An operating system’s default desktop wallpaper is not just a wallpaper. It’s the face of a new OS, promoted in countless advertisements, and experienced by hundreds of millions of people the first time they boot it (then maybe even for months or years after). Who can think of Windows XP without considering its rolling green hills? Or the first iPhone without thinking of the blue marble we inhabit?
Now, Microsoft has revealed the backdrop for Windows 10. It’s a sharp projection, cutting through smoke with laser-like light. It’s Pentagram partner Paula Scher’s 2012 remake of the Windows logo, given a full Tron makeover by Gmunk (who was literally the artist behind Tron Legacy’s opening credits). The result is what Wired calls “modern, sleek, and a little moody.” I’d go a few steps further to say “retro, chilling, and in need of therapy.”
Don’t get me wrong, the photo is a technical achievement–just watch the video above to see how much care went into creating this visual using traditional photography rather than CGI–and I get that with Windows 10, Microsoft needs to send a message. This is the company that, after Windows 8’s unifying redesign flopped, decided to skip a “Windows 9” and go straight for the gravitas of version 10.
Microsoft is sending a message, no doubt, but it’s the wrong one. In recent history, with Apple and Google both playing up their importance in our lives while pulling at our heartstrings in almost laughable melodrama, Microsoft has done well, slowly recruiting users to their Surface platform, using messages of optimism and humor.
But instead they gave us Tron. And Tron isn’t a delightful future. It’s a dystopian one. Why would Microsoft, or any company, ever try to sell us on things getting worse rather than things getting better?