I have to say that I have been an Apple “fan boy” since the beginning. I owned an Apple Macintosh 512k when they launched (or at least my parents did—I was 5 at the time). Over the past 3 years I have worked at Microsoft for the Xbox division. It’s a great job and I look forward to the challenges and adventures I have each and every week. I have seen a lot evolve over these releases.
On the Microsoft front, I have seen their design language “Metro” take ahold of a lot of the user interfaces that have been announced and launched since then—Windows Phone, Microsoft Surface, Windows 8, and Office 2013. I am privileged at work to get to use the beta version of the applications and operating systems, and I have to say Microsoft has made HUGE progress since the days of Windows 95. Even Gizmodo recently said so. Clean, simple—it’s definitely a nod to Meis Van der Rohe and his “less is more” ideology. I applaud them for this.
Now what about Apple? Yes, today, they release their new OS 10.8 “Mountain Lion”. I will most likely be upgrading this evening, looking forward to seeing what will grab me in this release as I didn’t find much in Lion I was drawn to use and adapt in my daily interaction. I do know that Apple has now added notifications and allows you to add a more “socially” adapted environment onto the desktop with Twitter, Flickr, and others. But, if you look at the OS as a whole, Apple really hasn’t made a dramatic change to their interface since “Tiger” (10.4), in my opinion. And while I appreciate the stability of the OS and reliability of their hardware, I am wondering if Apple will be able to hold its ground without Steve Jobs. So far, it’s not looking so good.
Where am I coming from with this lack of optimism? Apple has been on the forefront of industrial design ever since the company came out with their colorful iMacs and introduced a bubbly and playful design. Then, they started to think more environmentally and adapted the aluminum casings, etc. to step it up a notch. And while I love the hardware that Apple has released, it’s hard from me to enjoy the software when I see and use the refreshed Microsoft lineup on a daily basis practically.
My wife and I own an iPad, which is a great travel companion. We have iPhones that serve us well on the bus and while traveling in unknown areas of the country. Our Apple TV is a great media hub for our library of music and movies to stream on our television. And as a photographer, I have used Aperture since its release and have favored it over Lightroom for the longest time. They all just work, plain and simple.
However, Apple has always been a step above Microsoft with the latest and greatest in both hardware and software. The iPhone has 4+ years on the Windows Phone. Apple’s OS has had a dramatically more attractive look to it up until Windows 8 was announced—it’s been a long time coming, Microsoft. I have always been one to be attracted to a cleaner and more simplified design in all forms—clothing, automotive, architecture. And at the same time I prefer the timeless and classic look… Levis, Jaguar E-Type, and Omega Seamaster.
So, where does the appeal of Microsoft’s “Metro” come in? I think it is an understanding that technology is expected to move us forward. Look at science fiction such as “Minority Report”, and even “Star Wars” and “Back to the Future: Part II”. They all give us an idea (through someone else’s story) of what “future” is supposed to be like. And while I enjoy the idea of removing technology from my life, some of what I have come to know and do is hard to accomplish without it.
With that said, wouldn’t you prefer to have your home’s hardware have a clean and simple software to use over something that looks like a faux notepad or faux photo album?
Now, being someone who would still prefer to have a physical photo album on my shelf instead of cycling through a stream of photos off of a hard drive, I know there are still going to be a few things that neither Microsoft or Apple will sell me on. And while I work on a computer as a profession, I prefer to “shut down” when I call it quits for the day and refrain from checking email and/or using technology beyond turning the television on or turning the key in the ignition of the car. But… in the case of looking forward to the day when I have kids in the house and our lives are moving forward, closer to retirement, I am finding that Microsoft, not Apple, is now the more innovative company with both hardware and software.
Welcome to the future.