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iPad tweaks in iOS 11 prove Microsoft was on to something with Windows 8

Last week, Apple unveiled iOS 11, the next version of its mobile OS. iOS 11 will launch on iPhone, iPod and iPad later this year, and the changes are rather significant, especially for iPad. Apple introduced several new tablet-focused features, some of which are "borrowed" from Microsoft's Windows 8 OS.

Back in 2012, Windows 8 was met with bad reviews and terrible customer satisfaction. It was a poor release of Windows for many people, not because it lacked in features or didn't work as intended, but because it was such a different OS compared to the Windows everyone was accustomed to. It was a whole new experience that you had to relearn, and for many people, especially businesses, that's not something you want to be spending your time on.

Windows 8 was a tablet-first OS, and it showed. It was designed from the ground up for devices that were primarily touch-oriented. So, it shouldn't be much of a surprise to see Apple borrowing things from Windows 8. Things such as multitasking, swiping from the edge of the display to reveal hidden UI elements, and a whole lot more are now coming to or being improved on the iPad with iOS 11. Many people appear to see this as some kind of "I told you so" moment for Windows 8.

But it is not.

Windows 8 was still a bad idea

Windows 8 was still wrong, even if Apple is borrowing features and ideas from it. The problem with Windows 8 wasn't that it was a "bad OS," the problem was because it was Windows. Microsoft had built a tablet OS on top of an OS primarily used on desktops and devices without touch, and as a result, it tried to apply usage scenarios and behaviors that desktop users simply didn't want or need. iOS 11 doesn't validate Microsoft's Windows 8 OS in the slightest, and at most it further strengthens the idea that Microsoft should have built a separate version of Windows 8 for tablets.

Let's get one thing clear here: Windows 8 is an amazing tablet OS.

It's one of the best tablet OSes out there. It failed because Microsoft forced it upon the wrong user-base, being 95 percent of Windows users. In 2012, tablets were still new, and although they were gaining in popularity, most Windows devices were not tablets. Windows 8 would have made much more sense, and probably would've even been a hit, if it was an OS for tablets only.

iOS 11 borrowing from Windows 8 proves this. iOS 11 on the iPad is probably the best iPad software update to date, introducing new user experiences and behaviors that make the iPad much more usable as a productivity device. These changes are welcome on the iPad, whereas on Windows 8, those changes were disliked universally. It's all about the platform, and if you try to apply the wrong behaviors to the wrong device types, you're going to have trouble. That's essentially what Microsoft did with Windows 8.

In 2017, things are different. Windows devices are now a lot more flexible, and with Windows 10 Microsoft built tablet mode for devices that were designed for Windows 8. Unfortunately, Microsoft appears to have put its tablet efforts on the back burner, focusing primarily on the desktop, laptop and 2-in-1 space where mouse and keyboard input is primary.

Perhaps Microsoft will eventually return to its tablet efforts, because with Windows 8 it was onto something. Sadly, what it was onto was applied to the wrong market, and as a result it failed.

