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Surface RT: One Billion in the Hole (Page 2)
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Jul 26, 2013, 06:17 AM
 
Blackberry just had really, really inept top management. While the world switched to iPhones, they perfected the speaker on their own hardware - because in their mind clarity of conference calls were more important than a half decent user experience.

One of the joint CEOs (I forgot which one) took to walking around the BB campus with a bodyguard in tow. Waterloo, where BB is headquartered, is probably one of the least likely places on this entire planet on which anybody would ever need personal protection.
     
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Jul 27, 2013, 10:47 PM
 
WAY TOO much product for demand. Lack of demand should be self explanatory. Time for Ballmer to go. Microsoft needs to get it's mojo back to mix it up with Google and Samdung.
To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”
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Jul 27, 2013, 11:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
T
I rather like the idea of software that can adapt between tablet paradigm and desktop/laptop paradigm seamlessly.
Sorry for going back so far, I think i missed this before. It's a neat idea, but it boils down three major issues. You basically have to write two different applications, one for touch and one for kb & mouse. Touch and a desktop don't mix well, tablet and kb & mouse don't mix at all. Windows 8 is trying to support all four simultaneously.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 01:16 AM
 
:fetches Popcorn:
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 09:54 AM
 
Originally Posted by BLAZE_MkIV View Post
Sorry for going back so far, I think i missed this before. It's a neat idea, but it boils down three major issues. You basically have to write two different applications, one for touch and one for kb & mouse. Touch and a desktop don't mix well, tablet and kb & mouse don't mix at all. Windows 8 is trying to support all four simultaneously.

Why do you have to write two different applications? I've yet to hear a coherent answer here. There are a number of arguments as to why this might or might not be a good idea from a business standpoint, but it is definitely technically possible for a single application to support multiple input methods and have two entirely different user experiences and interfaces bundled in a single application such that the user isn't even aware that there is one application driving two interfaces.

It seems interesting to me that people like yourself and SH seem to somehow feel that interface = application. There are many abstract layers to an application, the front end is just one of these layers. I think you guys need to think about this stuff in multiple dimensions, even if the conclusions are the same.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 10:11 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Why do you have to write two different applications? I've yet to hear a coherent answer here. There are a number of arguments as to why this might or might not be a good idea from a business standpoint, but it is definitely technically possible for a single application to support multiple input methods and have two entirely different user experiences and interfaces bundled in a single application such that the user isn't even aware that there is one application driving two interfaces.

It seems interesting to me that people like yourself and SH seem to somehow feel that interface = application. There are many abstract layers to an application, the front end is just one of these layers. I think you guys need to think about this stuff in multiple dimensions, even if the conclusions are the same.
Again: where you draw the line is completely arbitrary.

Are Pages for iOS and Pages for OS X two apps, or one?

For all practical purposes, Pages on iOS and Pages on Mac are two separate applications. They are sold separately, and they run on separate platforms with completely remodeled interfaces.
But in fact, if you look at the structure and code, there's probably more in common between the two than there are differences (IANAD, so this is purely assumption, mind you).

The distinction is a strategic and perceptual one, not a technical one: keeping the two interfaces completely separate is absolutely vital to how Apple sees the future of computing. Munging them together confuses users and leads to the experience BLAZE describes.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 10:43 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Again: where you draw the line is completely arbitrary.

Are Pages for iOS and Pages for OS X two apps, or one?

For all practical purposes, Pages on iOS and Pages on Mac are two separate applications. They are sold separately, and they run on separate platforms with completely remodeled interfaces.
But in fact, if you look at the structure and code, there's probably more in common between the two than there are differences (IANAD, so this is purely assumption, mind you).

The distinction is a strategic and perceptual one, not a technical one: keeping the two interfaces completely separate is absolutely vital to how Apple sees the future of computing. Munging them together confuses users and leads to the experience BLAZE describes.

