Why Windows 8 is Flat and Ugly and Why iOS 7 Should Not Follow

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I used to love Windows.

Windows 7 was beautiful. It had style. It had texture. It seemed alive. When one of those gorgeous glass-bordered windows opened, it felt like a forgotten treasure submerging from the calm surface of a pond.

Enter Windows 8, Microsoft’s Post-it Note inspired operating system. Those once-stunning transparent-edged windows are replaced by flat, lifeless lines, as if Windows 3.1 had risen from the grave. Gaudy, flat tiles and primitive graphics attempt to dazzle us, but only succeed in getting in our way.

Many think Microsoft’s design choice was a matter of aesthetics. That is not so.

Recognizing the popularity of the iPad, Microsoft knew it had to make an entry into the tablet market or risk irrelevance. Ignoring 99.99% of their customers, who use laptops and desktop computers to get their work done, they designed their Window 8 operating system around a non-existent market: The Windows tablet.

In order for a Windows tablet to succeed, Microsoft knew tablets sold with Windows 8 would have to match, among other things, the iPad’s long battery life. But how could they do that? Microsoft makes software, not hardware. It would be impossible for Microsoft to force PC makers to match the engineering marvel that is the iPad.

If they can’t make hardware, they can control the operating system. They realized if they dumped the beautiful Windows 7 Aero Glass for simple, Windows 3.1-like objects, it would require less processing power to draw those simple objects on the screen. Less processing power means less battery draw, hence a longer battery life.

Thus, Microsoft unilaterally declares that Windows 7’s look and feel is out of style and replaces it with the unappealing, two-dimensional display that we have come to loathe; and, like every other Star Trek movie, Windows 8 proves to be a disaster.

Personally, Windows 8 made me jump from a PC to a Mac. And, having made the conversion, I absolutely love it. I have never been happier. Thanks, Microsoft, for screwing up so badly that I left.

I was therefore stunned to learn recently that Apple has redesigned their gorgeous iOS to make it flat and lifeless, too. Defying all reason, Apple has decided to steal Windows 8’s flat, lifeless design and put it in their iOS 7.  (If you were going to copy answers from your neighbor, you wouldn’t cheat off the F student who never gets his homework done, would you? Read: Microsoft. No, you would cheat off an A student like, I don’t know, Apple maybe.)

It’s true that many iPhone and iPad users, myself included, have been clamoring for Apple to innovate its stale looking iOS 6 with its boring grid of icons. Yet no one complained they didn’t like the look of the display; we only wanted more functionality and interconnectivity with our apps. Maybe throw us a widget or two.

By following Microsoft, Apple is blowing a huge chance to differentiate itself in the market. Don’t like the primitive, childish objects in Windows 8 or the minimalist design of your Google phone? Come on over to Apple. We’ll give you something to show off on that beautiful Retina display of yours. If iOS 7 looks like everyone else’s phone, what’s to stop consumers to from switching to phones with larger screens, or to manufacturers that update their hardware more than once a year?

What is Apple thinking?

Many years ago, Apple founder Steve Jobs left the company. What followed was one deplorable decision after the next, resulting in Apple’s near extinction. Jobs eventually returned to Apple, not only reviving it but taking it to heights previously unimagined.

With Steve Job’s tragic death in 2011, investors and consumers have been holding their breaths, waiting for that first really bad decision to come out of Apple that would spell the beginning of the end for its dominance in the market.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it looks like that bad decision has arrived.

iOS 8 Preview

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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21 thoughts on “Why Windows 8 is Flat and Ugly and Why iOS 7 Should Not Follow

  1. I’m not sure this is “that” bad decision but I totally agree with you about how ugly and quite frankly unfriendly the whole flat UI design thing is. I’m still running Gingerbread 2.3.3 on my Galaxy S2 because despite Jelly Bean being available for it I hate the flat lifeless look of everything post Ice Cream Sandwich. I just can’t believe how sheep like all the designers are with making everything flat!

