Windows 8 looks like it was designed by a bunch of two year-olds wired from watching too much Barney

I hate flat things. Flat tires. Flat musical notes. Flat soda bottles because my teenage son can't bring himself to tighten the cap properly. I just can't stand stuff that lacks in one dimension or another.

So you can imagine my reaction to the recently leaked screenshots of the final Windows 8 RTM build's UI. Not only has Microsoft done away with the last vestiges of Aero, the company has taken a virtual steamroller to the entire Windows landscape.

From buttons to widgets to menus, all traces of the 3D richness that began with Windows XP, was transformed with Vista and finally perfected in Windows 7, have been erased from the UI. Transparency, too, has been given the heave-ho in favor of a return to the crayons and finger paint look of Windows XP Luna. It's like someone attached a digital hose to the side of every Windows 8 PC and sucked all of the the visual dynamism and character out of the user experience.

Has Microsoft really gone Flat Earth on us? The official line from the company is that the UI changes in Windows 8 are all about touch friendliness -- that, and some vaguely defined "energy savings" to be gained by using a less hardware resource-demanding look & feel.

It's this latter point that I have the most trouble with. Modern mobile computing platforms have long incorporated power-efficient graphics cores that render Microsoft's justification arguments moot. Going back as far as Vista's heyday (such as it was), many business class systems included "switchable" graphics for this very reason. For Microsoft to trot out this straw man today seems more like lame excuse making than a valid line of reasoning.

The touch-friendliness argument, on the other hand, makes perfect sense -- especially when you consider it within the context of Microsoft's broader failure to touch-enable the whole of the Windows OS. In fact, given how often Windows 8 and RT users will be blown out of the Metro (can we still call it that?) bubble and into the nasty, touch-unfriendly desktop, any changes that will help to gloss over this jarring transition are clearly welcome.

And there you have it. Microsoft has steamrolled the Windows UI because it is utterly incapable of delivering a fully-baked touch experience on its flagship OS. All of which points to the even broader issue of internal politics at Microsoft, one that I covered in previous post to this very website. The Office team still isn't fully on board with the "don't-call-it-Metro" UI transition, and the result is that -- after nearly two years gestating within the bowel of divisional president Steven Sinofsky -- Windows 8 still looks like it was designed by a bunch of two year-olds wired from watching an all-day Barney the Dinosaur marathon.

Pretty, neutral colors. Lots of simple lines. No transparency. Welcome to Windows Kindergarten edition, brought to you by the new Microsoft Flat Earth Society.

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