The Apple-Microsoft Energizer Bunny.

 

In 1989 Energizer hijacked the Duracell Bunny thus for most parts of the world hijacking the iconic toy from Duracell.

Today I saw a Microsoft`ee still praise the company for its efforts in Metro design style in the Windows Phone. Asserting that basically Apple has copied them and they (Microsoft) will soon be rewarded for such greatness.

The cautionary tale here for me is this. Apple are great …no…they are surgically brilliant at design, not just in their own marketing but it embodies everything they do and beyond.

Microsoft….well…don’t. They have moments but often you can automatically sense the hesitation in executing their design (as if to say they have design sugar rushes). Point in case is Windows 8, start screen is interesting, parts of the way in which you design applications are different but then …nothing… AppStore was a sad existence to stare at and the whole strategy around cultivating, nurturing, evangelising and so much more the design itself simply fell silent.

My point today is simple, Apple copying or not copying Microsoft – who cares – isn’t a point for the company to celebrate. It’s a pretty loud warning shot across the design bow, that simply says – step up and lead, or step aside but make  a choice.

 

 

 

Related Posts:

Surface 2 – The shotgun approach to marketing

Most people by now would have seen all the announcements surrounding the new Microsoft Surface 2. These announcements pretty much outline the new refined measures taken to make the tablet/laptops more compelling in the eyes of its targeted consumers.

That is essentially what I want to talk about today, the targeted consumers.

If you look at Microsoft Surface on its own in isolation outside the competing influences the product itself is reasonably well designed. It has the benefits of a laptop and tablet in one whilst at the same time runs all your Windows specific applications natively (assuming your not subscribed to ARM constraints).

The reality however it’s not looked at in this light from a consumer and retail mindset. The product today is positioned as a Tablet, meaning its job is to compete against products that iPad and Android occupy quite heavily which means the category itself is quite saturated and has consumers conditioned to approach a tablet as a middle ground between Mobile and Laptop (i.e. the spectrum between Mobile Device and Laptops were defined, tablets would probably sit neatly in the middle).

Furthermore, the Surface Pro also is often not associated as being different within retail stores from these competing tablet products and is often found on the same shelf space as their counterparts. The only real distinguishable difference between a Surface and other products on the shelf is the Windows 8 tile screen and maybe the blue/pink keyboard(s).

Once you acknowledge that the Surface Pro is now in a heated battle around gaining attention of consumers with other tablets they are also equally in a fierce competitive battle over price (which is slowly in many ways becoming a race to the price bottom given tablets are losing their social currency – i.e. nothing *really* new is happening in terms of points of difference).

Occupying the Tablet category is not easy challenge for any company but with Surface Pro it doesn’t end there. No, they also now have to compete equally in the Laptop category and given most retail channels like BestBuy prefer to position the products in the Tablet Category they also have to find ways to claw out of that and reposition the product also in the Laptop marketing category.

That’s where it also gets slightly difficult because those distinguishing signatures that I mentioned earlier around Windows 8 tile screen no longer are unique, as all competing hardware makers use that as well. So now you’re competing on brand loyalty, price and hardware specifications.

Competing on those fronts isn’t easy as not only do you as Microsoft now have skin in the hardware game you also have a smaller shelf space to occupy – much like Coke vs Pepsi in Super Market(s). Dell, Samsung, HP etc. all have maybe 3-4 products at any given point sitting on the shelf as well and can afford to keep pumping out different iterations faster given this is  their core business.

Hopefully I’ve painted a picture that will give you a moment of pause to think beyond the actual product itself and moreover how do you gain the attention of the potential consumer. As it’s not about “I have the best quality product of all” because in reality nobody can accurately say for sure that’s true. It’s the 2nd generation attempt at entering a market that the 1st generation has failed on. Moreover the pricing for the product(s) isn’t exactly a bliss point entry because should they become successful the competitors will find ways to undercut or fight more aggressively to retain relevance.

 Can all this be done though?

I think it could be done if the right ingredients were in place, first of all you’d need to find a way to frame the proposition you’re putting forward to your consumers in terms they understand – that is, you have to convince every user out there that having a tablet/laptop in one is what they need & want.

Secondly, you will need to find a way to separate your product from the herd in the retail channel because right now although the brand Microsoft and Windows are attached to the said product(s) it’s also attached to the competing brands as well (ie its over-used and saturated). Microsoft have to work their product line like Apple does, by having a separate table / shelf for their products to occupy and be distinguished from the rest.

Thirdly you have to find a way to become the circuit breaker for the taxonomy of online retail, by opening up a new category “both” as if you’re going to say the product on one hand is a tablet and a laptop then you need to find a way to position the products in that light. If you position in the tablet category (like today) then your $2,000 AUD Surface top of the range model will stand out as being insanely expensive for a tablet?

If you in turn occupy the Laptop then you’re $899 AUD tablet with low specs looks cheap but fails on hardware specifications – moreover you also run the risk of positioning the brand as a “cheap” solution thus potentially poisoning your own well (ie “Surface = Cheap crap” perception could easily run unmanaged).

The reality is Microsoft really haven’t got a structured story here with Surface Pro, it’s what I’d call a “shotgun” approach to competing with Apple/Google. In that it appears they are just collapsing the products for the sake of compete rather than actually trying to disrupt the behaviour we humans have around mobility.

The product itself isn’t a measured response, its just reactive and filled with a lot of panic around how to solve this problem. The entire thing could be handled much carefully and strategically by simply easing into the above categories with momentum behind them vs just trying to force their way into the mindset of consumers that all-in-one is the best strategy.

Lastly assuming they abandon these silly ads with people jumping around clicking keyboards and actually focus on “why” someone needs to buy the product they also face a very long entrenched campaign ahead.

If they are onto a winning formula and assuming that they sort their marketing talent out, then they also have to wait out the consumers who currently have laptop and tablet out which could be 1-2 years minimum.

Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but keep in mind Microsoft is about to get a brand new CEO with his/her own ideas about Surface Pro and if anything Microsoft’s marketing machine has shown that they can’t handle a controlled message beyond the life of a single campaign.

My prediction:

  •  Surface as a brand will undergo a split, they will likely retreat back to forking the tablet and laptop offerings.  There will likely be no technical difference between the two and price and category matching will likely influence it.
  • Surface will have poor sales for the next 1-2 years and the industry will remind them off this without mercy. There is to much aggravation in the hardware space for Microsoft to occupy and they not only have to compete on Consumer sales but also Enterprise pie will decay over time as a result of losing focus.  The failure in success over the 1-2 years will simply be the easy punch to the company’s kidneys.
  • Surface RT will evaporate as a laptop solution. If you’re a developer today targeting ARM and you’re thinking to yourself “this is fun” then you’re currently in a small cluster. Today to target Windows 8 ARM would mean you are happy to migrate your code-base over to the new Windows SDK and it isn’t a clean migration at the best of times. Moreover you have to also ignore the lack luster ubiquity metrics that will come out alongside any and all developer relation(s) resets that have occurred in the last 5 years. If you can absorb all of that and still think ARM is the vehicle of choice – then yeah, I just don’t see any upside here.

