, since it implied an experience. Now, Microsoft is on a path consistent with the name. The near-term goal is to create an interface that is contemporary-that is, no longer based on the old Xerox PARC GUI that drove the initial Mac OS and Windows-and can scale to all screens with a high level of consistency and ubiquity.
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Windows 8 attempts to correct the mistake Microsoft made with its initial tablets and phones. Redmond tried to take an interface that was designed during the mainframe terminal age, long before we'd thought about tablets and smartphones, and tried to force-fit it to those devices. It didn't go well.
Even Apple tried to maintain a common interface, but it made the important innovation of bolting on touch. While Macs remained largely tied to the past, the iPhone and iPad remained somewhat crippled by the need to create commonality between the platforms, but not on an equal level. Nonetheless, Apple's strategy worked, and it proved to be surprisingly elegantly for the time.
Now Microsoft is aggressively moving ahead of Apple, pursuing the goal of a common user interface that's independent of display size. You get the strongest sense of this from Samsung's Windows 8 line. Like a glass window can be big or small, suddenly the Windows operating system can scale from big to very small. Finally, the name makes sense.
A "Window" to Back-End Services