Apple & User Centricity. A Fan Letter.

by Steve Mallett

I think you always hurt the ones you love. So let me send out a little love to Apple this time.

Apple's WWDC (World Wide Developer's Conference) has me pumped up. When Steve Jobs used the words "user centric" I though I was going to spill my coffee. I was watching the WWDC keynote over a quicktime stream in my housecoat this morning. Something I might not do when my iSight arrives!

"user centric". Quite a mouth full isn't it? A lot of companies say it & don't mean it. Some say it and outright disgrace it. Everything I saw this morning made me reel in the fact that Apple really, truely gets it and delivers.

It was so obvious that everything that Apple was showing off was more of a display of having listened to users than crooning about their own achievements. I can't even imagine what happens at Microsoft HQ when they watch and hear about events like this. Apple's people experience the same pain or frustrations as their users when something doesn't work quite right and they fix it or improve it or whatever. I had to wrestle with a windows box this morning to get a simple mp3 player to be recognized over USB. Shshh.

They even have the guts to say that Microsoft beat them being to being able to change (I won't use the word switch) users easily. Then they just changed so they could. No bitching. No excuse making. They just did it. What a refreshing change from the companies I usually have to deal with.

Aside from user centricty those new improvements in Panther look supurb. The new finder, audio/video conferencing that actually just works (I only got to try the audio, but it was from Canada to Germany!), iSight... The new iSight is designed to sit on top of your laptop screen so people don't have to look at the side of your face, but into your eyes..., faster search, & the automatic sync'd backups to idisk, built in fax sending... like this is a money maker? It's in there because users needed it in an OS.., and encrypted file access via FileVault.

I won't harp on the G5. I'm trying not to think about it. Wow.

Anyway, I'm quick to condemn & try to be equally quick to praise. Kudos.


2003-06-26 23:22:45
not as impressed
I was not nearly as impressed by the "user-centric" theme at WWDC in Panther. What exactly are you referring to with all this positive vibe?
2003-06-27 05:12:48
not as impressed
Overall it seems to me that the new finder, faster search & built in fax are -not- sexy. Incredibly useful, but not sexy. The hallmarks of listening to customers, I think, are doing the mundane things that make life easier for customers, when you could be off inventing an iPod or other such thing.

Judging only from the keynote and therefore I'm not sure there is an overall 'theme' to conference, I'm pretty impressed. Using mac, win & linux on a daily basis I don't see anyone else doing the ultra mundane to make my life better other than apple at the moment.

I like splashy products too, but I appreciate the little things that don't equal huge revenue streams too.

2003-07-02 15:15:06
not as impressed
How about Exposť? When you consider how window management was done before this: Unix Virtual Desktops? Command-Tab maximized windows? No thanks! It was a very simple rethinking of a common problem.

How common? Well I seem to remember nearly every Windows reviewer who reviews Mac OS X doesn't like the fact that windows belong to Applications and you can only Command-Tab through applications.

How simple? Watch a first time user try to figure out a virtual desktop sometime. Think of how long this problem has been here (workstation market, Windows NT, Multifinder?) and how nobody even thought to rethink this.

There are other features:

1) Putting file contextual menus where a beginner will see them
2) Throwing back in Finder labels: not important for me, but a lot of old Mac hands use the coloring for assisting in finding and organizing their files--new Mac hands not far behind?
3) a playlist/user-centric version of Finder
4) a lightning-fast Find (just taking advantage of a new kernel feature here)
5) one-click encryption of home folder for the "user-centric" notebook owners
6) putting Fax and Save to PDF where a beginner can find them
7) an open/save box that mimics the Finder instead of requiring the user to learn yet another layout
8) user-centric Fonts (finally) with Fontbook

How's that for a list?

Take care,

terry chay

2003-07-08 08:25:40
re: not sexy
When things are designed for pure usability, the result quite ofter is described as "not sexy". Take the new Honda Element. It has rubber flooring instead of carpet. Why? Because when the kid pukes on the floor, you can easily clean it. That's user-centric. Not pretty, but quite usable.