6 Features that iOS Needs from Windows 8

Jun 2, 2011 - 28 Comments

6 Things that iOS Needs from Windows 8

Putting on my bullet proof vest here, dare I say there’s some features shown in the Windows 8 demo video that iOS and even Mac OS X would greatly benefit from?

Regardless of how you feel about Windows, Microsoft, and Apple competition, you have to admit there are some good ideas shown in the first look at Windows 8. Here are six features that I think look promising enough that the iPhone and iPad would benefit from including too:

1) App Activity Overview from a Start Screen

In Windows 8, unlocking the screen brings you to a quick overview of app notifications and their updates. New emails, updates from your social network, upcoming calendar events, your investments, updated weather (I really wish the stagnant iOS weather icon updated the temperature), tweets, and a few other things. Contrast this to unlocking the screen on an iPad or iPhone, where you’re instantly shown all your apps and you have to dive into them to find out what your new emails are, what the weather is, whats on your calendar, etc. Again, this could be resolved in iOS 5, but I think it would be nice to have an overview screen like this.
Windows 8 Start Screen

2) File System Browser on a Touch Screen

Windows 8 lets you use a simplified touch accessible file system to go through all your documents, pictures, music, videos, and other files in one central location. Many people think iOS and iPad benefits from not having access to a file system, but I think it’s actually needed at some level so you can access created documents from other apps. Why can’t I open a document typed up in iA Writer in Pages app? That’s frustrating, access to a file system in iOS would allow this and much more. Here’s what the touch file system looks like in Windows 8:
Windows 8 File System Touch Browser

3) Side-by-side Display of Open Apps

Multitasking is great, but if you want to transcribe information from one app to another, it’s impossible to do this quickly on an iPad or iPhone. This is one of the main productivity boosts you get with dual-displays on a desktop, and iOS would greatly benefit from this feature. Sure, with Mac OS X you can just resize apps to be side-by-side, but it’s not perfect either, which is why apps like Divvy are so popular. The good news? Reviewing the Win 8 demo, John Gruber of DaringFireball seems to suggest this feature could come to iOS.
Windows 8 Split Screen for multiple apps

4) Better Use of the Lock Screen

This is probably going to be addressed in iOS 5 with a revamped notifications and widget system, but until it’s official I am going to complain about the wasted space of iOS lock screens. Microsoft has found a happy medium here, it still serves as a picture frame of sorts, but it also displays the date, time, events, your instant message counts, and email notifications. If you ask me, these things are important to display on a lock screen.
Windows 8 Lock Screen

5) Split QWERTY Keyboard for Touch Typing on Tablets

If you’ve ever held an iPad in vertical orientation and tried to type on the keyboard with your thumbs you know it’s not the easiest thing in the world. Microsoft has found a crafty way to address this by splitting the keyboard into two parts on both sides of the screen, easily accessible to your thumbs. This is a great idea and the iPad would benefit from this as an input option.
Windows 8 Split Touch Keyboard

6) Full Featured Touch Weather App & Updating Weather Widget

This is simple but it’s been a widely criticized complaint about the iOS ecosystem. Why doesn’t the iOS weather icon update the conditions? And why has nobody released a good weather app? The Apple offering for iPhone and iPod touch is good, but it’s too simple, and the iPad is lacking a good weather app completely. I’d change the tiles, but otherwise I like the look of Windows 8’s weather app and an iOS developer should take this idea and run with it:
Windows 8 Weather App

These are the six things that stood out at me from the Windows 8 video that iOS could add or improve on. Remember that iOS 5 will be shown next week at WWDC, so much of this could be addressed then, so stay tuned.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone


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  1. Wojtek says:

    The split keyboard has been included in the iOS since this post.

  2. Mark says:

    As a network engineer who uses windows at work and prefers a mac at home I have to say that any developments made by Apple and Microsoft are good. Both OS’s have their benefits but competition is healthy as it means we will get a better product in the long run!

  3. […] This video is a thorough look at the two touch interfaces side-by-side. You can see some of the better Windows 8 features and you can also get excited for iOS 5… but remember that Windows 8 won’t be out until […]

  4. […] directly with iPad, iOS, and Android thanks to it’s Metro user interface. We’ve praised some of the Windows 8 features before, and also criticized the freakishly cluttered Ribbon UI, but now you can try it out yourself […]

  5. […] Microsoft-bash here, I think the Windows 8 touch interface shows promise and I even wrote about how iOS would benefit from borrowing some of Windows 8 features. But this? What on earth is Microsoft thinking? […]

  6. […] your thumbs. Just swipe down with four fingers to reveal the split keyboard. This was one of those features that iOS needed from Windows 8 and Apple delivered […]

  7. ER Joker says:

    Why no widgets/weather update/map update in iOS 5???

    • Matt says:

      The widgets are in the Notification Center as a stock ticket and weather update. It probably could have had it’s own system though, but remember this is just a beta, so more is to come.

  8. MacFoxPro says:

    Love the split QWERTY screen!

  9. fred says:

    Intellicast HD is another good iPad weather app

  10. Steve says:

    There is a good weather app for iOS. It’s called HD Weather.


  11. xf says:

    The split keyboard is a brilliant idea for iPad regardless of the orientation.

  12. Mario says:

    Touch typing on touch screen? Seriously? Touch typing is called “touch” typing because your fingers rest (i.e. touch) the home row keys with F and J keys having small bumps to give you tactile feedback for your index fingers so you can feel your way into home position.

    This obviously can’t work on touch screen because as soon as you rest and touch the keys, you start typing. Unless someone makes some serious innovation in this scape, so that you must exert some extra force on the area where the virtual key is panted, it’s pointless to even try touch typing on touch screen.

  13. sparky says:


  14. icebreaker says:

    I doubt this will be Windows 8 for desktops, this will be like an extended version of windows media player. Don’t like the style at all. This has nothing to do with a desktop operating system.

    • ecthroi says:

      This has nothing to do with a desktop operating system (which we’re currently familiar with).
      *fixed ;)

      but seriously, you’re probably right about it being an extension of an overlay. it may work well for some users, but there’s NO way they can transition into this kind of OS in one fell swoop. it may be the direction some systems will go (Mac OS11?) in the coming years.

      personally, i like it in that ‘it sure is pretty, and different’ kind of way.

  15. Trench says:

    I am agreement with this. =_,=
    Especially the point about an accessible file system. Very irksome in iOS.

    • aries says:

      Yup, it is one of the primary reasons iOS can’t replace a desktop OS for many users. So frustrating.

  16. […] Here are 6 features that iOS needs to borrow from Windows 8, although I imagine iOS 5 will address many of these. stLight.options({ […]

  17. James says:

    Weather HD for iPhone/iPad/Mac is similar but better than the weather app shown in that screenshot.

  18. Hugo Santos says:


  19. Ryan Miller says:

    That’s the worst weather app I’ve ever seen. Horrible infographics design there. Pretty but useless.

  20. Land Of Tech says:

    the file system just seems to windowsh. i dont like the split keyboard either since i like to glide my hands over the keyboard not stay in one spot. besides that ios 5 needs everything else. i hate ios so far.

  21. Peter says:

    I mostly agree with the points here, I wish we could lose the “Us versus Them” attitude and accept when one group of developers does something better than another. Adopt what works, ditch what doesn’t, that is called progress.

  22. Zoli says:

    Microsoft tries to develop further, the ideas stolen from Mac OS X and IOS, has been doing this for years, there are no unique ideas for Michrosoft

  23. I don’t think iOS needs a file system per se, just application level access to the files created from other iOS apps.

    Everything else is reasonable, but I am certain all of this will be answered in iOS 5…. just a hunch, of course.


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