Zac Bowden
Zac Bowden

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

77 Comments
  • Windows 8 is AWESOME! The best thing about it is the tablet mode. Never updated my SP3 because I didn't want to lose this view and how it worked. It doesn't surprise me at all it would be copied.
  • Uhm... Tablet mode is in win10 too?
  • "Tablet Mode" in Windows 10 is a joke.
  • Agreed...nowhere near as good as it was in Windows 8. 
  • I have a household of people that would disagree.  After having used Windows 8 for a while, Windows 10 "tablet mode" is the default choice for my whole family.  8yo, 10yo, 22yo, and my mother.  Personally, I never use it, even while using my SP3.  But that it "makes sense" for them shows that it does deliver something.  And that isn't a joke. I also liked Windows 8.  But, I have an apperciation for transitions.  Once Windows 10 started surfacing, the vision was definitely clearer for me.  Windows 8 did not belong on servers, for instance, and that is abundantly clear now. I think its launch/ targeting was bungled, but I think Windows 8 was a definite good step in the right direction. The one area I definitely wish they had kept/ made optional were the gestures controls when in tablet mode.  I quite liked the charms bar, for instance.  I thought it would have made a lot of sense on Windows mobile, too. Alas, things come and go.  As long as lessons are learned...
  • Totally disagree. Tablet mode on Windows 8 is a joke. Its nowhere near as poweful or prductve as tablet mode on Windows 10. The only thing superior on Windows 8 is the start menu, where you can pan and zoom, but other than that multitasking on Windows 10 is more intuitive, search is is much more accessible. in general, everyhingmis more accesible on Windows 10 than on 8. 8 was a gesture/swipe undiscoverablity fest.  Windows 10 is much more familiar, intuitive and discoverable. I say this having used both.
  • Yes it is in win10 too!  I own 4 computers.  Two running Windows 8.1 and 2 running Windows 10.  I am very familiar with what they can do.  However, Windows 10 version does not work like Window 8.  First, you scroll horizontally in Windows 8 versus vertically in 10.  I prefer the horizontal use.  Secondly I do not need to hit a hamburger button to get to my programs.  I simply swipe up on the screen or hit the down arrow in 8.1 the get to my programs/apps.  These things may not matter to anyone else.  I realize that.  But for me these simple things make 8.1 much more useable. 
  • This could be done in ten by swiping to the right to invoke all programs and would function like phone. And share across c shell so maybe c shell on desktop would have that. Who knows
  • This could be done in ten by swiping to the right to invoke all programs and would function like phone. And share across c shell so maybe c shell on desktop would have that. Who knows
  • That's a feedback I voted for on the feedback hub...
  • You're absolutely right bro. MS broke my heart by removing those edge gestures from the tablet mode in Windows 10. It is not always about usability it is about how does it feel when you use the device. Windows 8 tablet mode was awesome when using on a touch screen. Start screen was way more better than current offering in windows 10. It is still not late. MS should address this issue and they should make win 10 tablet mode just the way it was on windows 8.1 Even google's android lolipop borrowed many UI features of the windows 8.1 at that time. iOS 9 in the ipad pro borrowed that app snapping feature by swiping from the edge. They borrowed that click on the corner of the screen to switch apps feature in their macOS. There are numerous examples of these type. List is endless.
  • Full screen start in Win 10 works well, though I prefer the horizontal scroll in 8.x
  • Really? Full screen start is nonsense as compared to the of windows 8 style where I could just switch to all apps just by swiping up. Current offering is also good and no less in functionality but a UI needs to be intuitive and should give that smooth fell to it and unfortunately Windows 10 totally lacks in this area whether it is launching Windows store apps or snapping them or switching between apps.
  • This fluent thing and c shell is the realization that ten needs to get to where 8 was. But i agree somewhere in between 8 and 20 is the future....and maybe that is close than we think.
  • Swipe back and forward are back in edge though there should be a list of options and the swipe forward should be customizable.
  • It drives me nuts too sensitive, i find myself going back when just trying to scroll, it was better in 8
  • TBH, I wish I still had 8.1 on my SP3 too. The battery life was SO much better under Windows 8.1 it's not even funny. We're talking HOURS of difference.
  • And it has the quick resume the pro 5th has got now.
  • Agreed; I loved the newness of Windows 8 (.1) and the radical move. It was a look into the future. But I'm also aware Windows users are quite conservative.
  • I agree. Downgraded my main tablet back to 8.1. I can't live without horizontal scrolling. The fullscreen start menu on 8 is much better than on 10.