  2. Chris says:

    Windows 8 looks better than cheap, glitzy 7. But Windows XP looks better than both 7 and 8.

  3. Am I getting old or is it just sad? says:

    so true… 😦

  4. DG says:

    The new iOS 7 is a big dissapointment.
    I spend 700GBP on a new iphone just now after having had all the others, because I like the phone and design.
    It looks professional and attractive.
    I will try to prolong the uldate on my phone as long as possible but eventually my phone will be “old” and a new one will need to come in.
    Knowing apple they will not allow older versions being installed so they are forcing us to adapt to their drastic decision of changing the iOS completely, so not too sure anymore if my next phone will be an iphone.
    We all have out preferences and I’m sure some people will like this change, but let’s see what the majority will say.

    Sorry Apple, but after last year it seems like wrong decisions are being followed by even more wrong decisions.

  5. Mike K says:

    I’m shocked at Apple’s design for IOS7. One would think that they’d see what is obviously a disaster (Win8) and steer clear. Please consider making ‘flat’ an option so we can still upgrade and not loose what we already have and love.

  6. Blue says:

    You are so damn right about Apples fail with iOS7!

  7. Manuel says:

    The new iOS 7 is really ugly 😦
    Hopefully the apps work for long time with iOS 6… When the time has come, my next Phone won’t be an iPhone!

  8. hastati95 says:

    I agree … I just don’t get how that flat and boring kind of designs became the new norm .. the iOS7 design looks like it’s been done with Paint .. just to see that red, ugly camera button makes me think that the guys at Apple must have been high or something when they designed it. I still kinda hope they’ll change their mind about the design but I doubt it.
    but well .. just like Manuel said, my next phone won’t be an iPhone

  9. Joa says:

    I really really hate windows 8, with the stupid, ugly flat tiles.. I keep getting flashbacks from windows 3.11
    It all started with Chromes icon.. which went from glossy 3D like perfection to a flat crappy one. Then comes Microsoft that had a nice look in Win 7, and mess i up. Totally.
    With touch it’s OK to use, but still looks awfull. Poor Nokia with that use the ugly OS from MS.
    How in the world can Apple think it’s a good idea to start to copy the awful flat ugly design? I miss Jobs… a LOT.
    They had the good looks, and should just have focused on freshing up the UI a bit. It looks/feels old compared to Android.
    Give me eye candy or lose me as a customer. It’s that simple.
    MS will not get me as a customer with Windows 8
    Apple will not get me as a customer with flat design AND their walled garden system.
    Nokia will not get me as a customer before they make an Android phone.
    How long time will it take before they see what people really want?
    Do a fuc***g marked research BEFORE stupid desisions are made.

  10. Hamranhansenhansen says:

    Another Microsoft parallel in iOS 7 is XP and Vista. Windows users in 2006 wanted the evolved “XP part 2” that they had been asking for, but instead got a rip-off of Mac OS X that was essentially what Mac users already had. That is why Vista basically lacked an audience. So XP was orphaned, and almost 50% of Windows users still use it, one of the worst platform schisms in software development ever.

    Almost all iOS users are on 6. What they almost all want is “6 part 2.” You can tell this because customer satisfaction is 95%. They want a better keyboard, not the same old keyboard painted white. They want improvements like Control Center and UI Dynamics, but not arbitrary changes like icon grid and invisible buttons.

    I think the problem is that Apple today and Microsoft in 2003–2006 (as they did Vista) approached the UI as if it were a graphic design project making a website or print campaign. They chose a typeface, color scheme, and a distinctive style. The thing is, a systemwide UI should have no style, it should be dressed in black jumper and jeans like a cameraman, so it fades into the background. Windows should not look like the Microsoft website; iOS should not look like the Apple website. iOS 6 is much plainer than it is given credit for because people focus on the linen or whatever. But linen is plain. It fades into the background. By comparison, iOS 7’s graphic designers wag their tail in your face at every turn. Look at our style! No, I don’t want to do that 10 hours a day year after year. I don’t want my apps and icons to be uniform and all have the same style, I want diversity in the extreme, with each app being itself so that they are memorable and distinctive. A clock that looks like it has been printed on paper in the 1970’s is not more satisfying than a clock that looks like a real clock. Real is easy to ignore. Cartoons are not.

