Played with Unity, the new desktop shell in Ubuntu. It places a notification bar along the top of the screen from left to right, and an application dock / taskbar down the left side of the screen. Clever looking on first boot. Some thoughts:
- In almost all apps, the menu bar is hidden by default, but there are seldom sufficient controls exposed by the application to justify this – the menu bar is required for a great deal of the functionality in various Linux applications which is not exposed by the default toolbar buttons.
- There is no intuitive way to show the menu bar – one has to blunder up to the very top of the screen, where the menu bar then appears, but only if you have the mouse arrow in that little 24 pixel high region somewhere over the notification area.
- When the application’s menus do appear, they truncate the name of the running app (displayed in the very top left of the screen), making it difficult to determine which application you’ve invoked the menubar for without moving the mouse away again.
- Not all apps even support the newly erstwhile global menu bar – LibreOffice in particular continues to show its menu bar as embedded within the application’s window (where it belongs in this blogger’s not so humble opinion). Combine this with windowed and fullscreened apps and the general lack of obviousness as to whose menu bar is whose, and you’ve got some fun on your hands.
Sure to baffle novice users and annoy experienced users. Even Microsoft’s user experience teams didn’t rid their apps of menu bars unless they had something logical to replace them with.
Ran across an offer for a Windows Phone the other day. $0 on a contract extension. Since I have multiple cell lines one of which was recently extended, to me it amounted to a virtually free phone.
After an hour of quick research I had decided.
- No Windows Phone currently has a front camera or videoconferencing app
- No official instant messengers. Absolutely none. Web messengers only, like the iPhone in 2007, or sketchy third party ones.
- No Evernote. Argh!
- No turn by turn GPS (third party app only)
- No multitasking. Cheap shot – iPhone doesn’t multitask either, and an upcoming update will introduce this feature, along with copy/paste and a much improved browser, but its a shortcoming for now.
- No support for flash
- 512MB RAM tops for all Windows Phones. When multitasking does appear the phones will still have a low ceiling.
There is no word from Microsoft on when a hardware refresh is coming which will include basics found on competing phones, such as dual core CPU, better screens, better graphics, more RAM, the front camera, LTE, NFC, etc. Mum is the word on that.
Developer access to functionality also appears to be limited. An app can’t open TCP sockets, for example, which hinders companies like Skype from releasing a client for Windows Phone, and they’ve all but stated as much.
Maybe my standards are too high and I can only play with dual core superphones right now. But at the moment you couldn’t give me a Windows Phone for free.
I’ll keep my eye on it. The UI is beautiful and the platform does demonstrate a lot of form meets function design – the potential to solve several problems found in the iPhone / Android platforms is there (no UI jerk, no version fragmentation, lower limits on hardware specs, among others too long to list in this article) but has yet to be realized. I’ll tune back into WP7 in six months or so maybe.