  • WTF are you talking about? Windows 10 has pretty much all the tablet features of 8 in it. I have a Surface P4 and it's a tablet complete with the side swipes.
  • Except for a UI that makes it easy to use as a tablet. If you're using the Surface  4 as a laptop replacement, I can see how perfectly happy you are. If you're using it as a iPad replacement, then it's pitiful.
  • I use my Pro 4 as a tablet and I'm perfectly happy with it.
  • Nonsense. Do u own one?
  • The edge gestures for app switching and closing are not nearly as fluid in Windows 10.
  • To me, W8 was still a much better OS for tablet use. I distincly remember my Surface RT in which I could operate pretty much everything using just my thumbs, without 'ungripping' the tablet. I can't do that in W10, because switching tasks requires you to stretch your thumbs onto a grid of open apps (necessitating you to let go of the tablet and move your entire hand), instead of simply scrolling vertically in a sidebar. It's pretty much the sole reason I have tablet mode disabled on my SP3, it's simply not useful in the way it used to be.
  • F***ing apple. Well, microsoft always worked for apple, so why not on this?. Pssst, don't tell anyone.
  • (whispers) what about when msft invested in apple?
    Shhhh!!
  • Microsoft gets lots of things right. It is their implementation and execution that tends to leave room for improvement.
  • YEP Windows 8 was a tablet-first OS
  • Well Touchscreen
  • Those were very exciting days indeed.
  • I still regularly use Windows 8.1 because of a program that is not available on Windows 10. It works just fine as a desktop OS. The problem wasn't the OS. The problem was backwards people that refuse to accept change. Sometimes I wonder how we ever made it past horses and buggies.
  • Just curious, what is there that runs on Windows 8.1 but not on Windows 10?
  • Kayak!  For starters!
  • Actually, more software than you might think. For me it's a Video NLE that has certain features that I use on some projects. The newer version of the software crippled some of those features.
  • +1
  • I miss the address bar at the bottom of the screen vs the top. Win 8 ie was great for tablets, much like mobile. Win 10 is not, would love to see that as an opption
  • Yup add your vote to the feedback app
  • Windows 8 was great, 10 has not lived up the hype as yet but with more features from 8 appearing shouldn't be long hopefully
  • Windows 8 is the best tablet/touch friendly OS, Windows 10 on touch makes me remember my Asus EP121 slate running windows 7,it's not a great experience. Microsoft should bring back Windows 8 as Windows touch, or touch mode in Windows 10,not just the current tablet mode, but the full Windows 8 experience including touch friendly edge. IMO
  • "it further strengthens the idea that Microsoft should have built a separate version of Windows 8 for tablets."........Enter Windows 10, which....is....one....OS....that....willl...be....for....tablet....and....desktop. Now im confused
  • Windows 8 was really good, got pounced because people refused to learn how to use it. In a Tablet it was pretty simple, the OS worked like a book, on desktop just stay on desktop mode.
  • I loved Windows 8 on tablets. I used it in the Windows RT form on my Surface RT for most of it's lifecycle (I had a desktop PC with Windows 8 Pro too) and it was always a pleasure to use.....well when the Surface RT hardware wasn't bogging down, but I digress. Windows 8 had a great feel to it, it felt clean and modern compared to iOS at the time. I always thought Windows 8 was a pleasure to use on tablets and in a lot of ways it's superior to Windows 10. While Windows 10 is a good enough experience on tablets, it's a forgettable experience. It feels generic and too minimal. Windows 8 on tablets had that right balance of visual flare and being able to get out your way and I miss that. You could honestly say that about most of Microsoft's products from that time period, Windows Phone 8 and the original Xbox One dashboard also had that right mix of visual flare and a clean design that was able to get out of the way which is something I felt we lost with Windows 10 now that it persistently shows all the menu icons instead of hiding them away until you needed them etc... Hopefully the upcoming Fluent Design Language will bring some of that visual flare back to Microsoft's products because they really do need it. I love Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and Xbox One but they really do need to bring some love to the UI, and from the looks of some of the new UIs we've seen in Groove Music and some of the basic apps in Windows it's starting to look really cool.
  • I still use my Lumia 2520 every night. It sits next to my Lazyboy recliner. They are a perfect match.
    I'll sure miss it when it finally dies.
