The versions of multi-tasking and multi-window view in Windows 8.1 are already the second generations of the concept which first appeared during the preview of Windows 8 in September, 2011. Properly designed applications relying on them can not only be run simultaneously but also can manifest themselves at the same time on up to 4 independent parts of a single screen, as well as extended by using any number screens where there are additional monitors connected to the system. That capability not only enables much higher performance productivity scenarios than before with the first version (i.e. in Windows 8), but the number of possible scenarios can be significantly higher and more complex.
This is especially important as – unlike the current iPad and Android system – application developers could plan their individual apps as part of a growing society of apps (delivered usually by 3d parties) which can be used together with some companion apps simultaneously, constituting together a given scenario actually created by the user himself or herself. This is very much a workstation like environment already found in classic GUI based workstations, but now inside such a state-of-the-art UX environment as that of Microsoft Windows 8.1.
Acknowledgement: I should thank Zsolt Bátorfi from the DPE (Developer and Platform Evangelism) unit of Microsoft Hungary for his invaluable input to this post.
The quite simplistic iPad and Android environments are mainly satisfying the entertainment scenarios only. So the 2nd generation Microsoft Surface family of productivity tablets priced upto $2420 (when for an All-in-One configuration) [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 24, 2013] was rightfully positioned against them as there is a growing demand on the market which is not served by any other platform. The same applies to the upcoming Windows 8.1 devices from the 3d party vendors.
There will be entry level products like the $349 ASUS Transformer Book T100 which was already shown as part of The long awaited Windows 8.1 breakthrough opportunity with the new Intel “Bay Trail-T”, “Bay Trail-M” and “Bay Trail-D” SoCs? [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 14, 2013] delivered by Intel. With that the growing but still unsatisfied demands could be fulfilled by starting at sufficiently competitive levels in terms of Android entertainments devices from major global vendors, even more so in terms of Samsung devices.
I put together this post in order to understand this additional (to Intel Bay Trail and Haswell SoCs) breakthrough opportunity as clearly as only possible.
We’re also making improvements for using multiple apps at once in Windows 8.1.
Windows 8.1 brings variable, continuous size of snap views. You will have more ways to see multiple apps on the screen at the same time. You can resize apps to any size you want, share the screen between two apps, or have up to four apps on screen. If you have multiple displays connected, you can have different Windows Store apps running on all the displays at the same time and the Start Screen can stay open on one monitor. This makes multi-tasking even easier. Also in Windows 8.1, you can have multiple windows of the same app snapped together – such as two Internet Explorer windows.
And it was showcased last time with Windows 8.1 as Microsoft Surface 2 Halo Spartan Assault Gaming and Office Suite Multitasking Demo [HotHardware YouTube channel, Sept 25, 2013]
Compare this to the previous generation hardware and software Microsoft Surface RT – True Multitasking Demo [MyWorldOfIT YouTube channel, Nov 2, 2012] with Windows 8.0 which a common Android tablet or iPad still cannot do (except some Samsung GALAXY devices still in a limited split screen fashion, as noted a little later)
which was described in Design case study: iPad to Windows Store app [MSDN, March 21, 2012] as
Use snap view to engage your users
Windows 8 lets users multitask by “snapping” an app next to another app. The snapped view is a great way to increase the app’s time on screen and engage users for longer periods. It’s easy for a user to change the main app and the snapped app by manipulating the splitter between the two, so it is important to maintain context across resizes. We don’t want users to lose app state as a result of resizing their app.
Windows Store app
The snap view of the home screen is just a different view of the home page where a user can still access the same content.
In snap view, a user pans vertically to get to more content because it is more comfortable to pan along the long edge. This is different than the horizontal panning in full view, which is also optimized to pan along the long edge.
Note that Samsung was quick to employ this single concept in its forked Android solution, first in Multiscreen – GALAXY Note 10.1 – Samsung [SAMSUNGMOBILEUK YouTube channel, Oct 12, 2012] and then later in GALAXY Note II and Note 3 phablets, and in the Note 8.0 tablet and GALAXY S4 smartphone, where it was called Multi Window (also for Note 10.1), but just for two applications at the same time for which the device screen is split into two parts. See also Samsung GALAXY Note 10.1 Has Arrived Game-Changing Device Hits U.S. Store Shelves Tomorrow [Samsung Mobile Press, Aug 15, 2012]. Not for all GALAXY devices!
And here is a rare recognition of the fact that Yes, the Microsoft Surface RT tablet is much better than Android or iPad Tablets [GodGunsGutsGlory4KJV YouTube channel, Aug 21, 2013]
I held off from buying a Microsoft Tablet and bought an Android Tablet after listening to some flawed and rather biased reviews a while back.