 

 

Related Posts:

I suspect Windows Phone team are chasing the wrong metrics.

I’ve had an interesting and insightful conversation with Steve Sinofsky the past 24hrs that has got me thinking about the concept of how we measure success. Firstly, I know its freaking me out how much I am learning from the one person that I honestly thought was the single point of failure at Microsoft – but – I was wrong! as I suspect he had more to offer than Microsoft was willing to absorb that or he was too busy trying to steer whatever ship(s) he was steering to discuss.

To the subject at hand.

When I think about Mobility and how we measure the success and failures, I automatically break open my OneNote file on where the numbers are currently at when it comes to Windows Phone 8, iPhone, Android etc. The first thing I often do is review what the market share looks like and then probably grow agitated at how slowly Windows Phone is moving (yay 50% growth, but they need 300% to break into the 3rd place category).

The problem with just tracking market share is the data has no soul, which leads me into the points I’ve been having with Sinofsky around how data is just a signal of behavior but it doesn’t tell you the entire picture accurately.

How do I mean accurately?

If you look at iPhone today you will no doubt see, it has a huge amount of the market share pie, but in all honesty, that doesn’t tell you much in the way of actual usage or replenishment rates. All it tells us is right now on planet earth there is just a very large amount of iPhones floating about the place and typically, many new customers are switching on iPhones for the first time each day we breathe oxygen.

If you however look to your left or right and ask your peers how often do they buy iPhones they may typically come back with an answer that resembles “one to two years” In that they aren’t the ones likely to retain parity with Apple’s release cycles anymore?

What happens to their existing phones when they fade it out? Is it relegated to the grandparents? Given to the kids as a gaming device? Sold on ebay?

That for me is the metric I want to know the most about, how many new phones are people adopting and lastly how long does it take between phone adoptions. Then if you can layer in operating system, form factor (sizes) and latency between adoptions that would probably give early signs of where movement between adoptions is happening.

Having that data set will also tell us all an open transparent story around how each mobile phone corporation in the race for success is able to sustain their adoption & life cycle. It also would give teams like the Windows Phone team a smarter metric to go after as if a typical iPhone customer today is taking 1-2 years before they migrate to a new phone or upgrade that in itself is the period in which you would need to strike aggressively.

How to navigate these waters with the right data is the key and focusing in on who has the biggest slice of the pie tells us an end total of who was smart enough to figure out the overall collective metrics. It doesn’t tell us a story around who’s strategy was successful and where?

For instance, which phone size right now is the bliss point in size? Which phone color is the best? Which phone feature seems to excite the most? And so on.

These are data points and many more like them that are quite hard to mine for given most companies will hide that as much as possible to save embarrassment or alert competitors of success. Which is fine it just sadly feeds the beast around “% marketshare = success” rhetoric.

You can boost your percentage if you just give phones away for free in China/India as sure, it will hurt your revenue model(s) but it would boost your confidence in the market level(s) and probably lighten the burden on your marketing budget as well. Clearly though that is a terrible strategy given it is going after the % and can’t sustain itself long term.

I guess my end point and the lesson of the week is basically, what the definition of success here is in our industry? Is it to have 40%+ market share for a particular brand which in turn influences our decision(s) to buy or are we being shaped / groomed into buying these devices because suppliers are assuming that having market share means an easier sale? Downside is we are probably buying a form factor or device because of noisy influence vs. the right fit.

Point and case – I bought the Nokia 920 because everyone I knew said it was the best of breed at the time for Windows Phone 8. I automatically forgave its size because I wanted to hear that story around it being the best. It took me a day before I developed buyer’s remorse solely on the size of the device as sure it had qualities that I liked about the phone but I really didn’t need to go above my iphone size?

I went into that purchase with two sets of bias and I allowed the bogus data to shape an outcome that I ultimately did not want. Stupid but interesting how I was influenced.

 

Related Posts:

Lost: One Microsoft PR Genie, last seen in the bottle.

It turns out yet again Microsoft and Waggener Edstrom (the folks they outsource their PR to) seem to have this ongoing disconnect between reality and the Redmond Zip code. In that when a journalist on sites like “The Verge” or other(s) taps you on the shoulder for comment(s) in around what the *ACTUAL* strategy is going to be for Windows Phone 8 and future upgrades / updates.

Take the freaking call.  😳

In ignoring this, they in turn let the message around what this all actually means fall into the hands of the horde, which in turn means a lot of assumptions, assertions and most importantly anti-Windows Phone fuel for the rumor mill fire(s).

First reading you will take a pass at this being a case of Microsoft looking to rub their greedy hands together and go for the ye olde replenishment model. If you shift all your energy & focus onto a new release for new phones, only you can replenish your profit margins with the existing user base – as that is exactly what Apple does. After careful consideration however and you continue to read on in this saga you may stumble upon a link or two that points you to the real story in around the upgrade future(s) here, in that Microsoft will promise to give you a 8.x update.

“..Distribution of the updates may be controlled by the mobile operator or the phone manufacturer from which you purchased your phone. Update availability will also vary by country, region, and hardware capabilities…”

I could sit here and go all Troll/FUD on that last comment but in reality its like kicking that sick puppy again. I will simply say this; the messaging for this got lost yet again and now Microsoft have to spend cycles trying to put this genie back in the bottle. The only real way they can do this is by giving concrete assurances & specifics in around what 8.x vs 9.x will look like, specifically what does this whole Windows “Blue” strategy likely to become?

They will not do that, as that would be as if again someone in Microsoft + Wagged were actually taking a proactive stance on Public Relation(s) – Probably reading their PRIME scores upside down still.

To quote Tom on my facebook thread:

“..Microsoft used to control the messaging of updates a lot better, putting the blame on carriers. Carriers didn’t like this, so Microsoft removed the tables they used to supply. Some phones in the US don’t even have Tango right now, let alone 7.8. Have Microsoft committed to supplying 7.8 for every existing device? No. They’ve remained silent consistently about 7.8 and even pushed versions with buggy live tiles without a PR strategy. This support document with life cycle information has never been published before, and yet Microsoft has not managed the message well once again. It leaves people waiting for Tango or 7.8 concerned they will be left in the dark once again. Don’t defend it, ask for change…”

Simply put, this isn’t a story about Windows Phone upgrade good vs bad its more about how the hell does a company like Microsoft constantly forget to sit down and write a PR Strategy that actually makes sense. If you know you are about to launch a phone, then start campaigning now and furthermore do something about the release in a more visible / visual way that covers off your talking points of concern.

