Of late, a lot of people have been pointing to Microsoft as the superior company when it comes to interface design, citing the mostly very smart Windows 7 and Windows 8. The problem is, not all interface design scales, and when you go very minimal, interfaces can lose any sense of tactility and make it hard to focus. Peter Bright of Ars Technica’s shot of Office 2013 highlights that the opposite of Apple’s current design aesthetic isn’t necessarily any better. Acres of white space lead the eye to flick all over the design, making it hard to focus on the content (which is the smallish box on the right, with “This is an inline reply” in it). It’s unclear which components are buttons and which are content areas. Worse, there’s no sense of warmth at all. This feels like an email client designed to appeal to people bereft of emotion. In short, it’s every bit as horrible as Apple’s worst UI design, just in a very different way.
As part of another follow-up discussion, Rian van der Merwe discusses the appropriateness of in-/visible design.
Not to start that whole thing again, but where Apple has had a knack for bringing progressive products to the consumer market, Microsoft has always had a knack for creating videos about the kinds of products it would like to be able to bring to market… but never does.
The latest is the Productivity Future Vision from the Office division, which like all their videos, looks great (and probably would interact horrible in a real-world scenario):
I suspect these videos are made not only by outside agencies (if you know different, let me know), but entirely by graphic designers who dream about interaction design, but never had to realize their ideas in the real world.
It’s a bit like having a great print-only designer design a website; it looks great, until it has to actually live inside a browser.
Dreams are for sleeping; it’s time to wake up.
You think imitation leather is the biggest problem facing interface design today? Think again.
It doesn’t even make sense to break down what’s wrong with it, because it’s basically everything, and reveals a baffling lack of insight into how users interact with their computers.
But at least the post gives us some interesting telemetry data from the Explorer. Data that is theoretically as applicable to any file-based OS – say OS X – as it is to Windows.
Now we don’t get much data about the data, but it’s still extremely interesting, and what’s so striking to me, is that Cut, Copy and Paste are in fact some of the most used commands,
and they’re not even available in the Finder on OS X. It always seemed weird, but for all I knew, most people never cut and pasted files. It seems they do.
Of course the Finder couldn’t merge folders until Lion, so perhaps it’s simply a matter of it not getting enough attention at Apple, or perhaps there is a genuine reason behind this decision. I don’t know.
Another thing that strikes me, is the Refresh command. Yes kids, there was once when we would have to manually refresh the Explorer to see changes to our file system. And as you can see, it is still in wide use.
No major surprises there, but it’s always nice to know what the market looks like today in terms of resolution.
What the hell is going on at Microsoft? How did this clusterfuck come out of the same team that did this?:
Updated: Cut, copy and paste are indeed available through keyboard shortcuts in the Finder; I must have tested wrong when I wrote this post. Thank you Karl for pointing out my error.
Microsoft has had a history of letting Office set the direction of their interface design, which tells you everything you need to know about why the interface is getting more and more complicated. I think Paris Lemon said it best. ↩
“This data is pretty solid and given the hundreds of millions of data points, it gives us a very clear picture of average usage across the population as a whole” is all it says, though it seems likely from later comments that it’s exclusive to Windows 7, though it doesn’t say how many users, what the demographical breakdown is or over how much time the data was collected. ↩
If you don’t follow gaming news, this may have slipped by you, but trust me when I tell you that it’ll blow up everywhere in a day or two.
OnLive is basically a platform for playing a game that sits on a remote server, streaming the video to you over the internet. It sounds fantastic, awesome, revolutionary in a big way, and entirely implausible. At first I dismissed it, but the more I hear about it, the more I believe in it. Unless Sony and Microsoft manage to cock-block it, it’ll absolutely change the gaming industry.
If you’re even remotely interested in games, you owe it to yourself to check out the press conference video.
If this works—and that’s a big if, mind you—you’ll virtually never have to worry about upgrading your console again, because everything is run server-side. Games will be cheaper, faster delivered and you can’t lose or scratch the disc! As a developer, depending on how the OnLive business model will end up working, we also are no longer shackled by system specs. Piracy goes out the window. Noisy or defective components? Not a problem. And it works on your TV, your PC or your Mac! You can literally be playing on the TV, the wife comes in to watch Oprah, and you just flip up your MacBook and continue! The implications are absolutely mind boggling. And that’s just games; how about on-demand films and TV?
This is a game changer, pun and all.
Fire you OS designers and have your visualization department do the OS interface instead.
... No, scratch that.
Hire Microsoft’s visualization department.
Dear Mr. Mattrick,
My 360 broke down with red ring of death a while back. Tragically, with the 360 having a 16.4% failure-rate, there’s nothing unusual about that.
