Mike Cane's iPad Test

The Cancer Of Microsoft’s Tastelessness


I’m reading The Race For Perfect: Inside the Quest to Design the Ultimate Portable Computer by Steve Hamm.

Steve Jobs famously stated:

It’s in this book that the full extent of that statement was brought home to me.

The book is primarily about the creation of the ThinkPad X300.

At one point in the design process, David Hill — who headed corporate identity and design for Lenovo — wanted to avoid this:

Another issue was the appearance of the bottom of the machine. Back at the very beginning, when the designers and marketers were dreaming up Kodachi, Hill set the goal of making a machine that would look elegant and uncluttered on the outside—a perfect simple black box. Yet, by rules and practice, the bottoms of laptops were covered with labels and markings recording the safety checks done on the machines and attesting to the authenticity of various components. The result was that the bottoms of the machines looked like those well-traveled suitcases from the early twentieth century whose proud owners slapped stickers on them from various cities and countries to show where they had been. Hill’s goal was to remove every single label from Kodachi. The solution that Lenovo’s designers had come up with was to transfer the labels to the inside surface of the battery bay. That way, people who bought the machines could see all of the serial numbers and certifications before they installed the battery. Kozak checked with each organization, government agency, or company that was behind each label. He got permission to move them inside the bay from some outfits, but not from others.

So, even he could see that to have a true design statement, a company must have control over all aspects of a product’s appearance to complete its overall experience for owners.

But wait, here’s Microsoft’s cancerous tastelessness, metastasizing:

Microsoft was the big hang-up. Its label had the Windows serial number on it and the four-color Windows logo. After several rounds of discussions between Kozak and Microsoft officials, they were at an impasse. Microsoft simply wouldn’t budge. It wanted its brand featured prominently all over the machine. In the end, there would be a handful of labels on the bottom. Not the clutter of the past, but, still, the bottom would not have the elegant simplicity that Hill had been hoping for.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

What sort of combination of hubris and duncefulness does it take to require a damned sticker like that?

People won’t see it’s Windows running when they turn on the machine?

Did Microsoft wonder if maybe Lenovo would pull a fast one and put Linux or even Mac OS X in the ThinkPad X300?

Did Microsoft really need reassurance that people buying a ThinkPad — a ThinkPad!! — would understand there’s Windows in it? Like Lenovo’s advertisements wouldn’t mention that?

Microsoft does not understand design at all. That part of its corporate DNA is defective. And probably always will be.