I’ll admit it. I didn’t think that Microsoft was capable of creating a good user interface anymore.
Well, as long as we’re being honest, I’ve never really thought they were terrifically talented at making user experiences that lacked a certain degree of utter failure.
When I first saw the “New Xbox Experience”, I thought it was the most unnecessary, ripped off, needlessly shiny Fisher Price toy that any console maker had come up with. The overly pretentious moniker made me want to punch everyone who actually called it by that stupid name square in the nose. I couldn’t wait for it to come out so I could bash Microsoft about their terrible user interface that they forced down my unwilling throat while stealing away my precious blades with a smug grin on their face.
You know, I guess that sometimes it’s good to be completely and utterly wrong.
The actual end product that I find myself using now is terrific. Not only is it less cluttered, better organized, and more visually appealing (without being distractingly so), it also is worlds snappier than the sluggish blades it replaces. As much as I like shiny things, and the NXE is definitely a wonderfully shiny thing, its luster is not my favorite feature. The increased performance is my favorite part of the whole thing by a long shot.
I mean, seriously, I actually had fun playing with the menu when I got to download it a couple of days early due to my beta application a while ago.
I had fun. With a menu. Fun. Menu.
Does not compute.
I guess it’s not totally fair to say that I’ve never enjoyed toying with a menu experience before, because I certainly did just that when I was salivating over my beloved iMac (my first Apple computer) when it arrived almost a year ago. But menus that are designed so well that they can foster such a positive response from users as to be sources of enjoyment in and of themselves are incredibly rare.
And as long as we’re discussing a connection with Apple….
Okay, sure, the NXE steals more than a few ideas from Apple, Sony, and Nintendo alike. It’s not 100% original and innovative, it’s true.
But seriously, what the hell is? Just about every work of human creativity borrows something from another work of human creativity. That’s the great thing about creative freedom: you get to take what you’ve absorbed from other places and put your own unique spin on it to make something truly yours.
It’s damn near impossible to make something totally original these days, and so while some of the general elements are certainly borrowed, since they allowed Microsoft to build an interface that ultimately tops any of the sources it borrowed from I think it’s hardly fair to hold it against them.
The bottom line is that the NXE is a truly pleasant user experience, and while it’s certainly not perfect (a clear indication that the marketing department has the rest of the team by the balls is when the starting channel is not the one that lets the user play games, but rather the channel that exists solely for the purpose of shoving ads down the user’s throat), it tops its predecessor in just about every way even when the old and busted blades weren’t terrible enough to make a redesign a necessity. Microsoft stepped up to the plate and fixed what many, including myself, didn’t realize was broken even though they didn’t need to.
Good on ‘em, I say.
But I still harbor malicious thoughts against those who actually call it the “New Xbox Experience”.
What a stupid name.
[Post-article note: After searching for images to accompany this article, I have come to the conclusion that there are exactly three images of NXE on the entire Internet and all of them are old.]