  • iOS 11 doesn't really borrow much from Windows 8. macOS has such things as Mission Control and their manner of drag and drop, among other things, is simply a multi-touch extension of what all Touch-Optimized Ones have. The Dock comes from macOS. The Widgets are a gimp version of Dashboard on macOS. Seems like they are simply adapting things from macOS to iOS, while making sure to maintain iOS' status as an OS that is - first and foremost - optimized for touch. Unlike Microsoft, Apple has done very well with adapting Desktop technology to Tablets, and vice versa, without overdoing it and trying to shove a desktop OS directly onto the tablet (or smartphone, for that matter). They've done the same with their desktop OS, taking pieces of iOS and using them, where it seems logical, without disrupting the usability of macOS as a desktop operating systems optimized for efficient keyboard/mouse/touchpad usage. Microsoft has failed - thus far - to do this with Windows 8 and 10. Huge parts of Windows are optimized for KB/Mouse, and other parts are overtly biased against them, which puts users in an interesting usability conundrum. The only "solution" is to buy some overpriced 2-in-1 device, that you probably don't even like... but *have to* because otherwise your operating system feels dysfunctional half the time. Windows 8 made sense only if you were using other Windows 8 devices that were not Desktop computers, and those devices has decent integration/interoperability. If you had a Surface RT and Lumia smartphone, and there was a decent App Ecosystem where they integrated in a Continuity/Handoff-sort of way, Windows 8 was - in theory - amazing. I think that's why many people DID have high hopes for it. The problem is that Microsoft never got there, so there was never any decent pay-off for the trade-off. The users made all of the sacrifices, but Microsoft didn't deliver any benefits to offset them.
  • Microsoft had their chance but they decided to gleefully throw all that forward thinking out the window and embrace the Hamburger! Best move ever made...... /s
  • You're absolutely right bro. Why in the world they dropped the pivot in favour of hamburger 🍔. Hamburger is nonsense as it not ergonomic to use with fingers on a touch screen device. Pivot was way more better, you never have to stretch your fingers to use. Problem with MS is they don't have that confidence in their OS as apple has. Apple kept their macOS alive for so many years despite having like less than 1% software programs/applications as compared to windows OS and they are still keeping it alive even it is not getting them enough revenue as compared to their other products, same goes for apple watch. Now the result is macOS has so many piece of software that works better on mac than their windows counterparts. Where as MS never had faith in their OS(Windows 8.1). MS has shown their confidence with their surface line of products and you know where it stands in the media. MS get scared easily with the media criticism and get back many steps instead of taking it forward and tweaking it to make it better.
  • I hope Microsoft gets inspired by iOS 11 to refocus on tablet users. I miss some of the stuff they did with Windows 8. Browser address bar at the bottom was great. I also liked the ellipses to expose more functionality rather than a hamburger menu on the top. I loved the edge gestures for app switching and closing; they were so fluid.
  • Yea, for the most part Windows 8 did tablets better and window phone 7 did phones better than Windows 10.  However Windows 10 did desktop better.  Now they need to take all those pieces and put them togeather in one logical OS.  I don't think it would be that difficult with CShell being able to morph between user states.  The main good things from windows 8 was app switching, split screening, and moving the controls to the bottom.  I liked the disappearing controls but that one is probably a personal choice and could probably be left out.  Windows phone in app integration, deep linking and services was awesome.  This is something that could be brought to both proper windows and tablet with little issue.  As far as the Hamburger menu goes, I actually like it with one minor change, I would make it accessable with a swipe from the side like android does.  This would make all the difference in the world usability wise.
  • Ago what did they borrow?
  • Yeah, the article is poor. Both bashing and lauding Windows 8 as a poor and an excellent tablet OS. And, the article never really details what Apple has borrowed.
  • Writing as objectively as possible and highlighting both strengths and weaknesses is professional journalism. I do however agree that it could have included more in-depth analysis on the things Apple has borrowed from Windows 8, but then it would take longer to finish the article and give less time to write other things. Being a former freelance IT journalist myself, I can relate to that. Also, there is nothing bad about keeping it short and to the point. Zac, keep up the great work! :)
  • I really like the Tablet mode In Windows 10. Infact I never use my Surface 3 out of Tablet mode. Though I do think they could/should continue to improve it.
  • You love it because you are using windows 10 tablet mode on touch screen directly. If you have used windows 8 tablet mode you will call the current windows 10 tablet mode as nonsense.