Until the public developer documentation for writing OS X and iOS applications merges, I think it is more logical to assume that there are enough differences to assume that a significant effort is needed to develop two separate applications, and that Apple is working on minimizing these differences in a multitude of ways without jeopardizing QA and merging interfaces, which to be abundantly clear to those jumping into this conversation, I agree is not a good idea.

There are a number of unknowables here. It is possible that Apple is pretty far along with consolidating and amalgamation and that their internal practices differ than those they recommend and make easy to third parties, but I think it is reasonable to believe that because the status quo is still two SDKs that this is still a work-in-progress.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 10:51 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Until the public developer documentation for writing OS X and iOS applications merges, I think it is more logical to assume that there are enough differences to assume that a significant effort is needed to develop two separate applications, and that Apple is working on minimizing these differences in a multitude of ways without jeopardizing QA and merging interfaces, which to be abundantly clear to those jumping into this conversation, I agree is not a good idea.

There are a number of unknowables here. It is possible that Apple is pretty far along with consolidating and amalgamation and that their internal practices differ than those they recommend and make easy to third parties, but I think it is reasonable to believe that because the status quo is still two SDKs that this is still a work-in-progress.
What's best for developers may not be best for the interfaces and user interaction.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 10:55 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
What's best for developers may not be best for the interfaces and user interaction.
What's best for developers and what is technically sound produces better results than what is not as developer friendly.

It is illogical to think that being developer friendly works against the interests of the users and/or interfaces/HCID.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 10:59 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
What's best for developers and what is technically sound produces better results than what is not as developer friendly.

It is illogical to think that being developer friendly works against the interests of the users and/or interfaces/HCID.
It is safe to say that programmers have very little clue about interfaces, HCID, let alone users.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 11:01 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Why do you have to write two different applications? I've yet to hear a coherent answer here. There are a number of arguments as to why this might or might not be a good idea from a business standpoint, but it is definitely technically possible for a single application to support multiple input methods and have two entirely different user experiences and interfaces bundled in a single application such that the user isn't even aware that there is one application driving two interfaces.
Touch ui is all about big pretty buttons and mostly having only one hand available. Desktop apps are built around the 1pixel accuracy of the mouse, lightning fast action of keyboard macros, muscle memory for common control locations. If you go into windows 8 desktop mode and try to close a window using the close button it almost impossible to hit. Go into iOS and try put a cursor in the middle of a word to edit it.

IMHO the ui is 70 to 80% of the development of the application. That makes it basically a new application. You can't just slap a new ui on it. Allot of work goes into making thing behave how the user expects. There's a reason people use Word and not Emacs even though with expert users you get higher productivity with Emacs.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 11:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
It is safe to say that programmers have very little clue about interfaces, HCID, let alone users.
It is also safe to say that programmers do not operate in some sort of strange vacuum where they do not work with front end developers/HCI people, and it is definitely illogical to think that this disconnect would intentionally exist.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 11:26 AM
 
Originally Posted by BLAZE_MkIV View Post
Touch ui is all about big pretty buttons and mostly having only one hand available. Desktop apps are built around the 1pixel accuracy of the mouse, lightning fast action of keyboard macros, muscle memory for common control locations. If you go into windows 8 desktop mode and try to close a window using the close button it almost impossible to hit. Go into iOS and try put a cursor in the middle of a word to edit it.

IMHO the ui is 70 to 80% of the development of the application. That makes it basically a new application. You can't just slap a new ui on it. Allot of work goes into making thing behave how the user expects. There's a reason people use Word and not Emacs even though with expert users you get higher productivity with Emacs.

With all due respect if you think that the UI accounts for 70-80% of the actual code of an application, then you don't how much about how applications are built.

You might be able to say that UI accounts for 70-80% of the total man hours in planning, or should require 70-80% of the total available resources (and both claims are highly debatable depending on the nature of the application), but you most definitely cannot say that the end result in lines of code and the effort needed to maintain this code is wrapped up in the front end.

