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Open Letter to iOS Designers

Open Letter to iOS Designers

Dear iOS Designers,
You are incredible, you are the best-in-class of designers I have ever seen. My jaw hits the floor every time I look at one of your photo-realistic icons, your attention to detail and your ambition to push the limits of your abilities. I page through Dribbble and see all these beautiful apps you design, some of which are simply concept designs while others end up becoming fully functional, downloadable apps from the App Store and then I realize I’ll never get to use most of these gorgeous apps.

Just look at some of these beautiful designs:

Jeremiah Shaw

Julien Renvoye


I would Love to use many of your apps, but I can’t because I am committed to the Windows ecosystem – I have been since before iOS even existed. You are committed to iOS and Apple, others are committed to Android and Google – and that’s awesome – use what works for you – but don’t forget what works for other people (remember there are lots and lots and lots of people on Windows).

Let me ask you this: Why do you design? You Design because you LOVE it!

Ignore the fact that you design for iOS simply because that is your ecosystem of choice and Microsoft is “Evil”, instead start thinking about designing for Windows 8 and Windows Phone as well – design for Windows because you love to design, because you love to experiment and because you love to try new and exciting thingsdo it because it’s FUN.

I know, I know, Microsoft has for decades put designers on the back-burner and never provided us with a platform to truly show-off our design skills, it’s a no brainer that they lost you to iOS and Apple. I was stupid, close-minded and ignorant to the rise of iOS on iPhone and iPad – I flat-out missed it. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Forget all of your past history with Microsoft, open your mind and expand your reach into a new and growing incredibly fast ecosystem – I am asking you, begging you, longing for you to come join me and start exploring the idea of designing for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Even if your ideas never become actual, functioning apps in the Windows Store – at least you gave it some serious thought as to how your apps could actually look – you might be surprised how much you like it!

Windows for designers is changing and changing in a way that you should not continue to ignore.

Modern applications are a designers dream come true and here are just a few reasons why:

  • Beautiful, Elegant Typography
  • White Space is Encouraged
  • Clean, Clutter free Experiences
  • Chromeless Applications
  • Simple, Playful Animations
  • Fast and Fluid Experience
  • Grids – got to love Grids
  • Consistent experience across, desktop, laptop, tablet and phone

It’s time for all of us across all our ecosystems to put down our pitchforks and explore each other’s ecosystems and design because we love to design, design because we like to experiment, design to create new conversations.

Start designing for Windows 8, Windows Phone, Android, iOS and yes even Blackberry – I’d love to start seeing your Windows 8 and Windows Phone work show up on Dribbble and all the countless other sites for designers.

Add links to your work in the comments below and lets what you can create!

Micah – a fellow designer

Exploring Microsoft’s Modern Design Language

Exploring Microsoft’s Modern Design Language

The “Modern” design language – formally known as “Metro” is Microsoft’s “new” set of design guidelines which has been integrated across many of their software products. Microsoft is just now starting to really push this modern design language as a standard within the company, we can actually see hints of it in some of their older applications like Windows Media Center and the Zune music player – both of these products started the trend for Microsoft to start focusing on elegant design, typography and animation.

Zune HD

Where did this Modern design language come from?

It’s actually influenced on three external foundations:

  1. The Modern Design Movement (The Bauhaus)
  2. International Typographic Style (Swiss Style)
  3. Motion Design

The Modern Design Movement (The Bauhaus)

The Bauhaus movement was geared towards the removing of any extra decorations and ornaments and leaving the focus solely on the purpose and ultimate functionality. This approach to design is distinctly different from what Apple created with iOS which has for the most part relied on a more Skeuomorphism approach. An approach that tries to replicate real world imagery and functionality through realistic ornamental elements.

Here is a good example of from iBooks that shows a Skeuomorphic approach to design with it’s wood grain background, shelves, heavy use of shadows and of course actually showing what looks to be books on the shelf.

Skeuomorphism in iBooks

Take that compared to Kobo Reader on Windows Phone, you can se a striking difference between the two images – the popular new term for this style is “Flat”, we are starting to see many other companies adopt this Flat style. Google’s Android is probably the biggest company outside of Microsoft to adopt this new style – I have to commend them for making their UI much more consistent and clean through flat design.

Kobo Reader

I’m not going to get into the debate on which is “right” Skeuomorphism or Flat Design, I think they both have their advantages and disadvantages and the user simply needs to pick a style they like and join a platform that is attractive to them. I’m a big fan of the flat design style I tend to design towards the functionality rather than an ornamental style.

International Typographic Style (Swiss Style)

The Swiss style emphasizes cleanliness, readability and objectivity with a strong focus on layout and grid systems and the use of bold flat color. You have seen this style of typography almost anywhere that you go, it is used in signage at airports, bus stations the Olympics and many other information dense environments.

