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“Macs just work” It depends on the meaning of “work”

Apple or Microsoft: Choose your platform

Scoble and Winer are crowing about the fact that Apple products break sometimes. And if you use them in the margins of their functionality, they break more often. Now clearly Apple products break sometimes, they have strange limitations and can infuriate developers who create in the space close to core functionality. They’re claiming that this contradicts Apple’s brand promise which they define as “it just works.”

It depends on the meaning of “works.” If you mean Macs always function perfectly from a mechanical and software perspective— well that’s simply impossible. And certainly Winer and Scoble should know that. Especially Winer, who once said: “I make shitty software. With bugs!” The truth of it is, everybody does. Apple does too.

The “it works” I like about Apple’s products is they’re easy for regular folks to learn how to use. They make it easy to get started, easy to get online and browse, easy to get into digital photography, easy to buy music online and transfer to an mp3 player. That’s the brand promise. The very idea that any company could have a brand promise that implies their products are perfect and never break is absurd. A lot of brands trade on the idea of quality and reliability. That doesn’t mean they never break. Those of us immersed in the digital sometimes lose sight of how difficult it can be to use a computer. A translation of “it just works” might be, “even I can use this computer.”


A related thread is the introduction of Chumby. The digerati hail the hackability of the device, but that’s not what’s really interesting about it. It’s that it’s simple. It takes away almost all of the power and flexibility of a computer, but the user is left with enough value to make it interesting. It’s the beginning of a wave of single purpose websites and network connected devices.

Published in design economics interaction design value zettel