  11. Channel 2012 says:

    Thanks for saying that on behalf of basically everyone. Windows 8 is a visual abomination. Will Bill Gates-less Microsoft be able to pull its own head out of its ass soon enough to realize that nobody wants this dull and fugly look? I’m thinking not (Nobody wanted it on “Windows Mobile Phone 7 series”). Windows users will probably stick with the visually superior XP, Vista, and 7 for as long as they can, and then most will jump to either OSX (if they can tolerate the obnoxious mouse acceleration) or Ubuntu.

    I mean, people whine about the start menu and “corner features” in “windows 8”, but those things don’t annoy me nearly as much as the butt fugly lack of transparency and the nasty rainbow of single colors and black text in its place – it’s just cringe inducing and I can’t stand it. It’s a shame that

    • brimercer says:

      I have a friend, who feels the same way, put it this way: Windows 8 is like a party and I like going to parties, but I don’t want to be at a party all the time.

  12. Hamranhansenhansen says:

    I could not agree more. The day before iOS 7 was introduced, I was still defending Tim Cook and the rest of Apple to all doubters. After iOS 7, I froze all Apple ecosystem investments (after 15 straight years, including original iPad, iPhone, iPod, Mac OS X) and resigned myself that my Apple devices were orphaned and to using iOS 6.1 through 2014. I hope Scott Forestall ends up at Google or Microsoft so I can follow him there. The hardware is almost meaningless — I need software that has art in it, that doesn’t feel like the inside of an architect’s bathroom. And there wasn’t a single feature of iOS 7 that was relevant to me. Not sure who it is designed for, but it is not me.

    Notice that Jobs introduced new things you could do with a new software release, but iOS 7 was introduced with an unwanted design lesson about grids. Notice that Jobs used quotes from NY Times and WSJ to comment on new software, while during 2013, Apple used gadget blogs and Computerworld. Notice that everything Jobs introduced was beautiful and has art in it, not just design and engineering like iOS 7.

  13. John Doe says:

    I think if Linux was more popular, it would be the best choice- it has some of the things people switch to OSX for but you don’t have to be locked in to apple’s universe, and it runs on regular hardware. It just doesn’t have quite enough support from the people making the hardware and some of the people writing software.

  14. Great article! I understand that good functions matters more than looks but please… I have to vomit if I keep looking at those terrible black-and-white paper-like windows in win8 (seriously I feel bad when watching it for a long time). Tiles are also crap for desktop… I even have some problems with win7’s look so I always use 3rd party programs to make it look like Vista. Yeah good old times. Vista was beautiful and clearly looks better than any later released OS. I don’t know did they kill the Vista theme designer or infected him with Metro virus? I don’t understand why they made the menus white in Win7 in the first place…
    And I never believed that anyone can make worse UI than Metro… until Apple came with its new UI… and Google starts to do it too… I noticed the changing of Chrome’s icon too. They’re all insane.

  15. Red Velvet Cake says:

    Hehheh…”inside of an architect’s bathroom”…”flat and boring kind of designs became the new norm”…..Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I never can look at a picture of the Win8 screen very long because it’s so annoying. Only 2 (maybe 3?) of the 7 to 10 programs I use for 10 hours a day, every day, even appear on that screen. And it’s so much WORK to figure out which tile has a program that I actually use. I just have to look away, saying, “No! No! No! Nothing on that screen is *MINE*! Where are MY PROGRAMS?”

    I can’t believe they actually PAID someone big bucks to design that ugly, UGLY not-ready-for-primetime-backstage!

    I don’t even want to touch it. 😛

    Just give me a DOS prompt if you can’t do better than that!

  16. Artur Bross says:

    Apple now has more money than god himself, they will not go bankrupt tomorrow, but their glory will not come back either. Without Jobs all good stuff are gone. 😦

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