The fact Microsoft are constantly trying to figure out a way to pander to the carriers in order to push more units is probably a strong indicator as to why Surface Pro has failed to go outside handful of zip codes as they still haven’t figured out what “logistics” and “partnerships” really look like.

Apple is also being constantly used as baseline for success/failures for Microsoft in that all too often I see “but Apple do…” stop right there, Apple firstly have a strong history of success not simply because they had first move advantage on a touch-enabled phone but they have a very tightly controlled release strategy. When Apple sit down and release a product post, its actual design/development they focus in on the important areas such as:

  • “How do I get this phone to some kid in outback Australia and New York at the same time?”
  • “How do I control the entire PR noise around this launch so everyone takes queues from me not bloggers”
  • “How do I convince consumers to move to the next phone without them realizing I’m replenishing my market”.

PhoneHyper

Tim Cook from Apple probably got the succession from Steve Jobs probably (no idea) because he was brilliant at logistics & retail, in that he can get the job done around what it takes to release (even when Apples at its worst it still hits a better stride than Microsoft lately).

Before one compares Microsoft to Apple, take stock in the fact that Microsoft’s failures are not technical or by its design faults. It’s actual failures always constantly orbit in its ability to broadcast its message and make good on delivery. In reality its comparing Apples to Lemons (hah!)

This is whole upgrade fiasco is yet again filed under “How not to do Product Management & Release”.

 

Related Posts:

The Days of Microsoft Lives.

I was talking to a friend last night about the whole Microsoft fall out. It was a good laugh and the more we discussed it the more a script inside my imagination began to form. I always find myself thinking of Steve Ballmer as this bad CEO played by John Cleese who at times appears coherent and then out of nowhere the mad Ballmer shines through. The below is how I foresee the whole Sinfosky/Balmer fall out and it also touches on the absolute amazing incompetence Microsoft is currently showing around launching two flagship products – Surface & Windows Phone 8.

In all honesty if you had of asked me to come up with a script like below to sabotage the launch of these two products, even on my best day I’d not match the level of brilliance if f**king up the launch that they have done to date (hats off to that amount of failure, that requires skill).

Probably not a good idea to fire most of your Product Management team(s) prior to release though (300 or so got the boot).

 

TITLE:  The Days of Microsoft Lives

The door opens and in walks the CEO, he looks determined but still has the look of the 1980’s car salesman buried deep within.

CEO:
Alright, listen up as we have a lot to get through today. Thank you all for all the hard work you have put into the work so far, it’s been super duper exciting and I want to thank you all for the brilliance you’ve shown. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are going to be the baseline markers for our future successes.

Sinofsky:
If I may sir…

CEO:
Grab some pine Sinofsky and shut your hole.

An awkward chill flows around the room as Sinofsky slowly sits down with an expression of both embarrassment and murderous intent leveled at the CEO.

CEO:
Ok.. firstly given the huge pressure we have at making this release the biggest the will likely produce for some time I need to have our entire marketing and sales pipelines at full steam. With that, I need your resignation Sinofsky.

Sinofsky:
What the f….

CEO:
Basically not a lot of people like you and I asked you nicely awhile back to launch Windows 7 on the tablet and you wanted to play games. Well, you played and lost so with that, resign and clear your shit out by this afternoon. I also need to use you as a way to soften the upcoming failures with the board, so you may hear some things about what you did in the future, best you go along with whatever is said.

CEO:
Now, I need to split his role into two as I never want to see an executive with that much power again. It frightened me a little.

CEO points at two executives either side of Sinofsky.

CEO:
You two, yes you two you’re both in charge but in reality you’re not in charge. Speaking of executives with power, has anyone seen Scott Guthrie? … no?… Good, keep it that way as if he climbs out of that Azure hole we buried him in I want to be the first to know.

Sinofsky:
Actually, he’s doing an amazing job with it and is likely to turn that turd around into a success. I mean it has come a long way since he took over the re…

CEO:
Seriously you’re still here? … Is not there a box you should be filling…

Sinofsky:
Shouldn’t we first figure out what we are going to say to the press? I mean my leaving will create an issue for both the PR for Windows and potentially the stock price.

CEO:
You’re not that noticeable. Get packing, I will talk to the press later about it.

Sinofsky slowly gets up out of his chair and begins to walk out. Giving the CEO a glance as if to say “..this will be your undoing…”

CEO:
Next, I want marketing to blitz the entire globe with ads about Surface and Windows 8, if you can also not separate the two products I think it will help cement that Windows 8 is a tablet and OS without saying that out loud.

Marketing Guy:
Sir, wouldn’t it be prudent to ensure we keep the two separate and we also probably should discuss with supply & logistics about how we are going to supply the demand?

CEO:
What’s your name? ..Does not matter…You are fired.

Marketing Guy leaves the room crying chanting, “I knew I should keep my ideas to myself, damn it, my wife is going to kill me…” as he sobs running into a glass door.

CEO:
Market it  my way people. Next I want to also limit our purchases of Surface online and via our retail stores. It is important we look like Apple In order to beat them at their own game.

RetailStoreExec:
About that.. You know all of Apple stores are designed to reflect the environment they are housed within. In that, they really do go out of their way to work with the existing and surrounding architecture. We should really consider doing that as well as just copy their internal furn…

CEO:
You want to join the others that got fired this morning? Pick one style and keep repeating them we don’t have time to be design focused.. more stores.. supply.. make it happen.

CEO:
Can someone get in contact with Stephen Elop over at Nokia. It is time to move our timetable forward a little on Project Nokia Acquire. I want him to hold off on the Lumia 920 outside the US, if he can shorten stock orders worldwide that will surely lower the share price further for our takeover bid. Also, tell him that we got rid of Sinofsky, as he will be happy with that given Sinofsky used to always undermine him in during his Office days (builds favor you see).

OEMPartnerCVP:
Won’t that also hurt our Windows Phone 8 adoption chances? As wont most hold out for that phone given it seems to be the one with the most features?

CEO:
Yes. You are right but here is the thing: that was Sinofsky’s fault. If we can also bring moral and hearts/minds lower over the Christmas quarter I can then turn the ship around post Sinofsky leaving and make it look like I am a competent CEO and saved the day.

OEMPartnerCVP:
Sir, you realized you said that out loud right. In that, it was not your internal voice.

CEO:
I need your resignation by the end of the day. You know too much.

The camera begins to drift away from the scene with the CEO’s voice getting harder to hear but one last order is heard before the Microsoft logo fades into view.

