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.
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.