What is unusual, is just how difficult it turns out to be to get my 360 repaired. Especially considering just how many millions of consoles that must be going through your system; I kind of thought you would’ve would have streamlined the process to help your users, since it is such an outspread problem.
Having had several iPod’s as well as my Powerbook’s firewire port die on me, you’d think I would have hated Apple by now. But quite the contrary; I understand that hardware dies. It’s brittle stuff. But their support process was so easy and so fast, that I don’t even think about it. In fact, it was almost some sort of absurd pleasure.
- On apple.com/support, enter serial number, describe problem and request repair.
- Received, the following day the material needed for mailing the product.
- Step, step step, I followed the simple instructions.
- Have receptionist call delivery guy.
- Wait a couple of days.
- Get product back (in case of iPod’s, entirely new).
This is entirely contrary to my 360 adventure so far, which will forever combine the 360 and ‘support hell’ in my head:
- Go to xbox.com/support.
- Search for ‘red ring of death’. No results.
- Enter 360 serial in user profile, perhaps to request repair? No; it seems like there is no no particular use for the serial.
- Look around for instructions to a problem affecting at least 16.4% of the user base… They’re meager and so corporate it isn’t funny.
- Decide to mail Microsoft, to avoid phone robots and outsourced support in India.
- Receive 100% robot reply with no information what so ever.
- Reply to ask if they can help me out.
- Finally call Microsoft support. Talk to the most boring and unimpressed robot drone I have ever talked to! He’s in India and so reading from a script he should’ve gotten an academy nomination. Convince him to send me the shipping label. This takes almost half an hour. 30 minutes… Of “please hold sir, while I process”. This guy has never played a game in his life…
- Understand that I need to print my own label. Get my own box (and it specifically cannot be a 360 or Microsoft box!). Get my own packaging material… WHAT?!
- Wonder what happens if the 360 breaks in the mail due to insufficient packaging; do I pay, or do they?
- I get the e-mail with the label. It wasn’t written for teenage boys, let me tell you.
- I wait a few days, because I need to bring the 360 in to work.
- Today I try to print the label, I get: “Error: Label information is not available, because the shipment is older than ten days. (Error Code: 300006 )” and no way of contacting anyone to get the fucking thing.
- Want to strangle someone and seriously considering either simply buying a new one (no, I won’t give you the pleasure) or simply never getting my 360 up and running again.
Let’s consider this for a moment. Microsoft has sold 18 million Xbox 360 consoles. 18 MILLION! EIGHT-EEN MILLION!
That’s three consoles for every man woman and child living in Denmark.
16.4%, at least, of those consoles are breaking down. It’s unknown whether the newer consoles are better in this regard, but let’s say they are, and that only the first half of the 360’s suffer from this problem. That’s, let’s see… then you have to borrow, one up… 1.476.000 consoles that have gotten red ring of death.
How in the HELL can there not be a streamlined system for getting these things repaired?! How was that not put in place years ago? It’s insane! Absolutely insane.
We’re talking 1.5 MILLION consoles that have broken down over a period of two and a half years.
Roughly speaking, that’s 1645 consoles a day! A DAY!
Let’s be extremely generous and say that 90% of those repairs go right on through, without being routed through India—I don’t believe they do, but let’s just for the sake of argument say that they do—that still leaves 165 people every single day who have to put of with an avalanche of bullshit, just so they can pour even more money into Microsoft when they buy new games for the damned thing.
It’s nice that Peter Morre promised a 3-year warranty on the red ring of death problem, but isn’t that a rather worthless gesture, when the real problem is your entire support network being absolutely insufficient to deal with the problem? Since you can’t build the hardware to last, at least streamline the repair process. That way you won’t get 165 people a day, flip-flopping from loving to hating your console; like me.
Don’t buy a Xbox 360. It’s noisy and it breaks.
And when it does, you’re on your own.
Update: I’ve sent this entry directly to Donald Mattrick, the Senior Vice President of the Interactive Entertainment Business division at Microsoft. As I also stated in the mail, this entry was written when I was very pissed off, but as I’ve now re-read it several times over, I stand by every word of it (to the extent of course, that my guesstimates are even remotely close).
The support system as it operates from the outside, is severely lacking, especially in the light of such serious issues.
Whether the Xbox 360 has a mere 3% failure rate or not, is irrelevant, according to Peter Moore. My personal estimate is about ten times that, but hey, what do I know? And besides, Bill Gates is promising more reliability, so… Stop snickering.
