A former employee of Bill Gates says the Microsoft leader wanted all user interfaces always to be exactly the same, which led to an awkward exchange
At one particularly frustrating moment, I offered the following: â€œBill, a shower, a toilet, and a water fountain all have mechanisms to control water flow, places where the water comes out, some sort of porcelain basin to hold the water, and a drain, but we donâ€™t combine them into one thing to reduce their learning curve. We donâ€™t merge them into one object because each of them are in use in fundamentally different ways at different times.â€
Then the pause.
Then Billâ€™s verdict. [There was an almost interminable pause in the conversation, as Bill thought about what I had said. And then he looked up at me after some processing and exclaimed: â€œThatâ€™s just rude.â€]
As I saw my career disintegrate before me, I started to question just how â€œbeautifulâ€ my analogy really was.
So I guess now we know why today so many people sh*t on Windows.
But seriously, I am reminded of all the use-cases where we have similar but not the same interface. Motorcycles and cars, for example, are similar within the group but not the same as each other. As much as a unified interface has some advantages, it certainly doesn’t lead to innovation/competition. I’m not bothered that I have to ride a road bike differently than a mountain bike, or sail a catamaran differently than a mono-hull…this story also suggests it’s always a good idea to go to the bathroom before having an important meeting to ensure analogies do not go where the mind may already be.