Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Toaster with a Faucet

Form follows function, or something like that. Industrial design is I gather an art, and like most art is best seen from the eye of the creator. I have known a few industrial designers in my day and I fear that they all follow the same trend of the belief that their embodiment of reality is the only true path. Sometimes it may work. Apple is an example of a very successful niche market. Microsoft is not in that league, however.

Take Windows 8. I think it is a disaster. Windows 7 works, it is XP upgraded. It is not Vista. It is a utility, it works, it is easy to use and I did not have to change my world views. My Kindle is OK, no great, could be better but compared to Nexus 7 it at least works, Google seems not to be able to get hardware to work, but arrogance does that to you.

Now IDC reports what appears to be a collapse of the PC market. As reported by CBS Newswatch:

Global shipments of PCs fell 14 percent in the first three months this year, the sharpest plunge since research firm IDC started tracking the industry in 1994. The firm said Wednesday that the appeal of tablets and smartphones is pulling money away from PCs, but it also blames Microsoft's latest version of Windows, which has a new look and forces users to learn new ways to control their machines.

Microsoft launched Windows 8 on Oct. 26, hoping to revitalize the PC industry and borrow some of the excitement that surrounds tablets. PC shipments were already falling, but the latest report suggests the decline is speeding up. "Unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn't provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market," IDC Vice President Bob O'Donnell said.

 Now let us go back to that form and function thing. Why do I use a PC? Well I write on it, I do spread sheets, I prepare presentations, I store and retrieve massive amounts of data, I use a wealth of special software for various analyses, I use image storage, and the list goes on. It is the engine that keeps me going forward. Now why do I use a pad, like a Kindle. I get email, I can read a document, somewhat, I can get to the web, and it is small and easy to use. I do not play games so that leaves out a tone of usage and I have no use for social media, too distracting.

As the BBC states:

IDC said 76.3 million units were shipped, a figure that underlines the appeal of tablets and smartphones an alternatives to PCs. The firm said Microsoft's latest version of Windows had failed to revitalise the industry. Recession had also led companies to put back renewal of their PCs, IDC said.
The firm's vice president, Bob O'Donnell, said: "Unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn't provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market."

Windows 8 is designed to work well with touch-sensitive screens, but the displays add to the cost of a PC. Together, the changes and higher prices ``have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices,'' Mr O'Donnell said. Microsoft was not immediately available for comment. IDC also said that, traditionally, companies replaced PCs every three years, but that during the economic downturn this was more likely to be every five years.

Thus for me the PC is a toaster, you put bread in the top, push the handle, and a few tens of seconds later out comes toast. But what would happen if you decided to add a faucet to it? First question is why? Well, says the industrial designer and marketing folks because the other guys have that on their pads. Well make a faucet and put it on a sink. Don't attach the faucet to my toaster!

But again we saw this tale before. It was Vista. People view the operating system today like a utility. It is an electrical outlet, I just want to plug stuff in and have it work. Microsoft does not want to be viewed that way, it thinks it is much more than that, and every time they try and show us the mess it up again.

The issue is simple. Keep the PC for what it does well. It is a great client and even a server. It has great processing capability and storage capacity. It is not mobile, and for what many people use it for it will never be that way. I have a laptop, it is portable, it goes from one place to another. Yet it is not really mobile. I have my Kindle, it is about as mobile as I want to get. But that is me.

Thus designers and marketing people must understand use and users. What was wrong with Windows 7. It was great. That stupid screen that opens on Windows 8 on a high capacity PC is just an annoyance. Did anyone at Microsoft ever speak to a customer, really? How about listening to the customers also. That's a first. I really do not want a faucet on my toaster.