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Why Microsoft Never Made Bathtubs

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: “Bill, 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 don’t combine them into one thing to reduce their learning curve. We don’t merge them into one object because each of them are in use in fundamentally different ways at different times.”

Then the pause.

Then Bill’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: ‘That’s just rude.’]


As I saw my career disintegrate before me, I started to question just how “beautiful” 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.

Posted in History, Security.

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