Will Apple Prove Microsoft & Nokia Are on the Right Track?


First a Little Backstory

For those of you that recognize my Username, you know I have no great love for Apple products. Don't get me wrong, they are excellent at what they do. They make a very well designed and built product that serves their customers well. But leaving the Mac for Windows back in the System 7/Windows 3.1 days felt like being released from prison. I felt I was finally free to work how I wanted instead of how the system dictated.

Believe me, being a designer moving up to art director, I got some pretty serious flack from my peers when I made the switch.

And 21 years later, I'm still happy I did it. Apple also seems to keep validating that choice. They've followed Microsoft by finally getting virtual memory implemented correctly, switching to x86 processors, adding right-click functionality to their non-ergonomic mice and making the maximize button actually make a program go full-screen. If current rumors hold true, we'll soon see them also prove Microsoft & Nokia have had the right idea for a few years now With Windows Phone.

Did Microsoft/Nokia Actually Get it Right?

In 2010 Microsoft took a gamble that beveled glass and drop shadows were getting stale. They crafted a design language based on Swiss Style typography and lifting content over chrome, creating what pundits are now calling "Flat" or "Authentically Digital" design.

It would seem this bet paid off. Before the design language formerly known as Metro, this is how a mobile OS was "supposed" to look:

We've all seen what has transpired since then.

Now don't get me wrong. This isn't meant to imply anyone "stole" anything from anyone. It's meant to point out that even though Windows Phone has not gained mainstream appeal, Microsoft's vision of the new UI is sound and Apple seems to have made an uncharacteristically reactionary move to new design trends.

Enter Nokia. There is little doubt, outside the Android community at least, they are heading in the right direction. Their focus on nicely designed, colorful, low-cost devices is helping them regain some of their lost popularity in emerging markets and parts of Europe and Asia. These are markets where Apple, due to price and carriers unwillingness-to-subsidize, do not have the market or mind share they have in more developed markets. Because of this, rumor has it that they will be releasing "budget" iPhone 5C.

I have no problem with Apple making a low-cost iPhone. In fact I think it's smart of them. I don't even bemoan them for making it with colorful polycarbonate shell.

But the similarities in the size, shape and specifically the choice of colors smacks of "me too". Take a look at these photos and tell me differently.

It will be interesting to see the internals of a "budget" iPhone and what, if any, software features the chose to include/exclude, as well as what figure Apple considers "budget". But be assured, it will be billed as the most affordable unicorn-tear powered device no matter what the price.

I would never accuse Apple of purposely copying the look of Windows Phone & Nokia hardware to confuse users into buying their product (Like they accused Samsung). But I also never figured they would take so many cues from a company they and a good portion of their users belittled as having no design skill for decades.

Who knows? If even Apple has realized how beautiful flat design on "Nokia-esque" hardware is, maybe the rest of the world isn't far behind.