Release Candidate One with Chris Clark

The Slow Death of Overlapping Windows

I’m intrigued by a lot of what Apple announced today in their Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” preview, but one of the more interesting things was full screen mode for apps as a standard.

Not so much that they’ve deprecated the current behavior of the “zoom window” button (which is, in practice, “do something… the fuck knows what, maybe resize the window a bit” despite best intentions) but because it’s the next step in a progression that began with iTunes and has slowly spread to the Finder, iLife, and Xcode: the single window UI as standard. In Lion it’s not just a single window, it can be a full-screen window so that the windows of other apps can’t confuse you. The window itself ceases to exist, the desktop ceases to exist, and the UI becomes mono-tasked.

I’m a computer professional, I spend in excess of a hundred hours a week in front of a computer screen, and I make this thing bend to my will in ways that my non-tech friends and parents find both fascinating and frightening. And though I’m desperately trying not to champion a Morlocks and Eloi scenario when I say this: usability, discoverability, and efficiency are a balancing act that is audience-dependent. I think we should be focusing more of our “make it simpler to use, make it easier to learn” energy on iOS and our “make it more flexible, make it more powerful” energy on Mac OS. Because iOS is the future of casual computing.

Professional computing will cling to the desktop for a long, long time, but when the answer to the question “what kind of computer should I buy? I just wanna use the internet, facebook, email, maybe some word processing” is “an iPad” then it’s clear the desktop is going to shed a lot of novices in the years to come.