CEO:
Has anyone seen Guthrie? .. Make sure he his kept on the back bench do not let him out of that Azure cage. He has to many people adoring his abilities and he reminds me too much of Bill… Someone call Bill and make sure he knows that he cannot fire me or I show those Polaroid’s with him & two dead hookers.

Wait…

You are all fired, you know too much now.

 

Related Posts:

Jakob Nielsen is not your Windows 8 Guru heres why.

I can’t believe i’m about to defend Microsoft Design outloud like this. It’s not something I would normally do, however when it comes to the Jakob Nielsen Windows 8 review I just can’t stand to let it slide. Personally I think that entire company is still stuck in the past and has consistently failed to navigate change with a degree of accurate prediction since they declared Flash a fail (Oct 2000) (which translates to in principle to JavaScript based websites a fail).

Furthermore I think they rely on the idea that the end users are all collective virgin users who have never had to navigate or use bad UI in todays software environments. The fact that we as a human race can navigate even dumb solutions such as Sharepoint, Lotus Notes, SAP and a whole host of other really badly design UI indicates that we aren’t as dumb as useit.com would have us believe. Furthermore there is a huge generational change underway whereby the concept of “experienced windows users” would be fair to say my 8yr old son fits that category.

The clue is in the audience sampled as if you get that wrong the rest of the responses are just opinions based around a skewed bias (bad baseline to draw from on their part).  Here is my notes from an internal email I sent around when I was asked “what do you think of the article” from my co-workers.

NOTE: This is a raw / unedited email-centric dump. There is no grammar/ spelling so if you piss and moan about in the comments you really should step away from the computer more.

In case you suffer from TLDR – here’s the short extranous cognitive load friendly version

What the hell was that

 

My remarks:

  •  Novice and Power Users.  “Invited 12 experienced Windows users” is a weak / broad sweeping remark to make that XYZ demographic doesn’t like N-Product. Keep in mind I’m a tough critic of Windows 8’s design, but even I can concede it’s still usable whether the incentive is to use though is entirely different matter (Cognitive Dissonance measures Behavior vs. Incentive).  I would have taken him more serious if he had of used a variety of audience(s) for this (OSX users, Seniors, GenY, IT Professionals, Sales force etc) .. everyone’s experienced In Windows is my point.


Cognitive Overhead.

  • Prospective Memory – I think he’s building up to “learn where to go” and associating it as a bad thing. The concept of a desktop works in favor of prospective memory, meaning “I’ll put x here so I can come back to it later” works in the same fashion as the start overlay. Its not ideal, but to declare this a cognitive overload is an over-reach given over time (behavior) users will settle on a rhythm that suites them. If I press START and start typing my context will adjust to the text I’m typing and so on.
  •  Dual Environments –  The two environments in which he speaks of are WinRT and WinRT Pro, now the clue is in the word “Pro” firstly and it has to do with legacy support than actual user experience (context is annoying when you leave it out huh?). Tablet users won’t interact with the said duality he’s nominated so it kind of is a weak point to rest on and those that opt for the Surface Pro edition are doing so more as a finger in both pies approach to the problem at hand. If I pitched the problem that needed to be solved in that I need the user(s) to have both Windows Now and Windows vNext it shifts the results differently as if I said I need the users to solely focus on vNext only … Again, It feels more about airbrushing the facts without context (Ironic given the guy’s a usability “guru” and how context is important in ux as content).
  • Added Memory.  I see this a lot and I wonder if UX Practitioners suffer from this concept that we all suffer from sudden memory loss at any given point. I understand interruption etc plays into this but in reality we don’t multi task and phones today for example don’t have this issue – if anything given the complexity between switching from apps via navigation routines (ie iPhone double hitting the rectangle and using a slider style switch). I am baffled as to what moment of brilliance the author assumes he/she is uncovering here – I’m kind of lost between whether I dislike his point or the actual website itself’s design.

Multi Window

  •  Responsive & Adaptive Design– I think the author again (they really should sit down and study some basic design principles to articulate the points) probably wanted to say that the design of the solution isn’t responsive and/or adaptive depending on screen real estate. The said applications again don’t make full use of the screen(s) they are being deployed or used upon. I concede that this could be an issue for usage of LOB solutions but at the same time I also reject it. Having window support in today’s UI world is an absolute engineering challenge at the best of times and furthermore buy having to adhere and cater to this we in turn limit our future potential by sticking to the ye olde side by side window usage. As it now begs the question, why are two applications side by side if they are related?  If we have a forcing function which puts emphasis on a single screen visualization would this not cut down on fragmented software delivery? What if the snap screen concept could be more broader in its execution where you allow users to have more than one window at a time but the designs themselves can be responsive to the state in which they are housed? This works better imho than just given floating cascade windows with dynamic border resize + maximize + minimize. It fixes and creates an interesting solution to much bigger problem.Again, the author is kind of saying “it’s changed, I don’t like it”. I didn’t like the day I gave up a tactical keyboard for a touch screen, but I got over it and can type just as fast now. Humans evolve.

Discoverability

  •  Flat styles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving along the highway and seen the turn arrow being flat and thought to myself “I wish that had a sense of depth, as that would give me contrast to make an informative decision”. The whole idea that we need depth in order to associate action is a kind of “drawing from a long bow”. If you’re a virgin user and never seen something for the first time, yes, you have that moment of initial “wtf” but you explore, because now it’s a puzzle and you have an incentive to figure it out.  Take into account marketing and real-world surroundings it’s fair to assume that the learnability of a solid icon is considered both touchable and untouchable.  You will discover this fairly easily but the learnability is probably shallow but discoverability isn’t – Key differentiation there.  I don’t agree with Metro’s content over chrome metaphor and in the visual he provided it’s an easy fight to pick (grouping is all wrong) but the failures here are easily misleading given he left out the constancy of the design (in that it’s not isolated to one area, it’s throughout and again, surprisingly we all seem to navigate over time without issue – behavior vs incentive again).
  •  Symbology. Probably the only thing I would agree here is that there is way too much of a strong reliance on symbology to convey the context of what the said solution does. There’s no personality attached to apps and functions, meaning I think there still needs to be a balance between core operating and in-app functions and said Applications (one thing iPhone does well as the apps entry icons are able to retain a differentiation whereas Win8 it doesn’t). I don’t think the author articulated this very well but I sense that’s the direction they were heading

Information Density

I won’t bother remarking too much on these areas, suffice to say it’s like I grabbed Angry Birds app, declared iPhone a fail due to lack of 3D support. Probably helps to separate third party applications from the actual said operating system. You can grade an OS based on its actual abilities or inbuilt functions, not by what the ecosystem does with them as that’s a slippery slope.