But after being frustrated once again that Android STILL CAN’T MULTITASK while playing videos I went and looked further into the Microsoft Surface RT and bought one.
There are several popular youtube videos comparing the Surface RT to Androids and iPad tablets but evidently either those people don’t know how to run a REAL tablet or they are deliberately skewing the comparisons. Because face it, the Surface RT is much more capable than the Android. And the Surface Pro of course is a full powered laptop but with less battery life and cost a pretty penny/ So for what I want in a tablet I got a Surface RT and it is great!
As I said, the most of the reviews that came up in search were flawed.
I was watching this pathetic one and should have known better when I saw the username… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYbCfL…
But check out the comments now. LOL! The comments were more helpful than the video.
They talked about some honest review by some Lisa woman so I found this video and it was great… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIOG2V…
So after that I bought one and the Surface RT did what I needed and then some. Like built in Remote Desktop that works just like it did on my Windows 7 laptop so I can log into my home pc while away.
And while most reviews just showed the Surface running the active tiles home screen and launched apps from there they did not demonstrate the Desktop mode which operates it in the more native Windows screen that people are used to which is where you can open windows and navigate the machine or use full Internet Explorer 10.
Anyway I am ranting again… and that’s what this video is. It is more of a RANT and a warning to others to be careful with the biased reviews. I give a two thumbs up to this tablet!
No wonder that Microsoft started to highlight the multitasking advantage in this recent video about Surface RT vs. iPad [Windows YouTube channel, Aug 7, 2013], see the part starting at [0:43] under the title “Multitask” and noting that:
One app at a time [on iPad] vs. Do multiple things at once [on Surface RT]
Design, technology and business background for the above differentiation
Microsoft design principles (Windows) [MSDN, March 8, 2013]
Here are five principles for building great Windows Store apps. Use these principles when you plan your app, and always ensure that your design and development choices live up to them.
Pride in craftsmanship Be fast and fluid Authentically digital Do more with less Win as one
- Use the UI model.
- Work with other apps to complete scenarios by participating in app contracts.
- Use our tools and templates to promote consistency.
Work with other apps, devices, and the system to complete scenarios for people. For example, let people get content from one app and share it with another. Take advantage of what people already know, like standard touch gestures and charms, to provide a sense of familiarity, control, and confidence.
Following these five Microsoft design principles will help you make the best choices when you design your app.
A very important example of “Work with other apps to complete scenarios“ is the multitasking which became available in the first version of Windows 8, and had been significantly enhanced in the recent second version:
Jensen Harris on productivity and multitasking from Tami Reller: Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 Keynote [transcript provided by Microsoft, July 8, 2013]
The desktop in Windows is the single most powerful platform in the world. It is the only platform in which you can run Photoshop and Lightroom and AutoCAD and Visual Studio and Office all in one platform. And we really wanted to bring together the best of the modern UI and the best of the desktop UI and harmonize them in Windows 8.1.
So the first thing that you’ll notice is that we’ve made it really easy to get to the Start screen in 8.1 with the addition of the Start button. (Laughter, applause.)
So when I click this, this is not just your father’s Start button, this actually floats in the tiles on top of the desktop. So you get this beautiful look of your desktop. You don’t lose context of what you’re working on. It just comes in over top and then floats away.
And you can see we’ve done a lot of work here to make your Start screen be ultra-efficient. We’ve got the small tiles, we’ve got the groups, we’ve got the large tiles that allow you to create, together with new enterprise custom ability and control that we’re giving over the Start screen in Windows 8.1 for you to create an awesome, enterprise consumer dashboard that has all the things that you love in one place.
And of course, one other thing that you can do by default in Windows 8.1 is boot to the desktop if you want as well. And so the whole experience comes together where you have control over the PC.
So we love the desktop and we have made it a lot better. But productivity isn’t just defined by the desktop. The desktop is one way of working. Productivity is defined by robust multitasking, flexibility, efficiency, and having all the apps that you need. And what we’ve done in 8.1 is taken productivity to the next level and brought what was great about the desktop and the things that you could do there and made it even better in the modern UI and optimized it for not just 8-inch tablets, but also large screens, desktops, powerful laptops.
Let me show you some of what we’ve done. So one of the most important apps that exists is mail. This is the new version of the mail app that we have not yet made available publicly, but will be available with Windows 8.1 RTM.
And I’m going to use my mouse here. The first thing you’re going to notice is this power pane here on the left that shows me my folders, it shows me people. I can flag mails very quickly just here in the view — boom, boom, boom, boom, boom — and they’ll show up here in my flag view.