Let me wager a guess, you are not a developer? You are coming at this from the same vantage point that SH did, and that is reasonable depending on your experiences and way of thinking, but SH also has acknowledged that he doesn't fully understand the backend of an application, and it sounds like you are in the same boat?

The whole "lines of code" concept probably seems completely academic and irrelevant to your results-focused "does the interface make sense" bottom line, but it is quite relevant in the QA, performance, security, and maintainability of the app, as well as the business behind the app (costs, resources required, etc.) This is all hugely important.

All of this stuff also doesn't necessarily negatively impact that final "does the interface make sense" bottom line at all. There is literally nothing in this entire discussion of the backend that makes your dreams any less likely of an ideal UI that passes all of your most rigid and strict litmus tests. My point is that there are multiple dimensions to all of this beyond whatever it is that makes you think that two separate applications is appropriate to deliver user experiences appropriate to the input method.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 11:53 AM
 
I know that Blaze and SH don't mean this, this isn't directed solely at them, and maybe this is just me, but there is something irritating about what seems to be this common Mac-centric arrogant attitude from UI experts. Maybe it is a sense of ego they convey, but the strong language they use about which applications are shit and which aren't based on their UI assessment to me often comes across as disrespectful to the work that others do, and at times ignorant to the complexity of what it takes to make a successful application or OS stemming from the low level bowels, to how difficult it is to manage and plan for the development of such a project, manage resources, etc.

These sorts of users are sort of like smug media critics or something that are eager to dismiss what are usually hours and hours of exhaustive work with their yay or nay and, at times, holier-than-thou attitudes. If you've ever been irritated at a media critic you know what I'm getting at here...

Anybody with a brain understands the importance of a good UI, and it is annoying to have to pay lip service to how much I/we (whatever) truly "get" how important it is, as if only UI guys have the capacity to understand how regular human beings work and how to speak their language. I get it that many products are horrendously bad, and many geeks (e.g. Linux developers) constantly demonstrate their disconnect with the non-geek worlds, but it is threads like this that are ironic to me in seeing how disconnected these UI experts (I was going to say "hipsters", but that seemed dickish) are with the "magic" that is the code that drives an application.

I haven't agreed with many of the points that Shif has made, but I kind of think that the crux of this thing between her and you guys is the gap between these two worlds, and that if you both took the time to understand each other without these strange attitudes and preconceptions, you'd discover that while your unique vantage points are the products of your own ways of thinking, both ways of thinking are necessary for a complete and accurate picture as to how all of this crap works.

I'm kind of mostly a backend guy, but I'm sensitive to people just assuming that I have no capacity to get anything but this, so I apologize for this defensive tone. I'd like to think that I do pretty well in working and thinking in both worlds, although of course I don't have all the answers and don't mean to come across as better than all of you guys, but maybe think about this a little and how certain attitudes can come across? I'm not the only developer that has noticed this sort of lack of humility from the UI crowd. In fact, I would argue that many of the products that the UI guys would deem shitty are often the direct result of the gap between these two worlds.

Don't pretend like what is at the other side of the gap is irrelevant.
( Last edited by besson3c; Jul 28, 2013 at 12:13 PM. )
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 12:40 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
It is also safe to say that programmers do not operate in some sort of strange vacuum where they do not work with front end developers/HCI people, and it is definitely illogical to think that this disconnect would intentionally exist.
The Surface RT is living proof that these people know exactly what appeals to users, yes.

(Joking!)

Though of course, this thing is a failure on many levels, and the decisions that resulted in the disaster were made much higher up in the command chain.

Since you disagree with BLAZE and me, and a bunch of reviewers who've pointed out that the mode switches on Surface are "jarring" at best, and the failure of Microsoft to properly adapt their interfaces to either mode: What do you think is happening?

