From concept to reality By Tom Warren
Like many Windows 8 users, self-taught user-experience designer Jay Machalani was frustrated by the inconsistencies of Microsoft’s touch-friendly operating system. Instead of moaning online or ignoring his frustrations, Machalani set out to prove things could change for the next major release of Windows in a series of concepts. Machalani doesn’t work for Microsoft, but his ideas caught their attention. As I sat and listened to Windows chief Terry Myerson introduce Windows 10 at Microsoft’s special press event last week, I was immediately reminded of Machalani’s concepts. From a modern Start menu to windowed apps, Microsoft demonstrated many of the exact same features that Machalani called for almost a year ago. If Windows 7 was everyone’s idea, Windows 10 appears to be his.
Machalani’s concepts centered around a method of easing the jarring switching between desktop and “Metro.” He even produced a prototype of a way to switch between the “Metro” part of Windows 8 and a traditional Start menu on a hybrid device like the Surface. Microsoft created its own concept in the form of Continuum, a way for hybrid devices to use both touch and keyboard / mouse features. They’re both very similar, aiming to improve the experience of mouse and keyboard on hybrid machines with touch / tablet modes.
It’s easy to explain the similarities as obvious design choices, but the resemblance is really apparent with the Start menu. Machalani’s concept is eerily similar to the real thing, and Microsoft even has an adaptive menu in Windows 10 that scrolls horizontally when it’s full of pinned apps. Machalani created this concept, and also called for Microsoft to revolutionize its old iconography, which the company appears to be doing in Windows 10.
It’s impossible to say whether Microsoft was influenced by Machalani’s concepts directly, but the software maker definitely saw them and invited him to campus to discuss his ideas for Windows earlier this year. “It was great to meet Jay and hear his design thinking,” says Albert Shum, general manager of design and content at Microsoft in a statement to The Verge. “We always love engaging with smart, passionate people who look at the world and see new possibilities.”
Machalani welcomes Microsoft’s approach. “It’s great! If I managed to influence the Windows design in any way to a good direction, that’s enough.”