Why is the GUI turning into a clownish experience?

I do my best to not care much about the underlying OS. I run my computer in order to run applications in order to achieve goals. I prefer to forget about the OS and concentrate at completing tasks.

However, the major GUI’s seem to be heading toward making their respective OS’s look very clowinish…some would say outright garrish.

Window’s XP’s system notification balloons constantly intrude into my work. Not that I am opposed to system notifications…MS needs to implement an easy means to set up filters on these. XP’s giant rounded start button looks like it belongs inside a child’s game, not left as a constant eyesore on my desktop. Basically the XP default GUI with its rounded bright blue in-your-face appeal, seems as if it were designed for a clown to use during a skit about how goofy computing has become. And Vista…don’t even get me started…the best thing I can say about it is that Gates and Co. still have time for a complete overhaul of the UI. Let me illustrate my point with a single example; in the Beta 2 when you click on the clown looking button with windows logo on it, then hover over the right column, the picture at the top of the column changes. When you are hovering near it, it is somewhat useful. But when you are further away from it, near the bottom, it just becomes distractful flickering at the visual periphery. Clownish! Because we can! Not because it might be useful.
On the Linux front, Gnome seems much more clownish than KDE, with Fedora Core 5 seeming to be the most clownish of the major distros. At least with Linux you get more tweaking options, you can turn the most clownish distro into a sedate desktop with just a little work.

OS X’s (Tiger) default install with the giant dock and things bouncing for your attention is pretty clownish too. With the recent announcement of Core Animation this is only going to get worse, just as XGL (or whatever eventually catches on) is going to make things worse on the Linux desktop. I am not here claiming these technologies are bad, I am simply stating that they will be mis-used. Apple’s own use of animation in the OS is outlandish enough, let’s not bring this power to every two-bit shareware developer.

I think clownish sells. It looks good in the adverts. It looks good at the demos. As computers become “good enough” it becomes increasingly difficult to sell an OS upgrade, so they duct tape eye candy nonsense on top to make it seem new and innovative. Enough already.

In my computing experience, Windows 2000 was the first OS to become good enough on the desktop. In my mind OS X 10.3x is good enough, also. Has anything been released or announced for these products which make them more usable? Only search, and that is rather trivial.
But this is not to argue against refinement of the GUI experience, I only argue that this refinement (or even complete overhaul) of the experience should be based on usability. Usability and….well, pretty much nothing else.

Where is the innovation on the desktop? Ubuntu gets credit for using a brown theme in defiance of the blue grey/silver/undefined light-color which predominates the desktop. MS gets credit for the next Office update. Anybody else?

All I ask is for a useful platform to run my programs without making it seem as if they reside within a child’s game. Is that too much to ask?


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