I also point to history. The arrogance of armchair designers (a.k.a. Apple fanbois a.k.a. Jobs-worshippers a.k.a. whatever other term might be necessary to be able to discredit their arguments) is partly rooted in the knowledge that Microsoft has a thirty-year history of botched interfaces, while Apple has a thirty-year history of getting it right, mostly.
Some of us have also spent many years *watching* users and dealing with their issues. I am, to some extent, aware of basic interface issues, because for a decade I was PAID to watch and understand what was going wrong and help people work around their (or the developers') misconceptions.

Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
It is also safe to say that programmers do not operate in some sort of strange vacuum where they do not work with front end developers/HCI people, and it is definitely illogical to think that this disconnect would intentionally exist.
Obviously Microsoft does not INTENTIONALLY disconnect their programmers from reality. Neither does Lotus, nor any of the other software houses that are legendary for their inability to design a UI that doesn't result in destroyed furniture.

But over twenty years of Windows UI designs (talking about applications as much as the system itself) is plenty proof that a developer who is also a good UI/HCI designer is a rare breed.

The disconnect is real.

Part of the frustration coming from you is, of course, due to the fact that users just don't care about the back-end. It just needs to work. Your job is to disappear. It's the same frustration inherent in the sound technician: The better the guy, the less the end-user ever thinks about him, let alone cares.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 01:02 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Since you disagree with BLAZE and me, and a bunch of reviewers who've pointed out that the mode switches on Surface are "jarring" at best, and the failure of Microsoft to properly adapt their interfaces to either mode: What do you think is happening?
WTH? Where did you get the notion that I disagreed with you about the Surface? Did I say that? Please don't assume things, just freaking ask me what I think, I've been pretty outspoken when it comes to tech stuff, no?

But over twenty years of Windows UI designs (talking about applications as much as the system itself) is plenty proof that a developer who is also a good UI/HCI designer is a rare breed.
This is true, but I think you are making too many assumptions over the heart of MS' failures. Since you have obviously misunderstood me prior I will make it abundantly clear that I'm not saying that there haven't been failures, nor am I defending MS, but there could be any number of reasons and factors which led to MS' failures, starting with management. I'm sure there are absolutely brilliant HCID guys working for Microsoft, so I can't just accept this narrative while there are so many unknowables.

The disconnect is real.
I'm glad you agree.

Part of the frustration coming from you is, of course, due to the fact that users just don't care about the back-end. It just needs to work. Your job is to disappear. It's the same frustration inherent in the sound technician: The better the guy, the less the end-user ever thinks about him, let alone cares.
I appreciate your empathy, although my frustration is not really with my invisibility as much as it is some of these weird attitudes from certain personality types. It isn't a wanting props thing as much as it is repulsion to arrogance and ignorance. If one wants to justify that arrogance they need to have spent a lot of time learning and asking questions. The more I learn the more I realize how much I don't know.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 01:30 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
WTH? Where did you get the notion that I disagreed with you about the Surface? Did I say that? Please don't assume things, just freaking ask me what I think, I've been pretty outspoken when it comes to tech stuff, no?
a) I just DID ask you.

b) The Surface team's big failure is failing to realize that mouse-based and touch-based interfaces cannot be easily fused into a single conglomerate. If you aren't disagreeing with this, then see a); I actually asked you what you thought was happening.


Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
This is true, but I think you are making too many assumptions over the heart of MS' failures. Since you have obviously misunderstood me prior I will make it abundantly clear that I'm not saying that there haven't been failures, nor am I defending MS, but there could be any number of reasons and factors which led to MS' failures, starting with management. I'm sure there are absolutely brilliant HCID guys working for Microsoft, so I can't just accept this narrative while there are so many unknowables.
Okay. So you're saying that looking at the entirety of applications available for the Windows platform over the past three decades (NOT JUST MICROSOFT'S, as I made a point of clarifying), one cannot necessarily conclude that most developers/programmers have no clue about UI design.

Within Microsoft, the problem might have been mostly political, at least for the Surface: Marketing and leadership mandated that the existing Windows franchise be leveraged to strong-arm MS' way into tablet computing, and who knows, maybe the programmers actually rebelled at this idea, knowing it would fail.