  • Good article. Matt's modern story has been canning and giving up on vision. "retrenchment" under Nadella has been a buge let down in so many areas. But for the larger consumer base (non fan-boys), probably for the better.
  • Typos, sorry
  • An interesting article but kinda misleading. You've not once actually detailed what iOS11 is actually borrowing or copying. I only read the article as i was curious to find out what, instead it comes across as a bit of Microsoft fanboyism (don't get me wrong I'm a fanboy too) with some apple hating which had been sugar coated in the form of MS did first and it took Apple 5 years to work it out. I normally enjoy your articles Zac but can't help feeling this is one of your worst done as a rush to meet a specified quota. Next time back your reasoning up with facts. I want to actually know what features are being copied it gives all us fanboy's more ammunition to wind up the apple fanboy's.
  • Maybe a better tablet mode could make a return as part of CShell. Heck, we're getting placeholders back so anything is possible... With options for vertical/horizontal scrolling, edge swipes and more... The point of CShell is that it adapts properly rather than re-jigging a one size fits all... May even head over to the feedback app and suggest it!
  • Windows 8 was great.
  • I think Zac is right on the money. When Windows 8 came out, I stuck to 7 on my desktop, but I bought a 7" Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet, and it sang on that, even with its measly Atom CPU. WIndows 8 was truly a great Tablet OS. But now, things are different. Windows and hardware have caught up to a point where a touch focus could work, but no one wants to listen now.
  • What a weird article.  I would not say that Windows 8 was primarily a tablet OS.  It was an OS that was Janus faced, with minimal instructions for users to learn new styles of using the OS.  It was the first iteration of an OS that was designed to work either on the desktop or on a tablet, allowing for future devices such as the Surface line.  There should not have been a separate tablet only OS, such an idea flies in the face of Microsoft's goal of a convergence, one OS all all devices.
  • Stupid article! So in less words.. Apple created. That's how every steal is taken for own creation! And for the average consumer.. That it'd be worth... 
  • I'm running windows 10, and it's the best version of windows. Those who think windows 10 is not better, they are nothing but fools... Microsoft always shows the future.. Thanks
  • Windows 10 has EXACTLY the same problem that Windows 8 had. You cannot just set it to use the older shell, as you could do in XP/Vista/7
    Most people wanted the Win7 start menu on Win8. You could not just switch back, you had to use 3rd party apps. Now some users, like me, want to use the clean startscreen of 8.1 instead of this hybrid solution. But at least we can turn "All apps" off, so it does not waste precious screen space.
    Anyways, I must agree with you, Windows 10 is the best Windows so far, but Windows was always about introducing new stuff without throwing out old stuff, and that is what they should have kept doing.
  • if they kept everything forvever, we would still have windows 95, and then ms would eventually lose more and more customers that are looking for an os with a more modern look to it. and turning off "All apps" wastes more screen space, as there's an even bigger empty space on the sides. however, i agree on the windows 8 start screen, i liked how it looked. i also liked the way windows 8 worked in general
  • Just give me an OS with Windows 8(.1)'s shell and Windows 10's functionality. 8.1 is better on tablets. 8.1 is better on laptops/desktops if one uses keyboard a lot. It's just easier to navigate with a keyboard than 10.
  • windows 8 wasn't wrong in whatever way, it was just very different. i used it on my desktop pc, and it was brilliant, even with mouse and keyboard. and on my surface pro 1 back in the day it was even better. it didn't need to switch between modes, like windows 10, and in my opinion it looked better than windows 10 too. i also liked that the desktop was like a seperate thing. when i used it as a tablet and didn't need the desktop it wasn't in the way, but if i did need it it was there, just the way i left it. the same way around, if i used it as a desktop, the apps weren't in the way, but if i needed them, they where there. now with windows 10, it isn't really touch friendly in either desktop or tablet mode, tablet mode now feels more like a fullscreen mode to me, and doesn't improve touch input at all, and the few things that are touch friendly, like gestures, are available in both modes anyway. windows 8 and 10 both have their pro's and cons. this article is based on opinion, but it is brought as a fact, which itself is wrong.
  • Ok. So based on this article. MS is either too early. Or too late. And even when they fix it... They over do it and then they're either forward or backward again. Why aren't they moving more quickly. They need to allocate more resources to GET THIS **** DONE because i WANT WINDOWS MOBILE TO BE IN MY LIFE BUT ITS SO DIFFICULT RIGHT NOW :( it's like the engine is running but no one is behind the wheel.
