Keeping Your OS an OS, and the UI the UI

HTC, best known for its wide range of Windows Mobile devices, today announced the Touch Diamond, an update to its Touch device released several months back. The Touch was notable because of the TouchFLO UI, an HTC-created, customized user interface that ran on top of Windows Mobile. The Diamond features a new version, called TouchFLO 3D, that looks way slicker. It looks gorgeous — so much so that you might almost forget you’re using a Windows Mobile device. Check out this video:

Windows Mobile, in this case, is really just the OS, separated from the user interface by HTC. That fits with something I’ve been wondering about for a while: will the top mobile operating systems of the future be the ones that make this sort of UI customization the easiest? This is a growing trend. Apart from HTC, Sony Ericsson is adding its own UI on top of WinMo for the XPERIA X1, Asus has shown off its own UI enhancements, and there’s some other examples.

And this goes along with the continued trend of some pretty bad user interfaces. I’ve used the new Windows Mobile 6.1, which was billed as having a number of UI improvements, but they’re not much help in the overall mess of things. S60 has gotten faster and had some marginal improvements, but it’s still not the most usable interface around.

Perhaps we’re seeing a couple of things: either people viewing Windows Mobile as a decent OS if you can totally hide the native UI, or enough frustration with the state of smartphone UIs to where people are just scrapping them in favor of their own. So will the leading mobile OSes of the future be those that come without a UI, and make it the easiest for UI designers to make their own?

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