But most of the entire Windows ecosystem has historically been UI garbage. Are you telling me that thirty years of third-party applications were designed mostly by programmers with a good sense of UI design and aesthetics, but botched by executive decisions?
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 01:56 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
a) I just DID ask you.
You posed a leading question based on a false assumption. Do you not see that?

b) The Surface team's big failure is failing to realize that mouse-based and touch-based interfaces cannot be easily fused into a single conglomerate. If you aren't disagreeing with this, then see a); I actually asked you what you thought was happening.
I refuse to be put on the defensive by defending ideas based on false assumptions. Care to rephrase your question in a way that has more question marks and fewer assumptions?

Okay. So you're saying that looking at the entirety of applications available for the Windows platform over the past three decades (NOT JUST MICROSOFT'S, as I made a point of clarifying), one cannot necessarily conclude that most developers/programmers have no clue about UI design.
Is this a question or a statement?

Within Microsoft, the problem might have been mostly political, at least for the Surface: Marketing and leadership mandated that the existing Windows franchise be leveraged to strong-arm MS' way into tablet computing, and who knows, maybe the programmers actually rebelled at this idea, knowing it would fail.

But most of the entire Windows ecosystem has historically been UI garbage. Are you telling me that thirty years of third-party applications were designed mostly by programmers with a good sense of UI design and aesthetics, but botched by executive decisions?
No. I agree that *generally speaking* back-end guys are bad at the front-end and vice versa, and I most definitely agree that the Windows ecosystem has been UI garbage on a pretty regular basis, I just don't think it is fair to assume that this is because the back-end guys put their distinctive signature on the UI. This could be:

a) a lack of sound testing/feedback process
b) crappy front-end guys with too much say
c) poor project planning
d) too much middle-management micromanagement
e) MS's corporate business culture (which has been a common narrative over the years, if there is some truth to it). Sometimes the best interface involves some risk, and risk is not always common in a more corporate business culture

Who the hell knows? There are all unknowables, just like the precise impact of Steve Jobs being gone from Apple is an unknowable (you'll recall that I get annoyed with people that go on about how Apple has lost their way because Steve Jobs is not around to sprinkle his magic Steve Jobs dust on his employees). You may be absolutely 101% right, I'm just not comfortable with thinking that something that is unknowable isn't.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 03:22 PM
 
Just so everyone can judge my opinion I've been developing windows software for the last 25 years. I've done front end, back end, and client server work. I specially said development, not SLOC or anything else. My percent is so high because you're only running ui apps on a tablet so I can exclude any dedicated back end programs. I also don't have to include any of the third party code.


I refuse to be put on the defensive by defending ideas based on false assumptions. Care to rephrase your question in a way that has more question marks and fewer assumptions?
You don't get to say this. You just spewed out 50 lines of rambling based on a false assumption.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 03:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by BLAZE_MkIV View Post
You don't get to say this. You just spewed out 50 lines of rambling based on a false assumption.

I didn't say it to you, nor did I say that my 50 lines of rambling were directly aimed at you two or anybody else in this thread. They are just vibes and little bits I've picked up over the years.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 04:17 PM
 
b) The Surface team's big failure is failing to realize that mouse-based and touch-based interfaces cannot be easily fused into a single conglomerate. If you aren't disagreeing with this, then see a); I actually asked you what you thought was happening.
The best thing about this is the guys a MS know this. As i've mentioned in another thread, the only reason to do what they're doing to to try an reach a critical mass of touch software to compete with iOS and Android. It's a marketing driven decision. Some businesses still haven't migrated off of XP. No business is migrating to Windows 8 in the next 2 years at best. They can afford to neglect the enterprise and push tablets for a while. They have to pitch it as usable for desktop apps because as we've seen with the Surface RT no-one wants a windows that can't.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 04:36 PM
 
It's a nice idea, but the entire (high volume/low margin) PC hardware market has augered because of it.

