What Apple copied from Microsoft

hCard couldn’t do it. Basecamp couldn’t do it. Web apps from Google and Yahoo that integrate seamlessly with Apple’s iCal, Address Book, and Mail couldn’t do it. My iPhone has done it.

My iPhone has made me stop using calendar, contact, and e-mail applications I’ve used day and night for over a decade, and switch to the free—and in some ways less capable—applications that come bundled with Macintosh OS X.

Changing years of work habits is not easy. Migrating data, in some cases by hand, takes time I don’t have to spare. Yet I’m making these changes of my own will, and happily.

In short, Apple has finally copied something from Microsoft. Or, if you prefer, Apple has learned the marketing psychology lesson that Microsoft got first. For many consumers, convenience is of greater value than choice. A platform built of parts that work together seamlessly beats a self-curated collection of apps that don’t.

That syncing feeling

Microsoft knows this, Adobe knows it, and Apple had learned it by the time they launched the iTunes/iPod cartel. The iPhone creates a similar value proposition for OS X’s bundled communication, contact, and calendar apps.

Maybe all Windows users won’t switch to Macs, but many Mac users will dump Entourage, Eudora, and the like once they sync an iPhone to their computers. What “free” wasn’t enough to achieve, “seamless” just might be. If I can change work habits, anyone can.

Victory is suite

As part of a sexy, seamless software/hardware package, Apple Mail triumphs over more sophisticated e-mail applications for much the same reason Word beat WordPerfect and Adobe Illustrator trumped Macromedia Freehand. (True: Adobe bought Macromedia and chose to discontinue Freehand. But they’re burying Freehand due to lack of resources, not because they fear it.) Word is part of the must-have suite for business professionals, and Illustrator is part of the must-have suite for creative and visual professionals, and you can’t beat the suite. That is what Apple has learned.

What no one can teach Apple is how to make user experience beautifully intuitive and elegant, lending a spirit of fun to even the most mundane task, such as getting contact phone numbers into a phone. With Address Book and an iPhone, it’s not only automatic, it’s a near-physical pleasure.

Nobody does user experience as well as Apple, and nobody but Apple in the consumer market combines beautiful software with drool-inducing hardware. Except during the cloning years, when Apple lay in the abyss, Apple has always combined hardware and software. It killed them during the 1990s OS wars, but it worked like nobody’s business for the iPod and a similar synergy is driving the iPhone.

That I could be persuaded to spend money on an iPhone is unremarkable. After all, the phone shows websites and I’m a web designer; it’s tax-deductible research. What is remarkable to anyone who knows me is that I’m willing to abandon long-used tools and shortcuts to capture these new synergies. This suggests a longer and deeper market for the iPhone than just the gadget-obsessed and early adopters with sufficient disposable income. It’s even possible that, with continued use, the beauty and utility of the iPhone will help sell Macintosh computers to PC users.

It helps that the interface is beautiful as well as intuitive, and that many of the alternatives are neither.

An interface only a mother could love

Discontinued Eudora, the program I’ve abandoned in favor of Mail, is the crone of e-mail, with an interface only a mother could love. Now Up-To-Date and Contact are overly complicated, underly beautiful, and have long showed their age. None of these programs closely follows Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). Never mind that the Aqua HIG is incoherent, that many of Apple’s own programs violate or ignore it, and that it neglects to offer modern UI designs and controls, prompting independent developers to create a new set of Human Interface Guidelines to supplement Apple’s. The point is, even in the Classic OS days of mandatory HIG compliance, the three programs I’ve mentioned did not work as Macintosh programs were supposed to. They were cross-platform and proud of it, and a Mac user had to meet them halfway. Nevertheless, they did things other programs couldn’t do, and I used them for that reason.

I continued to use them as time and change and market share conspired against them. I worked like a farmer who refuses to accept that his field has gone fallow.

When Basecamp sent work schedules to my iCal, I manually copied the dates into Now Up-To-Date. When my own web pages spat out standard contact information via hCard, I siphoned the data into Address Book, and then manually copied it into Now Contact, line by line. (Since the fields between programs didn’t match, I could not automate the process via scripting. Now Software made a free mini-application that used to port data between Now Contact and Address Book, but it never worked all that well, and it stopped working altogether in Tiger.)

Computers are supposed to make our lives easier, but everyone knows they do the opposite, and I was so deep into my rut I thought of it as a groove.

The incredible lightness of e-mailing

Change begets change. For years, in Eudora, I kept every e-mail message I received. I kept them all in tidy, named folders and wrote filter rules to automatically sort messages as they were received. Every client, every employee, every friend, every project had its own folder and its own set of filters. I spent at least an hour a day simply managing my e-mail, which is different from reading or responding to it. When the number of open folders became overwhelming, I dragged messages into a new folder called “urgent” or “deal with this” (and then failed to deal with them).

And now? So far, in Mail, I’m answering messages as they come in, and deleting all but the most salient. A client letter outlining technical requirements, I’ll keep. A bunch of messages asking whether we should meet at 9:00 or 10:00, I delete. I feel ten pounds lighter already. I’d like to thank God and the Academy.

[tags]Apple, Address Book, iCal, iPhone, Mail.app, design, interface design, UI design, software design, uidesign, Adobe, Microsoft, integration, suites, hardware[/tags]

80 thoughts on “What Apple copied from Microsoft

  1. I don’t want this post to languish in bupkis land so I will comment.
    You are so right! It’s simple, yet powerful and elegant all at once. I have never used a cel phone that actually makes me want to use it. Usually, they give me hives.