Swiss Style Typography

The elegant use of typography in Microsoft’s design language is one of the main reasons I love designing on their platform. It used to be that great typography was only for print design, Microsoft was able to bring it into the digital realm in an aesthetically pleasing and functional way.

As you can see below, Windows 8 and Windows Phone applications are based very strongly on the grid, you can read a lot more about how Microsoft uses the grid here: Laying out an App Page

Grid Unit Structure
Windows 8 Grid Structure

Application Grid Template
Visual Studio 11 Grid Template

In addition to the grid structure, Microsoft has also used big bold colors in their new Modern environment.

Windows 8 Start Screen
Windows 8 Start Screen

Color gives the sense of emotion, attraction and makes it feel more organic as well – especially when the color is used on the hardware itself.

Windows Phone
Nokia Phones

Motion Design

The final and certainly not the last, Motion Design is the third external influence of the Modern Design Language. Similar to Typography, we see motion design everywhere – from the Television and Movies we watch, to digital billboards and scoreboards and of course animations in the applications we use on our phones and computers.

The best Motion design in my opinion is motion that is used in a subtle and simple way, whether it’s a link background color fading in and out as you mouse of it or as various UI elements slide or flip into place as you use your phone.

Wrapping Up

When you take these 3 external influences and pair them up with Microsoft’s five design principles (Pride in Craftsmanship, Fast and Fluid, Authentically Digital, Do More With Less and Win as One) you get a very strong foundation and understanding of how to design for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. We’ll dive deeper into the 5 design principles in our next exploration article coming up soon.

Check out our initial Exploration Introduction Article: Exploring Modern App Design and User Experience

Windows Phone Marketshare Continues to Grow According to Kantar Worldpanel

Microsoft has continually been saying that Windows Phone is the clear third place ecosystem behind both Google and Apple – pushing out BlackBerry and other OS’s. New smartphone OS sales from Kantar Worldpanel clearly shows strong, continued growth for Windows Phone, especially in Europe.

At the rate in which Windows Phone is growing and the rate the iOS is dropping, it’s possible that Microsoft could move into position two within the next year or two.

Dominic Sunnebo from Kantar Worldpanel says:

“Nokia has continued its successful tactic of sucking up remaining featurephone owners across Europe. Even in Britain, where smartphone penetration is at 70%, there are over 14 million featurephone consumers for it to target. At some point Nokia will have to start making serious inroads into the smartphone competition, but for the time being its strategy in Europe is working. Crucial for Nokia will be its ability to keep low-end owners loyal and upgrade them to mid to high-end models.”

Smartphone OS Sales Share

Source: Kantar WorldPanel

OneDrive for Everything in Your Life – SkyDrive Renamed and Improved

OneDrive for Everything in Your Life – SkyDrive Renamed and Improved

SkyDrive has been one of the most useful online services I use in my day-to-day activities both for work and home life. I easily sync my Windows 8 machines with each other through SkyDrive’s built in sync features, every photo I take on my Lumia 928 automatically gets pushed to my SkyDrive account and I use it heavily for storing files for projects I’m currently working on. And now, it’s the same great service but with a new name: “OneDrive for Everything in Your Life”.

Check out the promotional video below, I love the music they chose and the overall emotion and animations look great.

Some may even remember the “Mesh” or “LiveMesh” service from years and years ago – even at that time I loved the idea of cloud storage and file syncing between devices was super important. It simply wasn’t where it needed to be, later on Microsoft improved the service and named it SkyDrive and now, yet again we have a new name. Fortunately, I do think that the new name fits the service better and really describes what the service does in a nutshell.

Why OneDrive? We know that increasingly you will have many devices in your life, but you really want only one place for your most important stuff. One place for all of your photos and videos. One place for all of your documents. One place that is seamlessly connected across all the devices you use. You want OneDrive for everything in your life.

Source: OneDrive Blog

Memos from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and new CEO Satya Nadella

From: Satya Nadella
To: All Employees
Date: Feb. 4, 2014
Subject: RE: Satya Nadella – Microsoft’s New CEO

Today is a very humbling day for me. It reminds me of my very first day at Microsoft, 22 years ago. Like you, I had a choice about where to come to work. I came here because I believed Microsoft was the best company in the world. I saw then how clearly we empower people to do magical things with our creations and ultimately make the world a better place. I knew there was no better company to join if I wanted to make a difference. This is the very same inspiration that continues to drive me today.

It is an incredible honor for me to lead and serve this great company of ours. Steve and Bill have taken it from an idea to one of the greatest and most universally admired companies in the world. I’ve been fortunate to work closely with both Bill and Steve in my different roles at Microsoft, and as I step in as CEO, I’ve asked Bill to devote additional time to the company, focused on technology and products. I’m also looking forward to working with John Thompson as our new Chairman of the Board.

