This weekend's New York Times Magazine contained an excellent article about Life Hacking - the attempt to simplify your life and raise your productivity by using -- and refraining from using -- technology. The end of the article contains a brief discussion of Apple computers. As we become more frequently interrupted and are required to multi-task more, are Apple computers simply a better, calmer and more productive tool than PCs? While apparently abstract, this question in fact has significant long term implications for Apple's sales and stock price. Here are the relevant paragraphs:
By a sizable margin, life hackers are devotees not of Microsoft but of Apple, the company's only real rival in the creation of operating systems - and a company that has often seemed to intuit the need for software that reduces the complexity of the desktop. When Apple launched its latest operating system, Tiger, earlier this year, it introduced a feature called Dashboard - a collection of glanceable programs, each of which performs one simple function, like displaying the weather. Tiger also includes a single-key tool that zooms all open windows into a bingo-card-like grid, uncovering any "lost" ones. A superpowered search application speeds up the laborious task of hunting down a missing file. Microsoft is now playing catch-up; Vista promises many of the same tweaks, although it will most likely add a few new ones as well, including, possibly, a 3-D mode for seeing all the windows you have open.
Apple's computers have long been designed specifically to soothe the confusions of the technologically ignorant. For years, that meant producing computer systems that seemed simpler than the ones Microsoft produced, but were less powerful. When computers moved relatively slowly and the Internet was little used, raw productivity - shoving the most data at the user - mattered most, and Microsoft triumphed in the marketplace. But for many users, simplicity now trumps power. Linda Stone, the software executive who has worked alongside the C.E.O.'s of both Microsoft and Apple, argues that we have shifted eras in computing. Now that multitasking is driving us crazy, we treasure technologies that protect us. We love Google not because it brings us the entire Web but because it filters it out, bringing us the one page we really need. In our new age of overload, the winner is the technology that can hold the world at bay.
Yet the truth is that even Apple might not be up to the task of building the ultimately serene computer. After all, even the geekiest life hackers find they need to trick out their Apples with duct-tape-like solutions; and even that sometimes isn't enough.
- Full NY Times Magazine article here.
- The entire transcript of Apple's Q3 conference call is here.
- All Consumer Electronics Stock Blog articles on Apple.
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