Now, what is relevant, whether Microsoft wants to stand by it or not, is them partaking in prolonging the HD format war. One thing is technically crippling the 360 by allowing people to buy it without a built-in HDD or even an optical HD drive. If you’ve played the stream-fest that is Mass Effect, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
The horror. The horror.
But now that Warner Brothers, and by proxy, New Line Cinema, a subsidiary of Time Warner, have dedicated themselves to Blu-Ray, swinging the market to 70% in favor of Sony’s horribly named format, could Microsoft possibly be expected to still cling to the sinking ship, the SS HD DVD? The answer is: of course.
While the article states that Microsoft might possibly look into Blu-ray, we just want to emphasize that there are no current plans to consider Blu-ray as an option. Microsoft continues to be dedicated to the HD DVD format
And this, just as everyone breathed a sigh of relief of not having to once again choose sides, because after all, Paramount, the owner of among many other things, Indiana Jones, had chosen Blu-Ray as well. The war was, as John and Yoko sang it, over. If they wanted it. But they didn’t.
Now Michael Bay might be many things, and this might very well be nothing more than a conspiracy theory, but doesn’t it feel just a bit too plausible?:
Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu Ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads. Time will tell and you will see the truth.
Bill Gates sort of supported this theory during CES:
Despite omitting HD DVD in his speech, Gates did respond to a question about the format war in an interview with USA Today. However, he did not specifically address the newspaper’s question as to whether the Warner endorsement would “kill” HD DVD.
Instead, he told the newspaper that Paramount’s decision to endorse HD DVD last August helped the format do well during the holidays.
And then he added that movie downloads will eventually “be the dominant way that people get their movies.”
Now I’m all for digital distribution. I wanted it 10 years ago. But living not only in Europe, but on a small spec of German buffer territory called Denmark, I also know the odds of proper digital distribution hitting us within the next 5 years. Namely none.
For all intents and purposes, the two formats are similar. Playing next to each other, you couldn’t tell them apart if your life depended on it. So why can’t we all just be friends, choose one of the two formats and get on with our lives?
Oh, that’s right, ‘we’ already did:
No. of discs sold in 2007:
Blu-ray: 5.7 million (64% or $172.8 million)
HD DVD: 3.2 million (36% or $97.2 million)
Discs sold since inception:
Blu-ray: 6.1 million (62%)
HD DVD: 3.7 million (38%)
And it should be noted in the same breath that there are probably more Blu-Ray players in the world because of the PS3, which contrary to the 360 did ship with both a HDD and an optical HD format (oh, and HDMI). Not only that, but the Blu-Ray is a superior format to boot! Not to mention that more titles are currently available on Blu-Ray than HD DVD, 415 vs. 344.
About the only thing the HD DVD format has on Blu-Ray is a total lack of region encoding. Yes, you read that right. No region encoding. Coming from a man who recently lost his only region-free DVD player and thusly has no way of playing his Apocalypse Now: Redux (The Complete Dossier) or Hearts of Darkness, neither of which are available on region 2, you best believe that is a selling point worthy of being shouted from the mountain. Luckily, the majority of Blu-Ray movies lack region encoding as well.
But despite this advantage and the apocalyptically ugly blue transparent cases apparently mandated for Blu-Ray movies, that is nonetheless where I’ve decided to put my money.
So please, Paramount, and sure, yeah, Microsoft, for the sake of consumers everywhere. War is over. If you want it.
I want my Indiana Jones in HD.
Slap me around and call me an opinionated buffoon, but media from on high and way down the long tail need to snap out of their Safari-hatin’ and at least pretend that they understand that the product they are faulting for security issues, instability and various other bugs is in fact, a beta.
I don’t know how many basement-analysts I’ve read since monday, that are ignorantly treating it as a finalized product, despite the fact that it’s a beta. And the first beta at that. Hell, it is the first time this thing has set foot on Windows!
Oblivious to the fact that beta’s are released, because they need testing, these keyboard-breathers haphazardly throw together misinformed opinions and lackluster ‘tests’ (for shame Wired, for shame).
Now if Apple had the reputation of Microsoft when it came to neglecting their browsers, that’d be one thing, but despite the fact that I don’t even use Safari as my primary browser, I will fight Apple’s fight any day of the week on this, as they have managed to craft a damn good browser, which I wouldn’t think twice about letting my mother use.
And not only that, they don’t set it adrift down the river, they actually update it continually and Dave Hyatt has been open and welcoming Safari users on the Surfin’ Safari blog for years!
If you’re not responsible enough to add the ‘it’s still a beta, so there’s still a long way to go’ caveat to your ‘analysis’, you’re not old enough to publish on the internet.
Now go to your room and think about what you’ve done.