The hardware manufacturers don't have two years for things to pick up steam.
     
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Jul 28, 2013, 05:02 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
It's a nice idea, but the entire (high volume/low margin) PC hardware market has augered because of it.
I'd argue that the entire PC hardware market has slacked because of iPad, completely regardless of Microsoft's efforts.

They've tried to break into that market using the RT, and failed to make any compelling argument in favor of that whatsoever.
     
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Jul 29, 2013, 03:02 AM
 
It's both. The key difference is PC manufacturers have seen the iPad coming for awhile, and have been making a slow, ponderous pivot.

Windows 8 sucking blindsided them. They were counting on one last squeeze out of the "upgrade the OS, upgrade the computer" model.

I'm sure they predicted the iPad would make that significantly smaller than the squeeze they got out of Vista to 7, but they didn't predict the squeeze not to materialize at all.
     
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Jul 29, 2013, 07:45 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
I didn't say it to you, nor did I say that my 50 lines of rambling were directly aimed at you two or anybody else in this thread. They are just vibes and little bits I've picked up over the years.
Well, in the reply you made the bet that BLAZE wasn't a programmer -- which you lost.
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Let me wager a guess, you are not a developer? You are coming at this from the same vantage point that SH did, and that is reasonable depending on your experiences and way of thinking, but SH also has acknowledged that he doesn't fully understand the backend of an application, and it sounds like you are in the same boat?
Personally, I cannot judge what percentage of development time is spent designing the UI, but it seems clear to me that mingling touch and non-touch versions of user interfaces will have a detrimental effect on both, because lazy developers or projects under severe time constraints will use that to cut corners.
I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
     
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Jul 29, 2013, 10:01 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Well, in the reply you made the bet that BLAZE wasn't a programmer -- which you lost.
True, I was obviously wrong.

Personally, I cannot judge what percentage of development time is spent designing the UI, but it seems clear to me that mingling touch and non-touch versions of user interfaces will have a detrimental effect on both, because lazy developers or projects under severe time constraints will use that to cut corners.
This potential also exists, but if developers are inclined to be lazy they can also be just as lazy making a half baked separate mobile app, or a half baked desktop app counterpart. They may be less likelihood for this laziness to exist with the lowest possible hanging fruit, which I happen to think is not dedicating resources to making two separate apps.
     
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Jul 29, 2013, 10:07 AM
 
I still think that whether you call them and release them as two separate apps is a completely arbitrary decision.

If anything, not having to have both interfaces completely done for each release removes pressure to ship half-baked crap, since the interfaces/apps are on separate release schedules.
     
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Jul 29, 2013, 12:27 PM
 
But the guys in sales/marketing want both. Yesterday. Developers don't due half baked or lazy because they want to. It's always about the money. So now I have two application that I have to maintain and test. Sure I can share maybe 80% of the code if I'm careful. But there will be bugs in the 20% or worse bugs in the 80% that break the 20% when they are fixed.

Then they want an iOS port in the same time it took to make the Win8 Touch version so I'm running the common code on MONO so I have to change the common code to support that. Which introduces bugs into the Win8 apps. And that went well so they want Android too. But that version of MONO is different because it's Linux port is ahead/behind so it happens again. Now its time to add major features in to the Win8 apps because it's been a year or more and they're getting stale. But I can't change the common code because it will break iOS and Andriod and they don't want to update those yet. So the new features go into the UI instead of the common code. Then they want those features in iOS and Android, they both use MONO so I can do it at the same time right?, but even though I could move the features to the common code and clean up the Win8 UIs that would mean testing it again and there's no time so it has to go into the iOS and Android code. Now I have 4 copies of every new feature. Within 3 years there's effectively no commonality in the apps.
( Last edited by BLAZE_MkIV; Jul 29, 2013 at 12:41 PM. )
     
 
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