Is Microsoft Really Fighting the Face Down Culture?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a phone addict. I think back to how my parents interacted with us as kids and I realize that they, as a cohort, never had something as distracting and potentially damaging in their hands as an cellphone… ever. Maybe booze, but that’s a different post. I hung out with a bunch of phone bloggers yesterday and at one point we all had iPhones out at a table, all checking stuff. When I’m with the kids I check email all the time, so much so that my son says he’s checking email sometimes when he wants to wheedle the phone out of my hand and play a game. We’re a face down culture now, and it kind of sucks.

Microsoft, ostensibly, is trying to break us of this habit and I say ostensibly because, if you really look at the Windows Phone 7 UI, you’re actually dealing with more swipes and taps than you’d expect given the sparse interface they are presenting. Sure, the phones are fast and the UI, at times, is strikingly beautiful, but it’s still a phone and, as such, requires lots of attention. Back in the old days, when the first iPhone came out, I was amazed at how people gently fondled and petted those things like hamsters. At one of the early Techcrunch events I saw hundreds of San Franciscans all rubbing their iPhones gently and purposefully. It was a turning point for smartphone culture because although Blackberry users had always been addicted, suddenly and entirely new group was joining the smartphone camp and, as such, were now stuck tapping out messages and making status updates with an intensity that rivaled a drug addiction. Why? Because it was so easy.

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