December 3rd, 2010

monkey pirate

You, I

Chances are you've got an Apple product near you. Pick it up and take a look at the UI. With it's ever more powerful and higher resolution screens, Apple has concentrated on making its UI look like real objects that you interact with as if you were poking something that's actually there, rather than a cluster of pixels. Apple is really good at UI, it's one of the things they do best. Actually, in my opinion, it's the only thing they do well - everything else Apple does is either mediocre, overpriced, or moderately evil. But the UI? Beautiful, clear and largely intuitive.

Microsoft has gone in the other direction. The latest Xbox update, the latest windows phone - they make no effort to appear 3-D, or to emulate real objects. Instead the fields and menu items are "flat" color blocks with no faux beveling, no dimesionality, no depth. Their point is probably not to conserve on processing power (MS clearly doesn't care about that) but rather to not try and pretend that a computer-generated UI is a natural object.

It's two very different design philosophies, and I wonder which one will end up being more influential. Traditionally, Apple does design better and MS does business better - so this might end up a regrettable and weird phase of MS's design aesthetic. Or maybe the computers of the future will look like....well, computers. And not sucked-on lozenges of beach-glass.
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