Sunday, 24 June 2012

Microsoft's Good Taste, and Other Snarkasms

OK, today I am going to be petty (I'd say "a little petty," but that's redundant). (No, on second thought, let's revel in pettiness for a bit. It'll feel good).

Steve Jobs once gave his opinion about a deep-seated problem with his rival Microsoft:

He was speaking about the company's products, but I have observed through the years that the lack of thought extends even to the most superficial and customer-facing levels, including the company and product names. Let's take a look.

Of course, we start with the name "Microsoft" itself. In the masculine, testosterone-dripping worlds of programming and commerce, back in the 1970's, yet, a company communicates its toughness by combining the images of small and soft. Let's not dwell on that.

Windows CE was introduced in 1996. As "Windows" is often abbreviated as "Win," Windows CE inevitably became "WinCE." Really? "Wince"?
Wince (noun): A slight grimace or shrinking movement caused by pain or distress.
Wince (verb): To shrink or start involuntarily, as in pain or distress; flinch.
It is amazing that highly paid merchandizers who are presumably skilled in the art of creating positive impressions would let this pass.

In addition, what does the CE stand for? The letters came first; multiple meanings were tacked on later as folk etymologies. Wikipedia tells us,
Microsoft has stated that the "CE" is not an intentional initialism, but many people believe CE stands for "Consumer Electronics" or "Compact Edition". Microsoft says the letters instead imply a number of Windows CE design precepts, including "Compact, Connectable, Compatible, Companion, and Efficient."
So it stands for nothing.

We can surely forgive a single slip in quality of product names, however obvious. Well, we could, if it were a single slip. Consider that, back in 2000, Microsoft released Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows ME, or (by the same process as above), Win ME. "Win me"? Really? The impression that you wish to leave is that no-one would pay for it, so it must be a game prize of some sort?

August 24, 2001 saw the release of the longest-lived version of Windows: Windows XP. Could there possibly be anything wrong with that name? Well, consider that Apple had been developing Mac OS X Server since 1999 and released the consumer version of Mac OS X in March 2001. It advertised this, the tenth version of the Mac operating system, with the Roman Numeral for ten: 
Then, six months later, Microsoft came out with its own OS X (differentiated by the letter P). Tacky, tacky. Such tricks lead to mockery, such as this in 2006:

("Redmond" means Microsoft, as that city is its headquarters).

Officially, XP stands for "Xperience." It also resembles something very well known and quite different in meaning: a Chi-Rho, which stands for "Christ" (in Greek letters). It looks like this:
Perhaps the implication is that Windows XP is a religious experience!

Now we are coming up to Windows 8, which presents a new user interface called Metro. Like no other Windows version (except Windows 1.0), the Metro interface has either non-overlapping tiles or a full screen interface. In other words, this is Windows with no windows. Here is a screen shot of the tiles.

I'm going to change the basis of criticism now from names to colours. The colours of these tiles seemed not only unattractive to me, but strangely familiar. I eventually remembered. The kitchen appliances of the sixties and seventies were dominated by the colours Avocado and Harvest Gold. A later option was Poppy Red. Here they are.


Harvest Gold:
Poppy Red:

The Turquoise and Orange shades seen in the Metro tiles were also available in kitchens for a time. Try here for a short history on appliance colours. And thank you, Microsoft, for a trip down memory lane!

Windows ads are sometimes astoundingly pointless. Try this bum wiggle from Bill Gates.

And to see what Microsoft employees themselves think about their company's abilities to communicate with class and restraint, try this:

I don't have anything to add.

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