1984

I picked up an iPhone in San Francisco.

In the queue at the store was mostly Europeans and Antipodeans, which doesn’t bode especially well for AT&T I guess.  Invalidating the warranty was much easier than I expected. :-)

When I checked my email I found a message from Apple asking me to rate the customer service I got at the store. Obviously they had matched my credit card details to my previous purchases through the online store back here and got my address that way.

Their service in store was fine, but their CRM system is weirding me out a little.

Meanwhile, Budget let me down and didn’t have any GPS units left when I picked up my rental car, so I’m really loving having Google Maps built into the phone.  I would literally be lost without it.

Apple Design Genius

Four snippets from one interesting article

“To whatever degree Apple can be said to make products with a distinctive genetic code, they can also be said to have inherited most of their traits from a single parent: founder Steve Jobs.”

“There were three evaluations required at the inception of a product idea: a marketing requirement document, an engineering requirement document, and a user-experience document,” [usability legend and Apple’s VP of advanced technology from 1993 to 1998, Don] Norman recalls. [Senior VP of creative at Frog Design, Mark] Rolston elaborates: “Marketing is what people want; engineering is what we can do; user experience is ‘Here’s how people like to do things.'”

“The businessman wants to create something for everyone, which leads to products that are middle of the road,” says [Apple’s director of industrial design from 1989 to early 1996, Robert] Brunner. “It becomes about consensus, and that’s why you rarely see the spark of genius.”

“Jobs is a dictator, but with good taste.”

There is something to be said for a dictatorship like that, I guess?

Get a Mac

The Mac and PC characters have become famous on the back of the Apple ads. Recently they’ve appeared in some cheeky online ads which have been running on a few tech sites.

The actor who plays PC even appears as a guest star in one episode of the Flight of the Conchords HBO series.

Here in NZ we get the US ads, but in some other countries they have their own local variation, and it’s interesting to see how they transplant the humour.

For example, in the UK they use comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb from the Peep Show. Some of the ads are straight copies of the US scripts, but some are new …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBeuKagEiKk

And in Japan they have these two guys (is it just me or are the physical differences between Mac and PC a bit more subtle in this incarnation?) …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qokrYYDCMc

And, my favourite, South Park …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id_kGL3M5Cg

:-)

(Ironically Firefox crashed with a spinning beachball of death when I tried to preview this post … is somebody watching??)

Mac-curious

I’ve been Mac-curious for a while, I guess.

All of the cool kids have one.

At Kiwi Foo Camp earlier this year there were so many Apples it was like an orchard!

What was I missing out on?

I’ve been using Windows ever since I bought my first PC in 19961994. I didn’t (and don’t) consider Windows to be broken. On top of that I was obviously at the back of the queue when they handed out the Apple kool-aid … I still don’t even own an iPod.

But, they say a change is as good as a holiday, so I took the opportunity when I moved to Xero to try switching.

A month in and I’m hooked.

I have found that most of my assumptions were wrong.

For starters, I was surprised to find that it didn’t cost much more. I priced up a Dell and sent the details to a couple of Apple fanboys. The challenge for them was to convince me to buy an Apple instead. Actually it was pretty easy for them. I’d always assumed that Macs were more expensive. While it’s true that you can buy a much cheaper PC, when you compare like with like (Apples with not-Apples?) there is not a great difference.

OS X has been a surprise too.

I didn’t expect to rave about an operating system.

And I know that there are lots of people who don’t like it. Phil for one has taken the time to document the specific things that frustrated him.

But, I love it. It took me a few weeks to get through the valley of despair – or more accurately the valley of unfamiliar keyboard shortcuts. But, now I’m there I find I’m spending much less time fighting with software and more time getting on with things. It feels like the operating system has melted into the background compared to what I’m used to.

And I haven’t had any trouble finding software to use. Like Nic I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover a healthy industry of small application developers creating great software for OS X. My favourites so far are Yojimbo (which has replaced my hitherto dependence on OneNote), VLC, and Quicksilver. And of course Firefox (I’ve also tried Camino, but in the end went back to Firefox for the add-ons). If you’re into Getting Things Done then Actiontastic is also worth keeping an eye on (although it’s not quite there yet for me). I’m also keeping an eye out for VMWare and Pixelmator.

The switch has also highlighted to me how much of my software now resides on the net and so is independent of the operating system – Gmail, Google Reader, WordPress, Xero, etc etc.

I’ve heard a number of people say that OS X isn’t suitable for business use. Now I can understand why.

