Microsoft Thinks Apple’s iOS is Boring. Well, Thank Goodness!

| Editorial

Recently, a Microsoft executive suggested that Apple's iOS is boring. Why would he say that? I know exactly why. Thank goodness iOS is very boring indeed.


The number one goal for any technology company today is to seize and maintain control of our visual field, the extent of what our eyes can see.

We see that with television shows and movies that have graphical popups in the corner, sometimes annoyingly animated, that tell us about another show that's coming up. Recently, the NBC local affiliate station in Denver (KUSA) went to even greater extremes by routinely throwing up a giant banner with all kinds of distracting data over the visual field of the local news. 

Every conceivable text distraction is displayed.

We also see that with Windows Phone active tiles. They're animated, begging for our attention. That's probably why Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft's Windows Phone group, thinks that iOS is boring. It doesn't sufficiently seize control of our visual field.

Other examples are Facebook Home and Google Glass. While I am enthusiastic about the potential for good works with Google Glass, it is a prime example of how a company can develop technology that seizes control of our visual field for our benefit, but also its benefit.

Sometimes we have ourselves to blame.  Our hunger for visual stimulation is so severe that when we're not watching the HDTV, we find another visual device on our lap to focus on.  That effect, "The Second Screen," will be actively exploited. But at least we control if we elect to invoke the second screen. For now. There are plans, I have read, to make it an indispensible part of the primary viewing.

Because there are no socially implicit boundaries related to what extent a company can affront us with disturbances of the visual field, it's left to the marketplace to weed out the most offensive. What the industry is counting on is to boil our frog, inundate us with these visual assaults until we take it for granted and stop thinking about the harm it does to us.

Also, our values are seldom openly discussed. For example, should a mobile OS be declared "exciting" by virtue of what it can do for us? Allow us to achieve on our own? In the absence of that discussion, the idea of "exciting" defaults to how visually alluring the user interface can be made. If you doubt that, just close your eyes the next time you watch a movie trailer and note how the light moves across the inside of your eyelids. The goal is to mesmerize us and create a craving for the movie.

If a company can intercede in the visual field, it can insert its own agenda into our lives. That's one reason why really good thinkers sit quietly, undistracted. The capacity of the human mind to develop independent notions, perhaps dangerously independent notions, comes with reflection. Not with agitating, aggressive visions overlaid on our visual field that distract us from thinking about what's happening to us.

The seizing and holding of the customer's visual field is the new, foremost idea by not just advertisers but makers of technology who want to lure clients to their platform.

I like iOS 6 for its quiet confidence. It's there, ready to do what I want it to do. It invites me to appreciate its technology by what I can decide to do. The basic OS doesn't pester me, rather, it invites me to be in control. That's genuine technical excitement. I hope Apple never allows itself to be sidetracked from that goal for its customers.

I have a feeling Mr. Myerson has his own ideas about what he wants me to do. For him, "exciting" is keeping me glued to his company's cyberportal into my mind.

I saw a tweet the other day that suggested a possible correlation between the popularity smartphones and the reduction in UFO sightings.  The notion was that, independent of thoughts about UFOs, no one looks up anymore.

We should look up more.


Lee Dronick

AAPL down on news that iOS is boring. smile

I saw a tweet the other day that suggested a possible correlation between the popularity smartphones and the reduction in UFO sightings.  The notion was that, independent of thoughts about UFOs, no one looks up anymore.

With so many iPhones out there there would be more photos of UFOs, real photos. There is certainly more photos and videos of newsworthy events. Artistic stuff too, I am taking a lot of photos using my iPhone.

TV shows, news in particular, are getting annoying with the crawler along the bottom, chyrons, popups and such.


John Martellaro

Lee: I think, when there’s a commotion, people fire up their smartphone camera. What do we miss when we’re texting, browsing and there’s no commotion?

Lee Dronick

Yeah, there people walking around looking like they are praying. I walk around looking for interesting things such as UFOs, Bigfoot, images in clouds, shadow patterns, and such. I have always been a bit of a misfit. smile



On the subject of UFO sightings, there’s an app for that! It’s called UFO on Tape, and the goal is to try and keep a UFO in the frame of your camcorder for as long as possible. Not sure how they did it, but their footage (real footage, with what I can only assume is a CGI UFO) has that shaky hand-held quality that is typical of UFO footage. Think of it as a UFO sighting simulator.

John Martellaro
Mike Weasner

The Phoenix NBC affiliate is also displaying those lousy overly large bottom banners.  They hide other onscreen information and are definitely annoying.  The Tucson NBC affiliate has not yet started putting them on their newscasts, at least not on the live online streaming version, which is the only way I can see them due to out-of-date FCC regulations that prohibit DirecTV from providing the local Tucson TV stations in my area (which is closer to Tucson than Phoenix).  But the FCC now requires that closed caption text be overlaid on the streaming newscasts, with no way for the user to disable it.  Overregulation and just more ways to control, as John says, “our visual field, the extent of what our eyes can see.”

