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Compromise

I think Gruber had it backwards when he wrote about compromises.

“Apple has embraced compromise. The compromises in iOS are, for many people in many contexts, what makes the iPad better than a Mac. The compromises enforce simplicity and obviousness in design, and at a technical level they lead to iOS’s excellent battery life.

I do work on the road using a MacBook Air, not an iPad, because I’m one of those users for whom the iPad’s design compromises get in the way, and slow me down. But I like having the iPad as a separate device, for reading and video. The marvel of the iPad is not that it can replace a Mac. It’s that it opened the door to all sorts of things that a Mac was never all that good for.“ – Daring Fireball – Compromise

It’s flawed to believe Apple embraces compromise and not Microsoft, or that compromises can help make a product like the iPad any better.

Some definitions of compromise:

  • An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.
  • A middle state between conflicting opinions or actions reached by mutual concession or modification.
  • The acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable.

Compromises can’t achieve better results. Compromises could only damage a product’s ability to perform its functions, its design, its simplicity, and its battery life.

For any of those qualities to be better than the competition, they must either not be based on any compromises, or be based on better compromises than the competition has made.

Gruber’s passage was directed towards this article on designing the Metro desktop for Windows 8 by Steven Sinofsky, on its repeated use of “no compromises” (emphasis Jon’s).

From the start, our approach has been to reimagine Windows, and to be open to revisiting even the most basic elements of the user model, the platform and APIs, and the architectures we support. Our goal was a no compromise design. […]

Why not just start over from scratch? Why not just remove all of the desktop features and only ship the Metro experience? Why not “convert” everything to Metro? The arguments for a “clean slate” are well known, both for and against. We chose to take the approach of building a design without compromise. […]

Windows 8 brings together all the power and flexibility you have in your PC today with the ability to immerse yourself in a Metro style experience. You don’t have to compromise! You carry one device that does everything you want and need. […]

Our design goal was clear: no compromises.

Steven doesn’t really care about compromises. He’s saying that the iPad is a compromise. He’s saying that Metro gives you the best of an iPad, and the best of a PC. What he means is when you use Windows 8, you don’t need an iPad.

But using the iPad isn’t a compromise.

The iPad may do somethings better than others, but to say that using it is a compromise could only be true if you “…see value in the desktop experience—in precise control, in powerful windowing and file management, in compatibility with hundreds of thousands of existing programs and devices…”

The iPad is only a compromise if you believe in the Windows legacy. Somehow I don’t think the millions of consumers who bought an iPad are missing any of that.

The future of computing is in getting rid of those things.

The Compromise of Windows 8

Isn’t the creation, design and inclusion of Metro in Windows 8 itself a compromise?

Going by one of the above definitions of compromise, “The acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable.” I would say that there being two completely different ways to experience Windows 8, that on one hand try to change everything, look beautiful and satisfy all types of inputs, and then on the other hand keep the old way of doing things isn’t a very desirable solution.

The compromise becomes apparent when you search for the term “control” in Steven’s blog post (emphasis mine):

“In this light, the role of the Windows desktop is clear. It powers the hundreds of thousands of existing apps that people rely on today, a vast array of business software, and provides a level of precision and control that is essential for certain tasks.”

“…Yet, even those who have fully embraced tablets also own a laptop for those times when they need more precise control or need to use one of the apps that are mission critical (and are still being developed)…

“…But if you do see value in the desktop experience—in precise control, in powerful windowing and file management, in compatibility with hundreds of thousands of existing programs and devices, in support of your business software, those capabilities are right at your fingertips as well.”

The truth is though that you don’t gain control. What you gain is access to the desktop PC, mouse and keyboard style of computing which has lasted for the past twenty years that Microsoft will never let go of.

For more interesting reading on the design decisions behind Windows 8, read Dan Saffer’s article Windows 8, The Ribbon, and Designing with Data.

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