Desktop computers and horizontal control hasn’t been a failure. I don’t subscribe to the “well on websites it failed” it actually hasn’t, its more to do with screen size, frequency of use and does the UI tease the user to carry out the action. It’s not a complete failure it’s more to do with context and case by case. Now the current win8 mode relies on the horizontal scroll bar or mouse wheel to navigate between the screen and yes I think the missing element here is for the mouse to do the flicking between left/right (kinetic scrolling etc).

Live Tiles.

Agreed. Probably the one area of this article he nailed well. Yeah, the live Tiles for me is like a room full of screaming kids all asking for ice cream and one asking to go to the toilet. Pray you get the later right early.

Charms.

  • Progressive Disclosure has always been a double edged sword. On one hand you free up user from distraction by giving them a chunk of information to process act upon whilst on the other hand you’re easily forgotten and totally rely on muscle memory / learnability to be your UX crutch. I don’t think the author framed this correctly in this case by asserting that the users will “forget” the charm icons etc. I think it’s got poor amount of UX friction associated to it but the idea that Novice/Power users will be absent minded users here is really again an over reach. I find the whole persona attachment in this authors writing to be disconnected and fluctuates between a virgin user and a veteran of 15 years+ user? (settle on them and grouping here clearly needs to indicate the level of friction associated to each point).Had the user stated “I sampled a user with only 6month usage of a computer” then yes, Charms would be hazardous to one’s health. The reality is that’s a generational issue firstly (ie they are deprecating) and secondly there is such a wash of bad UI in software today that the users in general are what I’d call “defensive” in that they have been trained over and over that UI today isn’t always a case of “everything is in front of you where you need it”.  Furthermore if you take a step back in time and look at the green-screen terminals and how data entry operators would fly through the various fields etc one can see that a human and pattern recognition have remarkable abilities.

Gestures.

I’ve not used Win8 Gestures to comment. I want to take the author at his/her word but so far I’m inclined to favor Microsoft here. That being said, Microsoft and Touch have never really been that good together (even Surface Table had issues here). Suffice to say they really need to tidy up NUI in general here and its still the wild west, so in reality anything that all brands put on the table is open to this set of arguments.

Windows 8 Weak on Tablets, Terrible on PC’s.

Yeah this is where the true bias shows through and why my UX spidey senses tingled. It’s in this part you see the opinion shine through which can distill down to that they wanted Win8 to be tablet only UI and desktop to continue the Win7 as-is approach.  It shows lack of foresight for how the mobility and desktop market’s are starting to eat away into the tablet focused approach. How well we handle the ergonomics of going between a laptop to a tablet is still undecided but that’s the direction ones heading. Microsoft are trying to get out ahead of this early and if that means along the way they will fumble some of the UX by giving a duality in both old and new then so be it. In my view if you are given the problem of retaining the old while moving the user base over to the new in an aggressive manner then Microsoft may actually have a winning idea (yes I just praised Microsoft). I would however say that there Metro design style is going to come back and bite them the most and from what I can tell the Author has been cherry picking the negatives in order to build up to a point of how unusable it is. No balanced proposition here other than I don’t like Windows 8 and here’s why (hence the whole paragraph of “I don’t hate Microsoft but..” which translates to “I’m not racist, but..” …there is no “but” ..as everything you just said before it gets lost in cognitive overload (grin).

How the author then goes onto praise Ribbon Menu after spending a paragraph or two downsizing the charm bar “out of sight out of mind” makes me confused

Lastly by asserting that Win7 needs to be replaced with Windows 8 is probably the final conclusion that Microsoft marketing still sucks at its job (ie it’s not an upgrade, its an additive product) and lastly the user should stick more to the UI principles and less to OS Market analysis.

 

Related Posts:

The fall of Sinofsky ..where’s the gold plated AK47?

Yesterday I read a tweet that Sinofsky was leaving Microsoft and my immediate thoughts were along the lines of most – oh, it is early but not unexpected.

As I read countless more news articles about the event and listen to others give their assertion as to what is happen and how it was not as bad as it looks and so on I simply come to a single conclusion.

Worst retirement party ever.

If you read Sinofsky’s parting letter mixed with Steve Ballmer’s as expected carefully polished internal email one would assume it was a parting of positivity not negativity.

The reality is you do not take a high powered executive like Sinofsky and have him resign effective immediately you setup what they did with Bill Gates – a long goodbye. You temper both your internal staff and external shareholders with a 3month transition at the very least (maybe 6 month). You want to make it feel as if it is Steve Sinofsky’s choice and he now wants to leave Microsoft and go paint in Italy or something mundane like that.
Bring a sense of calm because if you don’t, well you have his name trending in twitter and conspiracy theories that make Microsoft look like they have zero control over the PR beast.

The latter is what actually has happened, Microsoft lost control over this entire thing and that is the part that I think is the most interesting. I personally do not think this was a calm exit, from everything I know about this company this entire issue has been simmering for some time and I think it came down to a titanic power play which seemingly backfired on Steve Sinofsky.

I wonder how the whole thing played out though; I mean you had Steve Ballmer on stage at the Build keynote giving a technical demo that actually did not do any harm – which to be clear in all the years of Microsoft I have never seen before.

That sent some mixed signals early on, as to say “hmm.. Steve Sinofsky is a vain person who likes to soak up his victories, why on earth would he be sidelined at the crowning moment?”

It could very well have been a planned departure – I doubt it – but if that were to be true then first thing Microsoft Board needs to do is figure out why they are paying their various PR firms money as quite frankly this was a disaster beyond most normal marketing/PR fails the company is used to.

As a friend said once “Microsoft takes every opportunity to fail and then comes back asking for more” in this case he was correct – again.

Lastly, I went to Sweden last week and gave a presentation on decoding the Microsoft roadmap where I talk about the rise of Sinofsky and you can view it here.

Related Posts:

The Unofficial Windows 8 Developer FAQ

Early this week I’ve been talking to a few current and former Microsoft staffers about all things Windows 8. In my discussions I’ve started to gather some gossip in around what happened to Silverlight and lastly the specifics around the DevDiv fall out between Steve Sinofsky and Soma.

Should I share the chat logs it is an entertaining read however what did struck me throughout the conversations was how much positivity Microsoft has been squandering due to petty internal squabbles or “dare not speak of that, for the overlord Sinofsky shall smite thee down for saying the nameless one out loud”.

Today, I’m going to attempt to do something Microsoft staff should have done long ago or didn’t do correctly or simply were held back from doing so. I’m going to release the Unofficial FAQ on “What Just happened” in Microsoft for developer(s) worldwide.

Note: This is all based off internal gossip, second hand information and blah blah, so if you want to call bullshit on the below do so but back it up with specifics on what actually happened – don’t just say “that’s b.s” as we’ll take that as a deflection attempt at setting the record straight.