Lee Dronick

Will Facebook users sit still for this?

We Facebook users are frogs in a pot of water that is slowly warming up to boiling. Anyway as a user I have to live with the ads, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like them. I have complained to them about some “Suggested Posts” in my timeline, on my iPad, because of the stuff that they were selling I found to be abhorrent. Of course I have the choice to stay there, or at least not be so active, but I have some family and friends that probably will never leave Facebook. I am looking for a different social network.

but their footage (real footage, with what I can only assume is a CGI UFO) has that shaky hand-held quality that is typical of UFO footage.[/quote}

Much of the video I take on my iPhone is like that. If I can find some place to stabilize the the iPhone, against a street pool, fence post or something then I will. Otherwise my bipod is the one I started with 62 years ago.


Bread and Circuses…


Lee - if you have just a small group of family and friends I would suggest giving Path a try:

It’s designed for smaller private groups and works great across idevices and Android devices. Perfect for keeping in touch, there are no ads, privacy is very tight. I really enjoy it.

I was born in New Mexico and had friends in several families that are the owners of a couple of sites of repute there. Alas, I never encountered any UFOs, no matter how wide my eyes were open. wink


I’m ok with this notion of boring.  I prefer it over annoying.  remember the search dog, or clippy the helpful paper clip.  Just annoying, gratuitous visuals.

Lee Dronick

Thanks Jamie, I will look into Path.

I will tell you how boring is iOS, AT&T techs use it. Last week I had Uverse internet and TV service installed. The tech hooked up a test meter to check my lines, at the box on the garage wall, then they read it via on iPhone and iPads.


I don’t understand the appeal of live tiles.  Why do I want a bunch of distracting movement in my visual field when I’m trying to accomplish a task?

Maybe I’m too old…

Lee Dronick

Why do I want a bunch of distracting movement in my visual field when I’m trying to accomplish a task? Maybe I’m too old.

Those tiles need to get off of our lawns!


Paul Goodwin

Another reason to never watch network TV. First the content and quality of the news went down hill, now there BS all over the screen, and commercial galore. Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant video is almost all I ever watch on TV except for football games. Between those and my personal 1200+ video library, I never turn on network TV. I record shows on the cable hard drive for later viewing and hardly ever watch cable TV in real time. The top and bottom banners on sports events is needlessly large too, and way to many adds for shows coming up flashing over 20% of the screen. Visual aggravation keeps getting worse all the time. Call me old, crotchety, resistant to change, boring, whatever. All that visual distraction is too much for me.



I believe what Terry Myerson really wanted to say was, ‘Apple’s iOS is beating us to our knees, eating our lunch, and then driving off with our car; and we really wish we had come up with it way back when’, but then, he’d lose his job.

I think some of the smartphone/tablet OS interface distraction is the teething pains of an industry still in its infancy, and a classic example that, just because you can do something, it does not mean that you should. I believe that it is part of the same phenomenon associated with the noisome distraction that passes for e-zine content. As you point out, much of this is attributable to there being no socially implicit or explicit boundaries as to what should constitute our visual field, as a function of this still emergent new culture; nor have their been studies over time to examine the impact of this approach on knowledge retention, fatigue, safety and the like.

Just as we learnt to make more ergonomic hardware over time through experience in the PC era, here in the post-PC era we have yet to even figure out what makes the most product OS interface.


The Mpls/St. Paul NBC affiliate has also put that same annoying banner up on their newscasts.  It isn’t NBC that is doing this but Gannett Company who owns the local affiliate.


Tiles are this generation’s pink lawn flamingoes. Microsoft always seemed to believe their consumers were people who had those on their lawns, so the brightly hued, wobbly “look at me” distracting tiles make sense.

No lawn flamingoes? Just a monocolor lawn? Boring. In Redmond.


And TMO’s animated GIFs are somehow not so bad ??

Pot, meet kettle.

Lee Dronick

The ads here do not cover up the story.


This sort of reminds me of the parody on iPod marketing:


Coupla comments -

The TV sports guys still haven’t figured out that their banners at the bottom of the screen are keeping me from seeing that golf ball actually fall into the hole. Mostly I see everything but that end part, which is what I was wanting to see when I tuned in.

The other parallel that crosses my mind is that back when Macs first came out, everybody wanted to use 50 different fonts in their documents, just because they could and because it was “just so cool”. Kinda the same thing with the animated tiles in the MS phone OS.

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