While we have seen great success, we are hungry to do more. Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation. This is a critical time for the industry and for Microsoft. Make no mistake, we are headed for greater places — as technology evolves and we evolve with and ahead of it. Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile and cloud-first world.

As we start a new phase of our journey together, I wanted to share some background on myself and what inspires and motivates me.

Who am I?

I am 46. I’ve been married for 22 years and we have 3 kids. And like anyone else, a lot of what I do and how I think has been shaped by my family and my overall life experiences. Many who know me say I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning. I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. So family, curiosity and hunger for knowledge all define me.

Why am I here?

I am here for the same reason I think most people join Microsoft — to change the world through technology that empowers people to do amazing things. I know it can sound hyperbolic — and yet it’s true. We have done it, we’re doing it today, and we are the team that will do it again.

I believe over the next decade computing will become even more ubiquitous and intelligence will become ambient. The coevolution of software and new hardware form factors will intermediate and digitize — many of the things we do and experience in business, life and our world. This will be made possible by an ever-growing network of connected devices, incredible computing capacity from the cloud, insights from big data, and intelligence from machine learning.

This is a software-powered world.

It will better connect us to our friends and families and help us see, express, and share our world in ways never before possible. It will enable businesses to engage customers in more meaningful ways.

I am here because we have unparalleled capability to make an impact.

Why are we here?

In our early history, our mission was about the PC on every desk and home, a goal we have mostly achieved in the developed world. Today we’re focused on a broader range of devices. While the deal is not yet complete, we will welcome to our family Nokia devices and services and the new mobile capabilities they bring us.

As we look forward, we must zero in on what Microsoft can uniquely contribute to the world. The opportunity ahead will require us to reimagine a lot of what we have done in the past for a mobile and cloud-first world, and do new things.

We are the only ones who can harness the power of software and deliver it through devices and services that truly empower every individual and every organization. We are the only company with history and continued focus in building platforms and ecosystems that create broad opportunity.

Qi Lu captured it well in a recent meeting when he said that Microsoft uniquely empowers people to “do more.” This doesn’t mean that we need to do more things, but that the work we do empowers the world to do more of what they care about — get stuff done, have fun, communicate and accomplish great things. This is the core of who we are, and driving this core value in all that we do — be it the cloud or device experiences — is why we are here.

What do we do next?

To paraphrase a quote from Oscar Wilde — we need to believe in the impossible and remove the improbable.

This starts with clarity of purpose and sense of mission that will lead us to imagine the impossible and deliver it. We need to prioritize innovation that is centered on our core value of empowering users and organizations to “do more.” We have picked a set of high-value activities as part of our One Microsoft strategy. And with every service and device launch going forward we need to bring more innovation to bear around these scenarios.

Next, every one of us needs to do our best work, lead and help drive cultural change. We sometimes underestimate what we each can do to make things happen and overestimate what others need to do to move us forward. We must change this.

Finally, I truly believe that each of us must find meaning in our work. The best work happens when you know that it’s not just work, but something that will improve other people’s lives. This is the opportunity that drives each of us at this company.

Many companies aspire to change the world. But very few have all the elements required: talent, resources, and perseverance. Microsoft has proven that it has all three in abundance. And as the new CEO, I can’t ask for a better foundation.

Let’s build on this foundation together.


From: Steve Ballmer
To: All Employees
Date: Feb. 4, 2014
Subject: Satya Nadella – Microsoft’s New CEO

Today is an incredibly exciting day as we announce Satya Nadella as the new CEO of Microsoft. Satya will be a great CEO, and I am pumped for the future of Microsoft. You can read the full announcement here.

Satya is a proven leader. He’s got strong technical skills and great business insights. He has a remarkable ability to see what’s going on in the market, to sense opportunity, and to really understand how we come together at Microsoft to execute against those opportunities in a collaborative way. I have worked closely with Satya for many years and I have seen these skills many times. He is not alone, though. Our Senior Leadership Team has never been stronger, and together this group will drive us forward.

Microsoft is one of the great companies in the world. I love this company. I love the bigness and boldness of what we do. I love the way we partner with other companies to come together to change the world. I love the breadth and the diversity of all of the customers we empower, from students in the classroom to consumers to small businesses to governments to the largest enterprises.

Above all, I love the spirit of this place, the passion, and the perseverance, which has been the cornerstone of our culture from the very beginning.

Stay focused and keep moving forward. I am excited about what we will do. Satya’s appointment confirms that.

Thanks for making Microsoft the most amazing place to work on the planet, and thanks for the chance to lead.