At least I understand why Microsoft went wrong. It had this idea of uniting the experience of using smartphones, tablets and PCs. That is clearly what the UI formerly known as Metro was meant to do. True, Microsoft backtracked on that one-interface idea, deciding to include something closer to Windows 7 as an alternative for the desktop. That second-guessing didn't make Windows 8 any better, though, just clunkier.
But why has GNOME fallen off the path of UI sanity? I don't know. One observer wrote about GNOME's mistakes: "I used to be upset when gnome developers decided it was 'too complicated' for the user to remap some mouse buttons. In gnome3, the developers have apparently decided that it's 'too complicated' to actually do real work on your desktop, and have decided to make it really annoying to do."
That observer? Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux.
One GNOME developer who has left the UI behind said, "GNOME has no goals." From the outside, that seems to be true. GNOME's developers seem to think they know better than their users, but those users have fled to desktop environments such as Cinnamon and MATE that are similar to GNOME 2.x.
Is the UI story any better elsewhere? Well, don't get too cocky if you're an Apple fan. Scott Forstall, the man behind the OS X and iOS interfaces, was fired in October, and Jonathan Ive, who had been in charge of hardware design and has a very different aesthetic, is now in charge of all Apple interfaces. Might Ive make similar missteps?
I'd like to think he won't, but when you consider how badly others have done with UI decisions lately, you really have to wonder if even the experts can avoid making simple UI blunders.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was cutting-edge and 300bps was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at email@example.com.
Read more about operating systems in Computerworld's Operating Systems Topic Center.