Steve Ballmer told an audience in Houston yesterday that Windows would look very different in five years.
The exact quote: Windows “will look a lot different and it will run different applications…Will Windows five years from now look like it does today? Of course not!”
That statement is actually more startling than it sounds.
Microsoft has released many versions of Windows over the years, but the basic look hasn’t changed since the early 1990s: icons lined up on a screen, with applications running in rectangular windows.
That’s also the standard look and feel on most smartphones and tablets, including the iPhone and iPad, Android, the BlackBerry, and HP WebOS.
But not Windows Phone 7.
The Microsoft smartphone platform has some icons on its home page. But once you dig in a layer, it’s quite different — a series of menus that stretch beyond the edges of the screen. Instead of pointing and clicking icons, users scroll through the menus and select words.
The basic idea came from Microsoft’s Windows Media centre interface, which was designed to be used with a remote control from 10 feet away. The idea of horizontal and vertical menus later found its way into the Portable Media centre and Zune, and from there into Windows Phone 7.
Could it now be coming back to the main version of Windows?
Ballmer has already said that the next version of Windows would be Microsoft’s riskiest product yet, and porting Windows to the ARM architecture is certainly a big and expensive prospect.
But we’ve also heard that Microsoft may be revamping the Windows interface, and is using concepts from “Metro”– the UI for Phone 7. The company could begin demonstrating the new UI as soon as June.