Thursday, September 11, 2008

I do love Apple!

Lately, most of the people I meet tell me "you really do not like Apple...". I have to guess my latest posts about the iPhone being too close and MobileMe not working were too harsh. It is actually not my fault, the iPhone is really too close and MobileMe is really not working...

That aside, I do love Apple. My background is in usability. Anything that comes out from Cupertino is so usable and beautiful, I am astonished. From the packaging to the end product. I own plenty of iPods, one iPhone and a MacBook Air. My wife uses a Mac... I prove I love Apple with my credit cards...

The magic of Apple is to be able to show people what they do not know, going against the usual business practice of the focus groups. Forget it, says Steve Jobs, they can't tell you if they like something or not, if they have never seen it. Brilliant... I wish we could do the same for elections, getting rid of polls ;-)

I just finished a book about Steve's brain and I found quite fascinating to look behind the process. He is a maniac at making things work and make them easy. I share that passion. In his opinion, though, you have to control the entire process, from the beginning to the end, to make it happen. And you must not allow anyone in the middle to screw it up. That's why everything Apple is close by nature. It is hard to disagree, from the usability angle (and from they have been able to deliver...).

Interestingly, that is also why the Mac has few developers. Or why the iPhone is at risks to be obliterated by Android and the open source Symbian. Close might be good for usability, but becomes a burden for mass market usage. In particular, for multi-purpose devices. Those that can be enhanced, where developers can add the killer app, or just the one I really need. It is perfect for single-purpose devices, like a music player. And I am a fan of single-purpose devices: multi-purpose means making compromises on usability and quality. I never believed in convergence. Give me a good navigator I can leave in the car. I do not care about using my phone as a navigator in the car. It is a compromise and it delivers poor results.

It is strange. I am a lover of usability. I want things to be easy. But I want them to be open. I want creativity to blossom and I see every day the value of a community. And what it can do for you, building great and stable products.

It sounds like a tight-rope walk all over again ;-)

Can a community build usable products? Or is the focus too broad by definition, to force multi-purpose and screw up usability? I am not sure, but there must be a middle way. The trick is to find it. I can assure you I will keep trying...