Ready.. (Remember this is from the perspective of “if I was still a Product Manager at Microsoft positioning not official etc.).

The Unofficial FAQ

Q. Is WPF Dead?

A. Yes and No. Yes WPF as you see it before you is end of life that is to say no more code will be written for the “platform” given Windows 7 and Windows 8 have different DNA going forward. No as in when we decided to move everything over to leaner Windows 8 platform we had to put both Silverlight and WPF on a diet in order to get Mobility parity / compatibility in check. The Upside is we’ve fixed some of the UI rendering issues that have plagued you in the past; the down side is we’ve had to sacrifice features here and there in the process.

 

Q. If I make an Application today in WPF it won’t work in Windows 8 tomorrow.

A. Not correct. Expression Blend uses WPF still in Windows 8, so in a way you’re covered as long as VS2012 and Blend continue to take their cue from the previous XAML Rendering that has been in place since Windows 7. There are certain things you can’t do in Windows 8 going forward though, that is to say new features won’t work in both Windows 7 and Windows 8 for obvious reasons. If they aren’t obvious then …stop coding now.

 

Q. Do I have to learn HTML5 or C++ in Windows 8 now?

A. No. The neat trick here is that we took the body of work found in Silverlight and made it handle the rendering of XAML. Now we didn’t take it as-is we again had to scale it back and use it as a starting point for a reboot of WPF/Silverlight to ensure two things happen going forward. The first is that we have WPF/Silverlight parity issues resolved in terms of performance and developer centric API changes whilst at the same time we had to find a way to make Steve Sinofsky believe that Silverlight was killed off. The last point wasn’t a technical issue it was more of a political one and so in order to help give him the illusion of Silverlight’s death we renamed a few namespaces and adjusted a few features here and there to give the appearance of “new” on the “old”.

 

Q. Why did you change so much in Windows 8 to confuse us all on old vs. new?

A. We had to find a way to put Internet Explorer back into the hands of the masses in a more aggressive manner. In order to facilitate this internal metric we needed to also scale back Silverlight’s popularity given when you think about its future roadmap and Internet Explorer the two will end up competing with one another. Having Internet Explorer start taking over the HTML5 discussion would also help us win hearts and minds with the non-.NET crowd which would then help boost our internal metrics around Linux, Php, Apache and MySQL/Oracle compete (that has often plagued us for many a fiscal year).

Once we’ve placed Internet Explorer onto many devices worldwide we will then ask developers to fork their beloved HTML5 in a way that lets them access Windows 8 further. This in turn will help us regain the lost dominance we once had before all of our Internet Explorer staff left the company to work for Google Chrome. Additionally, it will help us with our many year attempts at attracting more developers to our Windows Server & Tooling business units.

Now to answer your actual question it’s important to know the previous strategy for Internet Explorer as now the problem we face both internally and externally is how we are going to balance Internet Explorer’s future with XAML given the old “Silverlight” concept was directly competing with this strategy. In short we had to make it feel there was a lot of change in the room and decided that letting you believe that what’s really happened is that WPF & Silverlight were merged as one and that Silverlight 5 wasn’t the last release as really Windows 8 is Silverlight 6 Desktop.

Letting you believe that would keep you preoccupied with that branch of thought where what we need you to do is come back to the Internet Explorer way of thinking – there is no plugin only a browser.

Q. So… you saying Windows 8 is really Silverlight 6?

A. Yeah in concept yes. Technically no, but if you take a step back from our bad messaging, public relation screw-ups and lastly our idiotic executive we pretty much did what you asked – we fixed WPF and Silverlight parity & performance and we made it also work on both desktop and mobile. I give you Windows 8.

 

Q. Well ..why didn’t you just say that? Why did you scare us with C++ or HTML5 rhetoric?

A. I have no answer suffice to say there was lots of infighting going on and I don’t see Soma and Sinofsky sharing a beer or two at a BBQ in the near future unless the bottle was broken and one has the other pinned down with a desire to kill..

 

Q. You said mobility and parity are you saying Windows 8 is compatible with Windows Phone?

A. Yes. Windows Phone 7 was kind of a hold our place in the line while we figure out what to do next release. It was badly marketed and in the end we were too late to enter the market – not to mention we weren’t ready to talk about the work we were doing with Windows 8.

Now that we’ve finally hit reset on Windows Phone via our 8.0 releases we’ve now found a way to put the XAML rendering we have in Windows 8 onto the phone. Well to be fair we really kept Silverlight’s DNA alive in both which has now let us enable you to write applications on both platforms via our new upgraded API’s and tooling (again to give the appearance of new).

This is in part why you can’t use Windows Phone 8 code on Windows Phone 7.x compatible devices,  Additionally you would see how we swapped the two out and start to guess what really happened during the Soma vs. Sinofsky fight.

Q. I don’t think that’s technically correct.. if you look at Windows Phone 7 and then look at…

A. I’ma let you finish by stating that the phone may not have changed radically but Windows did that is to say if you were going to drag Silverlight’s work into the new Windows 8 whilst releasing Windows Phone 7 previously then which of the two do you change? The phone or operating system? – Answer is you do both but incrementally.

Q. Hang on so all of Windows 8 is now Silverlight? That doesn’t make sense..

A. No. Windows 8 core is,  (as the messaging and PowerPoint decks say,) new. Now the XAML piece that bolts on top of that core is what I’d call “Silverlight 6” that is it’s all the work that has been done on WPF/Silverlight since their birth converging as one.

Q. Why did Sinofksy and Soma duke it out?

A. It comes back to Sinofsky’s dislike for Silverlight that was in place years before Windows 8. Internally what had happened was the Windows 8 Planning teams felt that Microsoft had lost its way on the importance of web both from a tooling and platform perspective. Silverlight was simply a distraction that got out of control and what they felt was that HTML5 was getting more and more market acceptance. As such it was time to put the genie back in the bottle and double down on Internet Explorer again with an eye this time on integrating the web with the operating system via some minor fork in both JavaScript and HTML5 (eg iecompatiability tag)

This of course didn’t go down well with Developer Division as this in turn meant that they had to scrap all the work done with Silverlight to date! The Silverlight team then went to work proving that both options are still viable and that for XAML, Silverlight would be a better candidate to ensure that path continues to occur.

Essentially it was an internal two horse race for a while with the deciding vote going to Sinofsky. Unfortunately it was an unfair race given his alleged dislike towards Silverlight, so this in turn become a tense standoff between the head of DevDiv and the head of Windows. It’s rumoured that Soma and Steve had a huge falling out over settling old scores and as a result Silverlight was put into a “do not talk about it” status mode.

