The problem with the first MP3 player I owned wasn’t the fact that it only held about eight songs. Or the poor display or sketchy ID tag support.
No, the real problem with the Diamond Rio 300 was that I spent more time getting mp3 files onto the device than I did actually listening to them. The same scenario was played out with another half dozen players until the iPod came along.
My iRiver H-120 had a number of features not found on the iPod. But what features the iPod had, it did well. Apple made it easy to get music on the iPod. Isn’t that what’s it’s all about? Actually listening to your music!
My more geeky friends talk about how their Zune has an FM radio or their Creative or Archos devices support more video formats. But those products are stuck in niche markets because they are difficult for non-geeks to use. Both my parents own iPods and never once have they called me for technical support. Apple make sure the important features work and avoid complexity. Even if it means cutting a few features.
I recently had dinner with friends about my age. Both are smart, well-educated people who work outside the field of technology. It was fascinating to hear them talk about technology in regards to computers and mobile phones. They want new phones but don’t want the hassle of relearning a new model. And how do they move all those contact and numbers over to the new phone?
And their kids know more about the computer than the parents. This brought back memories of every high school computer course I took. By the third week, the students were doing the teaching.
Maybe I should be happy that technology is still difficult to use since my job relies on non-geeks paying people like me to help them wade through their options. If we ever get to the point where technology is easy to use, I will be looking at a career change.
But technology is still much too difficult to use. Computer and phones are still a mess. Occasionally I come across a product that works as advertised like the Flip Mino, but they are rare.
I don’t know if the iPhone is the best gadget ever or if my judgment is clouded by the fact I wanted to throw my Windows Mobile phone against the wall every day. Does Windows 7 feel good because Vista was so bad? Now iTunes wants to update itself and trick me into installing the Safari browser. Where did that toolbar come from?
Can we trust anyone?
No wonder my friends decided to stick with their old phones and computer when companies promise improvements but only if we’ll hand over our wallets.
I’m baffled by what we’re willing to put up with. It’s time we begin demanding products that work as advertised.