Monday, November 1, 2010

Easier Computing

Yesterday, I came across a young man ranting about how it doesn't make sense to him that Apple computer survives as a business. Their computers are quite expensive. They're quite limited. If you try to do something that Apple doesn't approve of, it'll tell you to sit down and shut up. Albeit more politely than that. Apple controls a small market share, one that hasn't grown after quite a lot of marketing.
Other people rushed in to tell him that his ideas were wrong. Apple has a distinct market, one that will gladly pay anything they charge. Apple products are quite flashy and fashionable, but most people buy them because they're easy. From the days of the first Macintosh, Apple invested a lot into psychology and marketing to find the most intuitive interface they could come up with. And it's very easy for a lot of people. Apple is primarily a hardware company, and only releases combinations of hardware known to work. This eliminates 99% of computer problems.
I think there's still ways to make it easier after that. People have proposed everything from webtop models, in which the computer is only a memory-managing OS and a web browser, and has fewer parts to fail or confuse, (A study showed we spend 99% of our time in web browsers anyway, which this model finds encouraging), to cartridge computing, in which different applications would be loaded from ROM-based cartridge(the way that old NES games were) giving a physical aspect to the computing.
Now, truthfully, I'd want a lot of psychological studies before I recommend anything. People are all different, and what's pleasing to one person is profoundly irritating to another. A webtop system is great if everything you do on a computer is on a web page somewhere. It's less great if you just want to do spreadsheets and have an unreliable internet connection. A cartridge system would drive someone who loses things frequently crazy when they inevitably lose a cartridge and now have to re-buy it. Ideas that we think are obvious in computing are often only obvious because we're familiar with them.
I'm curious about what that would discover.

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