Monday, March 11, 2013

Running from the Cool

My many years of research in digital technology has taught me one significant lesson. Whenever I hear the words, "Wouldn't it be cool if …;" I immediately run away as fast as possible. Pursuing the cool is nothing more than an exercise in masturbation, except that masturbating has fewer consequences for the world at large. I thought about this while reading Matt Baxter-Reynolds' article "Will 90 percent of users always hate Windows 8?" on ZDNet this morning. Windows 8 is one of those software products dreamed up by designers in pursuit of the cool, and that pursuit is being reflected on how the damned thing is being advertised on television. However, Baxter-Reynolds' 90% figure come from a book by Giles Colborn, which argues that 90% of all users are interested only in utility, getting things done conveniently with as short a learning curve as possible. Cool may be nice, but it is not what matters.

My fear, however, is that Windows 8 will be come the latest weapon in the "arms race" between Microsoft and Apple. Apple has already begun to let utility slip off their radar. If they decide it is time to "out-cool" Microsoft, those remaining remnants of utility in OS X may slip into oblivion.

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