Windows Vista comes out in January, but there are currently three Microsoft applications (that I know of) that boast the Vista look.
These are: Windows Live Messenger, Windows Media Player 11, and of course, Internet Explorer 7.
Immediately, I find it strange that of the three, IE7’s interface is the least Vista-fied. Media Player 11 looks exactly how I expect it to look in Windows Vista. Messenger is a little tougher, because although its appearance falls between those the XP versions of MP11 and IE7, I can’t tell if it will look any different in Vista. I can’t tell if its interface has stayed a bit more traditional because it’s generally a small window or because it’s the XP version.
Why would Microsoft hold back the visual progression of its most ubiquitous application? My first thought was that the age of the average IE user might be a bit higher than the age of the average Media Player user or Messenger User. By leaving the traditional title bar and corner buttons (minimize, maximize/restore, close) the same as those found in most XP applications, Microsoft may be trying to minimize intimidation experienced by older users — users who are already intimidated enough by computers. (As an example, I can imagine my dad clicking on a link that opens in a spawned instance of Media Player 11, then saying, “What the hell is this?”) Younger users — teenagers and twentysomethings — might be more appreciative of the glossy new MP and Messenger windows.
However, this morning I used Google to look for the release date of Office 2007 (Is anyone else excited about Excel 12?) and ran across this article on Ars Technica. Author Peter Pollack speculates as to how Microsoft chose Office 2007’s ship date. One sentence from his article bears repeating here:
Sending Office into the world early also runs the risk that some users may install it, discover it works well enough on XP, and hold off on the operating system upgrade.
Might the same logic apply to Internet Explorer? On my computer, the most commonly used application is my web browser (which is Firefox 2). I’d bet it’s also the web browser on most people’s computers, and the numbers tell us that most people’s web browser is still Internet Explorer. If all those people get the Vista visual upgrade on the application they use more than any other — for free — might they be less inclined to run out and buy a new operating system? It’s food for thought.
As a side note, I’ve barely used any of these three applications since Microsoft most recently updated them. Of the three, I use Media Player the most, but since I got my (second) iPod, I’ve been using iTunes a lot. I’m not in love with iTunes, but I’ve been listening to podcasts more lately and as far as I can tell iTunes is the best end-to-end solution for finding and subscribing to podcasts and syncing (which is easier than dragging) them to my iPod. In order to make sure that my iPod is as up-to-date as possible, I make sure that my iTunes is as up-to-date as possible — by leaving it running all the time.