Microsoft Office for the Mac is a pale imitation of the Windows equivalent. Entourage is especially painful. I’ve failed to get our Exchange server working with OS X Mail, so for now I’m stuck with it.

I’ve started to learn Omni Graffle and Keynote, but I’m still a bit of a novice with both, so I’m not as productive.

So, until the new Mac version of Microsoft Office comes out I’m resorting to running Vista on Parallels for some of this stuff. It’s a bit of a security blanket, but I’m cool with that. It’s a feature. As Marc Andreessen points out, with a Mac you effectively get three operating systems in one (OS X, Unix under the covers, and Windows in Parallels/BootCamp). Or, for a slightly more fanboy spin on the same point: “… all computers can run Windows, but some, the special ones from Apple, also run Mac OS X.” (from John Gruber).

I haven’t tried to do any development yet – although I know plenty of great developers who are Mac users, so I don’t expect any problems and again, with Parallels and/or BootCamp the development languages and environments I am more familiar with are only a mouse click away.

Of course, the hardware itself is super sexy. As Amnon said about the Dell when I sent him the comparison: “How will you live with yourself with that monstrosity in the house?” The only downside is I have had to upgrade my laptop bag to match!

As a long time ThinkPad user I wondered how I’d go with the track pad (I always thought I was more of a nipple man!) but I haven’t had any problems adjusting. I’m now addicted to the two-finger scroll.

Downsides?

Choosing the right time to buy seems to be a secret art. I was all ready to go until a friend pointed out that there would be a new version out shortly. I realise that Apple manage to generate a lot of buzz via their rumour mill. But, I have to wonder if they don’t create a fair bit of bad-will (is that a word?) when they make sudden leaps forward in their product lines. Take, as an example, this comment from the MacRumours.com forums following the announcement of the new MacBookPro range:

“NOOOOOOOOO! I’ve just bought my new Macbook Pro! Loving it alot. But now……. a little less.”

To get around this I got a temporary machine from Rentamac for a couple of months until the new model was released. This would also be a good option if you’re not totally sure that you’ll want to stick with a Mac.

Would I recommend it?

Definitely give it a try.

I can also recommend a Mac to anybody who is looking to opt out of providing tech support to their extended family. I got an iMac to replace Mum & Dad’s old PC, and I can now honestly say I don’t know how to fix any problems they have when they call. Although, so far to be fair there haven’t been any to fix!

Now, about that iPod … :-)

Cartoon from: Hugh McLeod

[Blogged from SuperHappyDevHouse Aotearoa!]

Design matters

Do you remember what MP3 players were like before the iPod was invented?

I wonder if the same will be true of the smart phone:

“The iPhone won’t do anything that can’t be done with devices that are currently on the market. For that reason it won’t appeal to gadget freaks, but the Apple’s innovations on the user interface will ensure that the iPhone appeals to those who would otherwise not have considered buying a smart device.

Remember that digital music players already existed long before the iPod, but the iPod has been hugely successful because everything before it was perceived as being awkward to use and best left to those with a good understanding of the underlying technology.”

From: http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=40&topicid=14275

As it happens, design matters.

If people don’t think it’s easy to use it’s unlikely to be used.

Giving people what they want

Andy Lark has a nice post on The Power of Community.

This quote of his has stuck in my head:

“Marketing programs, clever PR and community activation aside, nothing really beats giving people what they want.”

Too true!

As I’ve noted before, one way to market a product or service is to build something that people love to use and happily tell their friends about.

He also maks an interesting point about how much of the iPhone story has been told in community-driven sites like Digg et al:

“Apple is launching the iPhone at a time when content aggregation sites like Digg, Techmeme, and even Google News can put a potential customer before hundreds, if not thousands, of possibly interesting stories about the product. All Apple has to do is trickle out information every now and then, as it has done in the weeks leading up to Friday’s launch, and watch the frenzy take hold.”

Here’s an interesting comparison along those lines:

The Official Nokia N95 site

A pretty standard marketing site: slick, flash-based, but doesn’t really tell me much about the product that I really believe.

The Nokia N95 page on Wikipedia

A pretty good summary of the phone and it’s features, including some of its flaws:

“Nokia N95 handsets supplied by Orange and Vodafone in the UK have had the VoIP facility removed from the phone to the annoyance of many users. Vodafone’s explanation for removing the facility was that ‘it doesn’t believe it’s a mature technology’.”

“It should be noted that the N95 does not support US based versions of UMTS/HSDPA; UMTS features in the US versions of this phone are disabled by default (but can be reactivated if needed).”

Which is more useful to somebody considering a purchase?