A while ago the growing prevalence of wide screen monitors set me thinking about information representation and user engagement a while ago: these screens lend themselves to context-adding sidebars, and intriguing context juxtapositions. Thus for example, SAP’s activity stream platform Streamworks never made sense to me until I saw it demoed as a sidebar to a traditional SAP business application screen; where structured data, manipulation and entry met unstructured conversations and semi-structured business docs. In other words- what is Twitter if not a sidebar?
Since I got back from BUILD I have been thinking through some of the implications of Microsoft’s new Metro interface, which is based on a tile structure a lot like that seen on Windows Phone 7. Another progenitor is the smooth sideways scrolling of the Zune player interface. Metro is normative in terms of design – developers have a choice of three tile sizes, and that’s it. Thumbnail, main, or sidebar. That’s it. Limitations can lead to freedom and flow, as Rails and IoS have shown. Metro plays into this, and seems entirely designed for the Wide Screen Web.
To those that say Microsoft can’t innovate- well… fie! Who else is driving a sideways scrolling metaphor? The entire IT industry, since the first printer, has been about scrolling down, not sideways. Other than Scramble and Defender, perhaps. The Kindle reads sideways like a book, perhaps, but its not a scroll, so much as a page turn.
We can read sideways, rather than up and down. Why does everything need to be portrait? It doesn’t.
I am really just thinking out loud at this point- I am not sure about the implications, but well done Microsoft for trying something totally new. I mean if John Gruber isn’t dismissive you may really be onto something. Then again- by next year when Windows 8 comes out it may be that IoS is a lot more sideways than it is now. Then again, consider Apple’s current form factors, which are not widescreen. Game on. And contractual development? That’s going to be huge…
disclosure: Microsoft is a client, and paid my T&E to BUILD.