We have my favorite people, all of the mail here, and I also have them split out. Of course I control this. So if I want to put Panos in my list of favorite people, I can do that. If I want to take some people out, I can do that as well.
We’ve also integrated some awesome features to help keep your mail under control. Of course something like drag and drop is really important, and we have all your folders here that you can just directly drag and drop into using your mouse or touch.
We have brought together all of your social updates. So things from Foursquare and Facebook and LinkedIn, these sort of pseudo-spammy, but kind of interesting things and put them in one place so they’re out of your way without needing to set anything up.
And then probably my favorite view here is the newsletter view. And these are also things that sometimes you want to see. Like I love that I have these Living Social deals, but I don’t need to get eight of them a day, I really only need to see the most recent one. And so we’ve integrated a feature called Sweep into the mail app. And what this allows me to do is I can delete all of my Living Social deals. But what’s even cooler is I can say, just delete all of them except for the latest ones. I’m going to hit Sweep, and it’s going to set this up on the server. You’re going to see all of the Living Social deals have disappeared except for the top ones, and it’s always going to make sure that I only have one of these in my inbox from now on. These are some of the ways in which mail makes you more efficient. (Applause.) Thank you.
Another thing, though, that’s really important if you’re being efficient is the keyboard because I don’t know about you, but I do an awful lot with keyboard shortcuts just typing. And I showed you the new search feature, but I haven’t shown you how well it works with the keyboard and how it makes you more efficient.
This new search feature is really the command line for Windows. So I’m just going to type a single — I type “Windows plus S” to bring up search. I’m going to type a single character, “K.” And in doing so, it has brought back apps like Kindle and In the Kitchen, it’s brought back Music, it’s brought back settings like keyboard settings, it’s brought back files, local and in the cloud, it’s brought back Web suggestions, it’s brought back people on my PC. And it’s very, very powerful.
For instance, if I’m just here in mail and I just want to start playing a song, I can just type “K” it brings up the name of the song. I’m just going to hit enter, and it starts playing without even taking me out of the app. Just immediate music playback. So this is one of the examples of how the new Search box makes it possible to do things very, very fast. You will find that this becomes the stickiest feature in Windows 8.1, and you can’t imagine ever living without it.
Another thing that defines productivity is multitasking. And one of the things that I think is really cool about 8.1 is the multi-window view that we have.
So here are a few photos that are attached to a mail. And when I click one of these, notice that it opened up photos side by side with mail. This isn’t some weird preview app that only shows a few file formats or something like this. This is the actual app that is associated with the file extension. And so this could be photos, PDFs, it could be Office, it could be anything. And this happened just automatically.
Another example of this, let me pull this off the screen, and I’m going to show you a link. And when I click this, it’s going to open up IE side by side with mail. You can see that there’s no restriction anymore on just one very small snapped app and then a huge app. We can now use the window 50/50. I can move the snap point so I can make one a little bigger, I can make the other one a little bigger if I want. And it’s not just limited to two apps side by side.
So here in IE, I’m going to right click and do open link in new window. And suddenly, what I have here is two IE windows side by side. (Applause.) Yeah. Suddenly, I have something that is starting to look like a very productive work station. And I can move these windows around, I can put them where I want. We have maximize, we have resize, and all of a sudden you start to realize that there’s more than one way of doing awesome productivity. This uses all the pixels on my PC.
And on this sort of smallish monitor, I can fit three. But if I had something like a 2550 x 1440 monitor, I could show four apps on the screen at once. And all of a sudden, now you’re way more productive than you could have been on the desktop. You’ve got your Twitter feed, you’ve got your full running mail app, you’ve got multiple browser windows or multiple mails up at once.
And it gets even better. If I attach a second monitor, then suddenly I can do the same thing on multiple monitors at once. So I have any collection of apps across my monitors in any configuration I want, any size I want, blending desktop and modern apps across my screens. I can bring the Start screen up on one and just leave it, and this doesn’t just work for two monitors, it works for three, four, five, six, seven, as many as I have. And so this sort of shows the power of Windows 8.1 and the modern UI even on a desktop engineering workstation making you more productive.
And then we think about Windows starting on —
TAMI RELLER: A phone?
JENSEN HARRIS: A phone. On 8-inch tablets, also doing the same multitasking and running all the way up across all of these devices, integrated with Xbox and out to any kind of workstation. And it is pretty fantastic.
You can watch the full Tami Reller keynote about Windows 8.1 Product Enhancements [msPartner YouTube channel, July 9, 2013] presenting the complete high-end differentiation vs. the iPad and Android devices which contains the whole demo by Jensen Harris starting at [21:10] while the above part at [53:10], and the end of the demo is at [1:02:10]: