Microsoft botches another copy job: Windows Vista Flip3D vs. Apple Mac OS X Exposé

Flip3D is a “productivity addition” in Microsoft’s forever forthcoming Windows Vista. “The biggest influence is clearly that of Exposé on the Mac – a utility attempting to help the user stay organized by seeing every open window at once – but Microsoft has gone in an entirely different direction in how they are presenting everything,” Ryan Smith reports for AnandTech.

Smith writes, “Activated via Win+Tab, Flip3D works like a rolodex of windows, with a mouse wheel (or repeated pressing of the TAB key) allowing the user to flip through the windows until they find the one they’re looking for. However, this is one major case where we wish Microsoft would have just completely copied Apple, rather than trying to create their own implementation.”

“Flip3D in its current incarnation is not at all a useful productivity tool because the rolodex design means that it can’t really show everything at once like Exposé can. Having to wheel through things further hinders its effectiveness, as it’s not as smooth an operation as simply using the mouse to select the desired window. For all you true nerds and geeks out there, Flip3D is an O(n) operation where Exposé is O(1),” Smith writes.

“Lastly, for such a great emphasis on eye-candy in Aero, the rotated view of the windows is poorly thought out; by rotating the windows it creates aliasing which in spite of the power of modern video cards is not being removed. The artifacting around the window borders and the illegibility of the text simply make Flip3D ugly to look at and ugly to use. In this case, Microsoft simply would have been better off not implementing Flip3D than using this. We like Exposé, and a version of it in Windows would be very nice, but Flip3D is a second-rate copy at best, and ultimately does not function nearly enough like Exposé to be useful,” Smith writes.

“Even with the massive improvements Microsoft has shown with Vista, we still feel they aren’t quite ready to beat Tiger in a fight. Tiger still offers a more refined experience that doesn’t come with nearly as many quirks as Vista does (beta quirks or otherwise), and there’s a great deal of functionality that Tiger has that isn’t replicated by Vista at all, such as drag and drop application installation or a Unix shell. Ultimately switchers are going to find that Vista is similar to Tiger, but it’s not enough to surpass Tiger and cause them to switch back,” Smith writes. “And then there’s Leopard…”

Full article here.

Watch a QuickTime video from Apple of Exposé in action:

MacDailyNews Take: We’d be surprised if Microsoft didn’t botch a copy job of yet another Mac OS X feature. See, when Microsoft copies, they can’t steal it outright or they’ll run into legal issues. This is why Windows is an upside-down and backwards Mac UI instead of a direct copy (Microsoft’s users pay for the lack of innovation every time). Since Apple did it first and they focus so intently on the user experience, they spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to implement it, so the copy, in order not to be a direct copy, has to be bastardized and diminished in some way by definition. Because this is Microsoft’s modus operandi, they are predictably consistent at bastardizing and diminishing Apple’s innovations in Windows. F9

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  1. I saw a demo of flip3D several months ago and thought exactly the same thing. Seeing all the windows at once is exactly why expose is such a good tool. As for flip3D, guess it was made by tools instead ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  2. When they first announced this I couldn’t figure out how it could be of any real use. Since you can only view one window at a time it’s effectively like clicking through all the windows on your taskbar one at a time anyway, maybe marginally quicker. That said, I can imagine instances where it’s slower.

  3. Billy, you’re correct with your demos: 3-4 windows open. However, I sometimes have dozens if not more windows open (you should see what it looks like when I invoke expose!). In that instance it would be REALLY slow to scroll through each window one at a time. That’s the situation where expose would kick the snot out of flip3D.

  4. Thanks for the video Billy but I can’t see everything at once, I am using an external monitor for my 3 year old powerbook in dual screen mode and expose spreads all the windows evenly to both screens.
    Vista is lacking.

  5. Billy:

    Gee, nice video. Love that shaky quality. It’s oh so Cinema Verité.

    Wow 2 windows. THAT’S an impressive show. I’d like to see how it does with 15 or 20 windows and 4 or 5 applications… what it’s like working in the real world.

    Exposé not only shows you ALL open windows, but identifies them when you move the cursor over them. Flip3D doesn’t come close. It doesn’t even identify what the window is.

    Besides, OS X has a similar feature TODAY… You can toggle through open windows in the active application (usually) by using Command-`. So, essentially, Mac OS X has BOTH Exposé and a simpler iteration of Flip 3D.

    MDN magic Word: LEAVE it to Microsoft to kludge-ify something simple and elegant.

  6. Billy,
    I don’t know what’s uglier, that video or windows vista. Man, having to scroll through all those windows is anything but intuitive. If you like using the keyboard instead of the mouse expose can do that with the arrows and return.

    Just my two cents

  7. I concede that Flip 3D is going to get pretty messy when you use many windows.. but it’s still quite usable.

    The point being that it’s not as shite as some people here would like to make out.

    Clearly, Apple have the better solution, overall, but Microsoft’s is certainly the kind of thing you would expect Apple to come out with.

    I’m just trying to be balanced in my assesment.

  8. And then there’s leopard . . . .

    I love it!

    As in, “That’s the tech that’s been here a year so what are they going to do when the new cat comes to town”

    If your going to plagiarize, to it right, and do it fast!

  9. Honestly, it’s no surprise that Microsoft copies anyone who does something successful. They’ve been doing it for years.

    However, Apple’s not without fault: Apple’s Dashboard was obviously, er… “inspired” by Konfabulator (now Yahoo Widget Engine). However, it was a realtively weak rip-off initially, in my opinion.

    Hmmm… I wonder why Smith failed to mention that…


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