Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

of innovation and inertia


Some thoughts fueled by a Salon article written by a woman who confesses that, after switching to an iBook, she wants to go back to Windows. An excerpt:

what's with this "intuitive" malarkey? What's so intuitive about error screens that refer to some obscure code that the Mac techie on the help line can't even decipher? ("Are you sure it says 'error -7531'?" "Yes, I'm sure." "Macs don't do that." "Mine's doing it." "Well, just be glad you're not getting the blue screen of death." Thanks a lot.) Very well, I'll admit that it is slightly better than finding you've unwittingly performed an illegal operation that forces the system to shut down. (By the way, why "illegal"? Why are PCs constantly breaking the law? And who are they afraid of that they have to shut everything down in the middle of my document?)

and another one:
Maybe you could help my forefinger get through its withdrawal from the left-click option on Windows mice. Maybe you could tell me why AppleWorks has omitted my beloved Tempus Sans font and always forces me to use this darn Helvetica. Maybe you could help me sort through all these impossible formatting options when I save my document (two versions of AppleWorks, two ClarisWorks, two Word Macs, and two Word Windows? Come on!). Maybe you could help me manage that cryptic little Apple key with the funny symbol on it -- the key that can't seem to make up its mind about what it wants to do except cause me grief.

Now, her comments are understandable, but what she doesn't realize is that Windows is even worse. The difference is, she's gotten used to the stupid error messages that Windows gives. (And even more, it's almost certain that the error messages she's seeing are on OS 9 and not OS X).

This is one of the big problems that innovation faces today. It's not that software developers don't innovate. It's not that new things don't appear in the marketplace (take The Brain or Enfish for example, two systems that I've used occasionally over the years and that have been around for a long time). It's just that sheer inertia is a huge force in defining what users actually use. Part of the blame, as usual, goes to Microsoft, which has done everything in its power to squash the software industry that doesn't do what they want or that might develop into competitors for Office or the Windows Shell or whatever. If there was more investment, more of these products might break through more often.

So this means that new software has to be creative (to give users a reason to switch), cheaper (ditto) and not only format-compatible but also user-interface compatible with Microsoft's programs. Easy eh?

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on August 22 2002 at 12:00 AM

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