Form or Function, Art vs. Design:
Microsoft has a program for its best non-employee evangelists, called the MVP program. It rewards and recognizes individuals in the community who promote Microsoft’s technologies. Apple has an evangelist program as well, it is called customers. Every Mac owner, every iPhone owner, and every iPod owner is an Apple evangelist. Why? Because rather than engineering driven design Apple has looked hard at what it can do to put the wow factor in to every product in such a way that a user can show someone who would be underwhelmed with the product as a whole quickly and easily. The “wheel” on the iPod, the two finger zoom on the iPhone, the backlit keyboard on a Macbook.
Small flaws in a Microsoft product are big news all over the web because people want to complain about the problems that exist in the products that more people deal with on a daily basis than any other software manufacture. It is like complaining about your boss. You are a slave to the system, and that system is run by Microsoft. Linux and Mac people both feel they are part of the community that they work in. This is why you see so few Apple consultants. If you have a Mac question you ask the community. This is perhaps why even when Linux was destroying CD drives, and Mac’s Panther was destroying data no one cared. It was just a glitch, something to be sorted out, something for the community to remedy.
Apple recently ran a campaign where they presented users who had made the switch from Windows. While it wasn’t a huge success, it does demonstrate the differences between the way Microsoft and Apple handle marketing. Apple’s campaign was about individuals. Microsoft tends to focus on groups. Microsoft will argue that Windows runs more software; Apple will argue that it runs the software you want. It is these subtle differences in perceived demographic that make all the difference in the way products are developed at Apple and Microsoft. Everything Microsoft does answers the question of how can people use this product. Everything Apple develops answers the question what can a person do with this product. The flow of these two very subtly different questions is immensely different. With Microsoft focusing on how to work better in a team it creates scenarios by which the most important thing is to make work easy to collaborate on, but doesn’t necessarily give work the best flow for an individual. Apple suffers from just the opposite. Many of their wizards assume step 1 will be completed after step 2 not in parallel to. The big problem with Microsoft’s view of the project team is that in the real world of small businesses a department is often a team of one. Office 2003 did nothing to increase the productivity of an individual. Most of the end users I have worked with can’t tell Office 97 from Office XP from Office 2k3. While managers constantly ask me to install Share Point and other collaboration tools they don’t invest in training to make those products useful. In many cases even if the employees are trained in how to use the tools, they aren’t trained in how to work in teams.
Office 2007 changed how users interact with software, supposedly making the deep menus easier to navigate with the ribbon bar. Had Apple made a UI change of this nature the change would have been considered an evolutionary leap forward; in the Microsoft world however business saw this as requiring new training, and to add insult to injury it is training in response to the “new easier to use interface” an interface which is remarkably familiar to Mac users who saw a similar interface in Entourage, and many of the “iLife” products.