  • I enjoyed using Windows 8 even on a regular computer. I wish they would bring back the quick app switching by placing your mouse pointer in the corner.
  • Easily one of the worst articles you guys have put out.
  • I liked the tablet aspects in Windows 8, Windows 8.1 was better and currently use the Hybrid like ui in Windows 10. I have used W8/W10 on touch and non touch devices, many features really work best if you have a touch input system.   Cheers, BR
  • This article is quite a mess. Yeah, Microsoft did a risky thing to impose a touch-oriented OS onto users of a desktop but the perception of the users does nothing to the OS itself.
    The reasoning is therefore inconclusive that the bad reception made Windows 8 a bad OS, it was simply the wrong OS for the wrong users at a wrong time. They could have solved this by making the interface redundant by enabling to switch between a touch-oriented and desktop-oriented UI but they chose to have a confusing mix of both.
  • I can not wait for your next article when Apple shove iOS down their users throat with desktop options.
    When windows 8.1 came it was revolutionary forward thinking to what you see what windows have morphed into today.
    Their theme and thought process was One OS rule all devices. An OS that can adapt to device sizes and types or form factor, a computing world where what type of OS you are using, type of input is removed as a limitation or concerns for the user.
    users can just buy any form factor device, any size without worry of UI / Features experiences, this ultimately let OEM to be more competitively creative. In my opinion, limited minded tech writers, competing Os followers defending their choice and those who have hated MSFT and Balmer for a long time, plus non forward thinking Win-7 users and largely lazy win32 app developers made wind0ws 8.1 look bad. A ton of forward thinking features done then and now are been copied by Apple and Google which most them shouted then that as bad and folks like you echoed Apple and Google, now y'all are twisting the argument that the world was not ready in 2012 or 2013, or some lame argument that MSFT did not execute them well "What a load of cr#$". I have always thought where MFST is going is realy good and believed in that very vision. Did MSFT make mistake(s) along this said journey, Absolutely yes, There are times I think they are slow to roll out some awesome features, or kill some really good ones for whining folks. We all know Apple never make any mistake along the way, they just shove no ports down their users throat, remove earplug 3.5, sell them dongles and tell them it is good for them and folks like you once again shout Hurray Great Apple with its forward thinking are moving their users along and these poor souls will get use to the program, if these were done by MSFT, all hell will break loose. Please stop spreading bad rumor that windows 10 tablet portion is a joke, it is ridiculously awesome.
  • Ummmm.... what? Zac are you smoking something? This is exactly what drives most sane people nuts. Someone claiming that Apple can do no wrong and can borrow ideas from others and suddenly it is the most innovative thing in history. And the company who came up with it just did it wrong. It's stupid. This article is stupid. And Zac I am sorry to say, but this article just switched my entire view of you. I believe the article entirely sums you up. And that is not a good thing. Good job to WindowsCentral for being able to post such cr*p like this. And way to go down the rabbit hole of Apple sheeple. This might actually be the start of me leaving WC (some people on here might rejoice about that statement lol :) ). Rubino, if you're here, get this garbage out of here.
  • I couldn't agree with you more.
  • *I Said it before and I will say it again before Windows 8 came out there should have been You Tube Video tutorials on how to find and use the charms and the reason for the metro tiles. MS CEO Ballmer should have just put Windows 8 on Tablets and  All in one desktop computers that had touch screens. All Desktops PC's, laptops and Windows Tablet computers, ultra books that did'nt have touch screens or a touch screen monitor would get a good old Windows 7 Desktop type screen because they are mouse and keyboard devices. If MS CEO Ballmer had done this Microsoft would have good revews on the new touch screen/ tablet tiles OS design and people who did not have or want a touch screen Monitor would have had their tried and true desktop for their old Mouse and keyboard. In other words the metro tiles would have just been on Tablets like The First "Surface" Tablet /laptop hybrid or All in one PC's  with a touch screen. There woould not have been the BIG STINK  Windows 8 got and Ballmer would have come out a HERO and Microsoft  got rewards for an exciting new tablet interface. in Fact Microsoft did get Awards for the Metro tiles interface