I played around with a friend's Vista machine the other day, and it certainly is clear just how much Microsoft was influenced by Mac OS X. Some would say that Microsoft has once again stolen the Mac UI, but in this case I think that "imitation is sincerest form of flattery." What I found most interesting, however, is that based on my few hours of usage it appears that Microsoft has still learned almost nothing about usability. Say what you will about the "lickable" Mac OS UI, no one argues that the Mac is difficult to use. "Yeah, its easy to use, but there's not much software for it." For Windows, the comment is the opposite "Yeah, it may not be that easy to use, but there's tons of software for it." If you think about it, though, those arguments are canards. If you can find useful software on the Mac, it makes little difference if you have only two or three choices between specific apps. Likewise, if 99.
But back to Vista "innovations." I found the UI to be better looking than XP or 2K, but I also didn't find that the UI made my experience any better. The transparent windows were interesting, but I'm not sure why they are there, as I can't really see what's behind them. So despite the visual changes, it is still Windows underneath all that eye candy, with drivers and DLLs and install "wizards" and peculiar compatibility problems. Here's an example: I tried to install a wireless print server on my friend's network, but could not get all three of his Vista machines to see the printer. One could, but only when it was connected to the wireless print server by an Ethernet cable. All three machines had wireless connections into his separate wireless DSL router, but although the wireless printer server claimed that it successfully joined that network, none of his machines or my XP laptop could see any of its printers wirelessly. I think I'm going to recommend that he just get an Airport Extreme.
Windows has suffered from odd design, well, forever. I'm sure you've heard the "click" sound that that Windows plays when you navigate in Windows Explorer. Double-click a folder icon--CLICK. Click the button to move up a directory--CLICK. Click the Back button--CLICK. On my work laptop where I don't need to listen to music or other sounds I simply mute my audio. But my home PC is a game machine, and muting and unmuting it is inconvenient. And now that I'm keeping my iTunes library there, I find myself navigating folders quite a bit. The CLICK sound rapidly became overwhelmingly annoying, and I'm glad that Google provided me a solution within seconds (Control Panel -> Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices -> Sounds and Audio Devices - > Sounds tab -> scroll down to Windows Explorer -> click Start Navigation -> select "None"). Although I used Google, I suppose that eventually, maybe, I might figure out on my own how to turn that off. Maybe. But beyond the difficult way to turn that off, my question is, why? Why even have that sound? How on earth does it assist us as we navigate around Windows or navigate the web in Internet Explorer? Does anyone really, honestly believe that that CLICK sound enhances the user experience? Probably someone, somewhere does. It is, after all, the default behavior in Windows 2000 and XP. I admit that I'm assuming that, as it has been a few months since I've had to install Windows. But I certainly didn't turn that on so I think my assumption is reasonable. I can't remember if Vista also clicks (my friend had no speakers on his machine) but from what I experienced of it, it hasn't improved the overall user experience. Better looking, maybe, but better? No.
Design, design, design
Bad interface design is far too common, things that detract from the user experience, that require the user to click too many times, that require them to hunt for and puzzle about what they need to do. Dream Recorder 2.
While poking around YouTube, I came across some amusing videos about Vista's UI and its relationship with Mac OS X, or perhaps "inheritance" might be a better word. For Apple's own view, search YouTube for "Apple WWDC 2006-Windows Vista Copies Mac OS X." Like you, I'm always stumbling over amusing or amazing videos on the web. For a very funny video of a web-based advertisement Apple released after Vista proved to be a flop, look on YouTube for "Don't Give Up on Vista Ad" (http://