Despite the executive fallout the Silverlight team (aka XAML team) were moved under the Windows org chart and put to work dragging the old into the new but with a clear direction to forever wipe the name Silverlight from their minds. It’s rumoured that in planning meetings the words compatibility and Silverlight were no-go words.

It’s all gossip in the end, but that’s what’s being said at the local water fountain anyway.

It could explain why Scott Guthrie went over to Azure. It could explain why you see some of the old Silverlight bloodlines talking in the Windows 8 presentations but finally, it could also explain why the “strategy has changed” remark got former Executive Bob Muglia in a whole world of trouble.

Summary

Look. The above could very well be fiction and time will tell exactly what has happened here but the more I think about Windows and it’s Phone counterpart the more I start to think what has really happened is a clean reboot to WPF/Silverlight has occurred for the greater good.

The downside is that we’ve all been preoccupied with the new UI of Windows 8 and lastly the community wanted to know what the future of the brand Silverlight/WPF was per say (this is awkward). Instead of getting actual answers they were given deafening silence and finally, to this day the overall developer relations overall from Microsoft has been both lazy and poorly executed.

What we are seeing is Microsoft power brokers asleep at the helm, specifically their evangelism is dead and lastly their messaging around the transition for Silverlight/WPF has been fumbled to the point where it’s easier now to believe Microsoft has hit “Shift+Delete” on these two products rather than to read the above (too much carnage on the roadmap now).

If Microsoft had of come out and said something to the effect – “Look you asked us to fix WPF and Silverlight. We did that, we came up with a way now that lets you develop for our platform in three ways. The first is C++ if you want deeper access to Windows then we’ve tided up our Com++ API’s to a way that C# developers have found palatable. If you don’t want to do native code then you can build applications like you have done with Silverlight in the past, but the difference is it will now  Windows only (sorry). If you then want to build apps that are cross-platform then again we’ve got HTML5 and Internet Explorer story brewing, whilst it’s important to understand that we will not be looking to expand our developer story beyond Windows anymore (there is a certain amount of control HTML5 will give but we still believe Internet Explorer is a better bet overall).

Then they show a few slides on how you can write-once deploy to both Desktop, Tablet and Mobile via the XAML/HTML5 and C++/C# story then it becomes a bit of a consolidation discussion vs. a “they’ve killed my favourite toy” discussion we see today.

They didn’t do that. That would require actually someone in the company with a backbone or marketing muscle that goes beyond ass kissing to Sinofsky. The problem we have right now ladies in and gents is we are all suffering from Microsoft’s internal bickering and as a result companies are looking to seek alternative to Microsoft for fear that this petty squabbling will continue to spread from not  only the mobility market share losses but to potentially the operating system as well.

Microsoft also has to figure out how to also re-engage their hardware vendors going forward given their failure rates in Windows Phones weren’t profitable for these guys and now with Microsoft Surface sending mixed signals it well has now turned into a bit of a question mark above the companies head around whether it can survive beyond its current dominance of desktop market share.

Inside Microsoft Server share has dropped significantly and it’s why you see a lot of effort in the web platform stack around enticing Php and MySQL folks back to the logo.

The only thing left for Microsoft to control is Office, Desktop and XBOX. Beyond that, they don’t have dominance anymore.

Again someone explain to me why Steve Balmer is good for the company?

 

Related Posts:

Seem’s Microsoft has a case of the Metro’s

Keeping score on the failure rate of Microsoft Marketing is getting to be a sickness of mine. The latest bug has to be by far the clear and most defining moment in all of Microsoft fails.

Microsoft would appreciate if you stopped using the word “metro” as just like that drunk racist at party who tells a really bad joke and then follows with “what, don’t be so sensitive, I was only kidding..” they in turn are hereby stating out loud “it was only a code word, it was never meant to be a brand”.

It’s times like this I wish I could have The Daily Show staff on standby and we’d then queue up a montage of every Microsoft staffer on stage saying the word “Metro” in comparison to the word “Windows”. No doubt you will see a score tick over with more usage of the word Metro than I’d argue Windows.

It’s not their fault, it was the company that is giving them the legal eye’s fault.

Yeah you could throw the company in question who would argue Metro is their trademark under a bus here. You could do it easily enough with the right amount of PR spin, but, anyone who’s been a Product Manager for more than five minutes in Microsoft would be able to tell you swiftly that you never ever ever name something in Microsoft without LCA running trademark searches against it.

Exhibit A  – Silverlight’s Out of Browser. When we came up with the feature of offline Silverlight / Desktop usage (aka the feature that would later kill Silverlight) we agonised for weeks over what to call it. We tried out names like “RIA Desktop” and a whole bunch of left field names that had no real meaning. Each time we posted a probable name for the feature we had LCA verify we wouldn’t get sued over it (given the US is a sue happy legal system).

Unfortunately the ass hats in the Microsoft Marketing team(s) didn’t get the memo that most if not all Junior Product Manager(s) get when they first join – You don’t name a puppy unless LCA approves it.

Either LCA screwed up here or it was Microsoft Marketing (I somehow think it’s the later).

Where to from here, how do you undo a brand?

metro abuseGiven its a fairly fresh and clearly abused name it may stand a chance of being deleted from the minds of millions of .NET developers worldwide. I doubt it will get a high five for its replacement name though, as “Windows-style” kind of looks like the default case in a long list of good idea switch statements, but none the less “Windows Style” it is.

I feel however for people like the MetroTwit team who have worked quite hard to claw their way above all the other twitter client clones to establish a unique brand. I guess Long and his team will need to hatch out a plan around “WinTwit” or something along those lines if they wish to comply with Microsoft’s “oops” moment.

In closing Microsoft has yet again screwed up and like all its previous screw-ups  its left yet again up to the community to dig in deep, sigh and cleanup after the company’s amateur developer relations).

At some point with all those billions Microsoft has been making they will actually hire someone with Marketing experience but point in case they hired me as a Product Manager for the company and I had none!

That thought will fester.


Related Posts:

The Cost of Design.

It was the HTML generation that first gave mainstream hints that with a good designer in the cubicle you could in turn have a positive effect to business. That is to say by opening a simple browser, navigating to an address and interacting with “forms” that you in turn could begin taking consumerism to a new level of shop-less input(s0.

Fast forward today the cost of design has not only increased but has also gotten higher in its requirement in terms of automating the shop-less facade. User’s albeit consumers are targeted in a variety of device ridden channel delivery and the cost of having a traditional developer and designer team has not been reduced.

Specialised Teams

Cubicles of tomorrow aren’t going to be housed with team members who can write  and design for multiple devices at the same time. They will be broken into specialised teams and the more and more business(s) begin to consolidate their branding into the device market(s) the more they will look to simplifying their product portfolios and brands.

