Tags: experience design, general thoughts, interaction design, IxD, politics can't be ignored
It’s not even an insurmountable disadvantage. Just a disadvantage.
I go back and forth with my appreciation for and my disfavor of open systems. I believe that everyone has taken sides in the world. You either believe in government or you don’t. That is to say, you believe that agencies can act on your behalf or you don’t. For example (w/o any data to prove it), I believe that most open source software folks when push came to shove (meaning, if you were to really dig deep using the Socratic or similar method) are libertarians. They hate any sort of control over anything, out of fear that that control will be abused. A sound piece of logic to say the least. Now on the flip side, I am a betting man who will consider that designers tend to be socialists. They are bound by strong humanistic ethics AND believe that government can do good to help societies achieve those ethical standards.
So what does this have to do with anything?
Well, open systems are played out in software more than any place right now. 10 years ago OSS folks would ride charging at full tilt against the Microsoft juggernaut deriding that closed system. It was easy. The system just sucked. It wasn’t even fair. That is to say that anyone tilting at MS back at the turn of the millenium or earlier using any logic system would be right b/c the initial frame was “you suck!”. Everything else after that just rang true regardless of being proven or not. Today, the new target of OSS expletives seems to be Apple. Hell, it isn’t even about an open system fighting against Apple, but about a closed system’s “rights” on another closed system. (Definitely great marketing by Adobe to have everyone defending their closed system as a flag bearer of the open movement, suddenly.)
For the last 3 years, open system people have been complaining about Apple’s iPhone OS. Hell, there are entire communities of practice dedicated to hacking the system open and minions ready to follow on. I think this is great actually. I think that Apple hasn’t even fought back that hard b/c they think it is great. A pretty insignificant group of people, get to tinker publicly with the iPhone system while Apple watches and sees how it fails, etc. I bet they have researchers (probably outside of the fortress in Cupertino) jailbreaking their iPhones and doing reports on use.
But within this group are those who can’t bother. They prefer to just work in an open system. Their prayers answered by Google with Android devices which actually do compete well. It is a totally open system (well not totally) and is even Open Source. Android devices even have all the great features that an iPhone doesn’t have. Seriously, they are all there (forgetting about yesterday’s announcement).
But from a design perspective (sorry it took me so long to get here) and even a business perspective, this just doesn’t matter.
Because open systems people lack patience and strategic thinking. Yup! I said it. There ya go! With very few exceptions (ok, Mozilla you’re off the hook), OSS systems have failed to deliver mainstream, compelling, engaging, successful products. Even Android, while “open source” ain’t really all that open. it is just “opener” and more of its success has to do with carrier wars than w/ phone wars. If Apple could release on Verizon as is w/o any changes the Motorola Droid would be an afterthought to the mainstream market. Maybe Blackberry (as closed as it gets) will maintain some of VZs smartphone marketplace due to its great design focused on productivity more than entertainment and content consumption like the iPhone.
Android and Palm with their rush to “multi-tasking” (BTW, when I owned a Blackberry, I don’t remember really having anything background running except for Email and other PIM functionality) and a clipboard, succeeded to release it before the iPhone. I would argue though that their implementations lacked thorough thought of the strategic idiosyncrasies involved in doing this on a mobile solution. Battery life is only one of the issues here.
As I listened to Apple talk about what they did to make their implementation of Multi-tasking work, it just started to really crystalize for me one salient point about Apple.
It is not about the right feature, but the right feature done right at the right time.
This means being thorough. It means understanding the ins and outs of your system. It means being patient until both design and engineering get it right, and not just get it done.
This level of intentionality is something that open systems can’t deploy well if at all. If everyone is free, then no one waits. No one considers. No one designs.
As a point of context. I have been shopping for an Android phone for my wife who is dedicated to VZ. (I don’t blame her; completely.) I finally got a chance to play with someone’s phone and well it sucked. it didn’t suck out of the box when I tried it at the store, but it sucked on his version. With all the openness he had so many apps running and so many apps integrated into the OS itself that it was beginning to feel like a Windows 3.11 box.
This doesn’t happen on an iPhone and won’t. It won’t b/c the “government” of Apple led by Emperor Steve won’t let you do that to yourself. Why? b/c one person having a bad experience on his device could mean 5-125 others hearing about it. If only Emperor Steve could control AT&T there would never be a bad experience on his device, ever.