Paul Thurrott on computer interfaces metaphors, on the subject of XP (task-based, iterative) versus Mac OS X (the desktop). The Mac interface is consistent with clear differences between applications, documents and the file-system -- but Windows is contextual and makes use of "special folders exposed through the Start Menu that make handling photos, music, and other documents simple. When you launch these (and other) folders--directly from the Start Menu that Mac users think to be so silly--you'll see good examples of the task-based aspect of XP in action. Select a photo, open a folder full of photos, or whatever, and you'll see a list of tasks applicable to those file types. Including print. You don't have to worry about the app. There's nothing like this in OS X, which make you think app first. An odd approach: Shouldn't the computer do the heavy lifting?" Wizards (Windows' iterative approach to common tasks) also get a mention -- the Mac has previously tried to make all tasks atomic so there's no special mode to follow a process (modeless interfaces being a good thing), but this is lapsing in recent years. Could the Window's alternative make sense?
I very much like that there's a clear interface design vision behind Windows. It's improving steadily, and I also like that it's fundamentally different from the Mac 'vision' (quoted because I don't believe there's currently such a deeply grounded one). I'm not a fan of the Windows vision myself, but so long as there are bright, deep-thinkers there, that can only be a good thing. Some of the roots of the recent direction can be seen in this 2001 article on Microsoft's Inductive User Interface as trialed on Microsoft Money 2000 (there are before-and-after screenshots).