A team of .NET developers who write HTML and WPF client(s) will most likely need to include an iPhone/iPad, Android/Blackberry team(s) who mirror their offering. Companies will aggressively recruit and look for people who are agnostic in one or mediums but realistically given the complexity involved in all the current UX Platform(s) it just isn’t feasible to find that many people on the market waiting for a job call.

Browser Forking

Having a specialised team isn’t restricted to proprietary solutions, it will also factor into a more traditional medium of HTML development and design. As strange as this may sound to hear, the idea that HTML5 will bring the industry into a global position of unanimous parity of it’s implimentation amongst all browsers is simply not correct.

The only browser that i’d argue has a vested interest in remaining pure would be Google Chrome and that’ simply because having the entire globe of online consumers still accessing HTML work’s to the search engine and advertising model of Google.

Having a browser fork in API and extend beyond HTML/JS works to Apple, Google and Microsoft’s favor as well. In fact, I’d argue Microsoft are banking on the ye olde embrace / extend model it’s had in the past (with great success).

Diverse a Product Portfolio

Once companies have audited and forecasted what their internal current development team models will look like for the next 2-3 fiscals, they in turn will need to reflect on which bets to place in which markets that are dictated by their choice of development. It will depend on their choice but even then they still need to figure out how they can leverage an iPhone more than they can an Android (or substitute your own technology bet here). For every device you target brings a variety of constraints and expectations that you need to meet prior to even beginning development.

Diversity in choice will ultimately have an impact on a companies brand and consistency model in how they want to broadcast their personality to their respective users. If you target an iPhone for example you have a pretty prescriptive UI design to leverage so it pays to run with it and not against it, given it will reduce your time to market cost(s). Same applies with Android and especially with Windows Phone.

Problem with prescribed design isn’t its ability to convey a uniform user experience with an end user it’s core issue is the reduction of being able to stand out amongst your consumer(s). If you spend more you can overcome the prescribed approach but in doing so you also need to ensure you can leap beyond the baseline of expected behavior.

Metro-style could winout

Prescribed user interface design in turn will slowly become more and more weaponised in a way to again have a single designer rule many device(s). If you can invest in a smaller group of design professionals who have custodianship of a brand and the personality that comes with it, you in turn can reduce your costs on having less investment on design and more on engineering.

A company may prefer the model of having a centralised design team that works with 3-4 device teams as a way of offsetting cost’s associated with multi-targeting.

Metro-style design in turn plays a comfortable role as Android and Windows Phone 7 pretty much lend themselves well to this vision of the way design should be. iPhone/iPad however goes in the opposite way that is to say the composition found within these devices are much more detailed and focused in around theming the experience as much as it’s about enabling an input driven experience.

The design(s) to date using metro oppose the idea of having real-world objects embedded into the 2D design composition (less turning knobs, wooden textures etc). The cost for design here is hugely decreased as a result meaning in reality a design team need only wireframe the composition of what they want a particular screen to look like, layer in color and ensure it adhere’s to some basic principles that relate to consistency, minimalism and lastly shape driven pictography / typography (pattern recognition 101).

Having a metro-style solution going forward can work on all device(s) and whilst it may go against the iPhone/iPad design grain, it can still sit within and more to the point it would reduce a brand’s chance of inconsitency and personaltiy (closer to the one design on all belief).

Designers did this to themselves

Companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Google and even Apple have reacted to a problem that was created by designer(s). The problem started the day when designer’s went against the developer grain, that is they forked off onto their own technology stack which was designed for them (Apple).

In forking their work flow away from mainstream development this in turn created a workflow issue and in turn fueled companies like Microsoft to invest in a lot of tactical decisions around how to solve this said problem (WPF, Silverlight etc).

The forking also gave way to a different approach whereby companies like Adobe began to also invest not just in a x-platform tooling but also for a while there in a x-platform delivery that works with the said tools that designer(s) had grown to love (Flex, Flash).

Once Apple had also moved to an Intel chipset this in turn gave away to what I would call the “Apple Developer” generation where over time more and more of a developer centric foundation was being build to which a series of tools could also now target the designer(s) (amongst other creative professionals).

Design for the better part still remained in its own cut-off from the rest area and the more and more developer communities that didn’t have a dependency on Windows began to emerge, the more they instead crossed the divide and began to work on Apple with their designer sister & brother(s).

The developer defection to Apple created a huge amount of issues and problem(s) from within Microsoft as now they are facing a massive problem around having developers target Windows but also ensuring there are the right amount of designer(s) ready to support such developers. The more applications being built on Windows the more they sell Windows is the simplified formula.

Google also now posed an issue whereby they have no real dog in the fight, that is to say Apple or Windows it didn’t matter provided you targeted HTML and helped fuel their Advertising & Search revenue streams of tomorrow.

I won’t go further into the various competitive back and forth that has gone on suffice to say at the heart of this entire issue around choice lies the designer. The illusive designer who often costs a lot and produces what will soon become the main differentiator in a companies offering – user experience.

Function is no longer important form is

As the industry reacts to the competitive changes that are ongoing, much like a teenage boy does around the time of puberty – design in will start to become the focal point of such change.

A designer will feel suddenly more wanted, targeted and will be taunted and attracted with some quite lucrative offers. Developers will also see this and start or have began to shift career gears and start looking into ways of becoming a designer. Some will fail whilst others will discover a suppressed design gene within lurking and waiting to be unleashed.

The designer will however become the leader of the pack, so used to being the one at the back or considered replaceable, they in turn will now become the most sort after as in turn what is replaceable is engineering (the market optimised for function instead of form for over 20years).

Here in lies the issue, the designer isn’t really equipped to decide the outcome of a generation of computing, they will always prefer to take the right amount of time to do the right job in a way that adhere’s to their internal principles around how the world should look.

Winter’s not coming, a Fork is

A designer today hasn’t gone down in price or time to market, the time it takes to produce a design still takes just as much time and effort as it did last year and the year before that. It however got a little more complicated as the canvas now comes in not just a 1024×768 screen (or there abouts) it now comes in a whole host of screen sizes and operating system level imposed limitations.

Once the corporations that fork their design teams figure this out, styles like the metro-style will begin to emerge as they in turn can bypass the designer if in some fairly competent hands. As in reality the importance of User Experience Principles has become weaponised with the more specialised teams making their work public for all to borrow/steal.

Don’t be suprised if a team in the near future had a designer but now doesn’t and solutions that look like Microsoft Metro were being produced.

Google and Microsoft have began and in parts Adobe’s tooling also adhere’s to this as well.

Having real world objects in 2D design isn’t a bad or limiting thing, it’s an ongoing design evolution around trialing & erroring deeper design beyond flat monochrome wireframes that have or haven’t been colored in.

Don’t knock it as the alternative isn’t as deep in its composition.

Related Posts: