In today's market, consumer tech and products are all about brand recognition, and status symbol. It's the best way to grab attention, to make a name of yourself, and with the always-connected world of the internet, the best way to solidify a reputation.


Apple is the prime example. Steve Jobs created a product line through the iPhone that both blew away the expectations of people, and created the reputation of stylish and functional devices from a sleek and wildly presentable corporation. Another example, could be BMW, the car manufacturer. People buy BMW's, because they're aware that with the symbol, they are showing off a car with form and function, lusted by many other people.


Microsoft, at this point, is in a time of transition. For a decade now, Microsoft has been known as the 'computer guy', the one that makes computer systems for people to use at work. Even worse, in the past years the mega-company has been associated with keywords such as 'old', 'boring', and 'slow'. Perhaps some of you reading this feel the same way. However, Microsoft would like to have a word with you.



Their new initiative to revitalize how their company and brand is viewed, is already off the launch pad. Starting with Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360, the software company introduced their new Metro interface, a fresh take on digital interaction and layout. With their newest launches of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, the project is on full thrust, and has been met with average critical reception.


The philosophy around their interface refresh is to unify the user "experience" found on all of the different devices that are commonly used by us today, whether it be the computer, tablet, smart phone, or home console. New services such as Skydrive offer a way to access your files from anywhere, while extending the name of their already successful "Xbox" division to all devices helps increase awareness and install base.



On paper, this seems like it's a great idea. Modernize your look, re-reveal yourself to the public, make the big bucks again. But as I'm sure Micro's thinking back at home, things aren't quite working out as hoped. Sure, their in-house products and software are selling at acceptable rates, but nothing is flying off the shelves as was hoped.


Why is this so? Minimalist designer Andrew Kim has a few ideas. Allow me to explain...



Kim has decided that in comparison to Apple and Google, the mega successful, corporate good guys who create friendly and easy to use every-day services, Microsoft is nothing more than a corporate and conservative company that makes a game console on the side. As a part of his personal pitch-project, he suggests total redesign, in skew of a new aggressive, minimalist and mysterious company that very nearly approximates to science fiction.


The refresh given to us in 2012 by Windows 8 is dramatic, but nothing "new". Consumers are still under the impression of "old" Windows, and it certainly can't hurt to re-introduce the brand, any more than their old logo would help.



We've been given way to a slew of impressive and futuristic technologies. Multi-gesture touch mice, Kinect, the Surface tablet, the Xbox, and a radical operating system. To go along with it, Microsoft needs a radical presentation, an intense unifying campaign, and a strong internalization of their corporation. As such, Kim introduces the "Slate" logo. Along with this slate, comes mysterious, minimalist advertising, unique Apple-esque product packaging, unification and extension of product branding, and even way of culture. Despite different brands having slightly different logos, it's all an extension of one simple, easily recognizable shape, only formed into different compounds.



Talk of the positive things that Microsoft has going for it, is especially put on the "purely digital" operating system that Microsoft has introduced. On the other end of the spectrum, Apple is completely "skeumorphic", meaning that all of the design philosophies in the operating system are created in a way as to resemble real-world, relatable figures. A book application is designed to look like a book, and a radio app is designed to look like a radio. Steve Jobs was a staunch supporter of the skeumorphic design philosophy, much to the controversy of others. To him, having a digital system be easily and instantly usable is great.



However, others like to argue that fully supporting a digital, abstract interface is the way to go, and the Metro design is a full representation, offering cropped text and suggested interactivity. In comparison, Google is slightly digital with Android 4.1, showing sparse and clean layouts for their widgets. However, the operating system still suggests skeumorphic interactivity that encourages disorganization, and chaos across the operating system. Nothing looks the same, nothing works in a unified way, in contrast to Microsoft's Metro, which works in the same, clean way every single time.



With all that said, it's an interesting take on how to manage a company of the future. For an extra bit of justification, Andrew Kim has since been hired by Microsoft's Xbox division, in an effort to put his abstract mind to use, no doubt to enhance marketing and design for future iterations of their video game console. It's impressive, to say the least.


Personally, I'm not so sure of the full extent of his redesign. He stated that the new "window from an angle" logo is uncomfortable to view, and to me, introducing a rhombus isn't that much better. Perhaps a different shape would be better. Also, fully embracing the process that Apple set in motion, of internal stores, packaging, and lifestyle seem a little far off from now, perhaps a little over-the-top. I'd hate to see the once again up-and-coming (popularity-wise) Microsoft get in over its head the same way Apple has, but there's no doubt that it led to success.



What do you guys think? Too radical, or a suggestion in the right direction? Do you like the "pure digital" design philosophy of Microsoft's new Metro, or do you prefer to see skeumorphic design? Shout out below.



Signing off,


~ GoldvsSilver