  2. You neglect, however, to note that Entourage syncs bi-directionally with Address Book and iCal. My workplaces uses Exchange, so I use Entourage for work mail and calendaring. That calendar shows as a “Entourage” calendar in iCal, and syncs right up with my iPhone.

  3. I had a similar experience, even though I was already using Mail and Address Book when I got my iPhone.

    I had my mail accounts set up as POP accounts, had ~12,000 messages in my inbox, and hardly ever filed anything. The iPhone convinced me to switch to IMAP, and file or delete all of those messages in my inbox. Now I have 29 messages in my inbox, and I feel like email is a more effective tool than it ever was for me in the past.

  4. I can say the strategy of seamless integration works. I was worried about Apple’s Mail.app, Address Book, etc. But after a while I got into the groove and enjoyed the improved performance.

    It’s been a year or so since Mail.app crashed and I miss it. Thunderbird, while solid, isn’t a true replacement. Can’t wait for the new OS so I can re-install Mail.app.

  5. Not only is this an insightful article, but it’s written so beautifully it’s blissfully painful. Thank you, Jeffrey, for reminding us how to write.

  6. A platform built of parts that work together seamlessly beats a self-curated collection of apps that don’t.

    Word. Small pieces, loosely joined is great for building tools. Most people just want tools. And tools that do most of the work, at that.

  7. Since I don’t have an iPhone, I’m probably missing some information here, but I can sync my Nokia’s address book with my Mac’s as well as the calendar, quite painlessly too. Still Apple’s doing though, on Windows I need to install a Nokia PC Suite first.

  8. Cameron nails it. Your clever, eloquent writing rules the web, Jeffrey, and this is no exception. Your write-up of the your experience with your new phone is helping me rationalize an iPhone purchase in the near future…

    p.s. RIP, Star-Tac

  9. Every client, every employee, every friend, every project had its own folder and its own set of filters.

    Throw everything into ‘received’ and if you need something use search. At the end of the year create a folder and move the last year’s woth of e-mail into there (2007/{sent,received}, 2006/{sent,received} ). If you have decent search then folders aren’t necessary.

    I use this at home. At work there’s a slight alteration (2006/Q{1,2,3,4}/{sent,received} ) because of volume issues. (Forget which weblog I got this from, so can’t assign proper credit.)

  10. I am not sure I understand this;

    Why can’t you just run it again or at worst re-install from the Tiger disk? ALl your data would still be intact. I have never heard of an app crashing so that is has to be re-installed… or am I missing something?

  11. WHOOPS…

    This is what I didn’t understand:

    It’s been a year or so since Mail.app crashed and I miss it. Thunderbird, while solid, isn’t a true replacement. Can’t wait for the new OS so I can re-install Mail.app.

  12. iLife has operated on the same philosophy for a while now. So has Final Cut Studio. I’m not quite sure what you mean by the title of this article. Could you please explain with some Microsoft examples? Not a flame, just curious.

  13. So Apple has suddenly discovered the model for which Mac users denigrated Microsoft for so long. Big whoop!

    My Windows PC, Nokia phone, Dell Axim and Zen Microphoto all work great together.

    No news here. Move along.

  14. Could you please explain with some Microsoft examples? Not a flame, just curious.

    Microsoft’s software business is built on the integration of its applications with its operating system.

    For example, its IE browser, which was once cross-platform, always did more in Windows than it did on a Mac. The Windows version was embedded in the OS. This embedding resulted in conveniences for Windows users, but it also locked them in. That was the model, and it worked.

    Microsoft’s office applications included “Save as HTML” features. The resulting HTML pages tended to work well in IE and not as well in competitive browsers. This is ancient history and it’s widely known.

    If you made an e-mail client for the Windows platform, you had to compete with Outlook. Outlook was part of the Office suite, which was installed on almost every computer in the world. Your e-mail product wasn’t. Outlook could do things with Word and Excel (and they with it) that your product probably couldn’t do. And so on.

    If you make an operating system and you also make software, you can create affordances consumers like. Third parties have a hard time competing.

    That’s what Microsoft has always known.

    By contrast, for many years, Apple focused on hardware and the OS and relied on third parties (led by Microsoft and Adobe) to develop software programs for the Macintosh platform.

    That began to change with OS X, whose bundled apps precede the iLife suite. iPod/iTunes was a brilliant flowering of the new strategy (new to Apple, that is); iPhone’s integration with Mail, Address Book, iCal, iTunes, iPhoto and Safari is another.

    The phone’s synchronization with those apps encourages you to use them instead of, say, Eudora or Firefox. Conversely, if you’re already using all those Apple apps, the only questions about buying an iPhone are, can you afford it, and will AT&T deliver good wireless service in your area? The free apps help sell Macintoshes, sure; and now they also help sell iPhones.

  15. I was a Eudora user since the very beginning. I saw the end coming when Quallcomm bought it, but Qualcomm did a good job for years also.

    I migrated to Mail.app years ago as a proactive step, and though there were some things I miss badly, I decided that there were better things I gained.

    But, I don’t see why you have to give up your email. Sure, iPhone syncs with Mail.app’s account, but you don’t have to sync mail, you can just enter the data manually into the iPhone like anybody else who doesn’t have or use Sync Services.

    And why delete mail? My brother and I conspire to manage our own mail server, so we’re not as restricted in mailbox quotas, but you don’t have to run your own mail server to maintain your mail, you just have to find a good provider. We both moved our POP3 based Eudora (I got him addicted to it as well) inboxes (and subfolders) to Mail.app without throwing away anything (my mail goes back to 1999, when I stopped deleting mail). Being proactive in keeping up with changes, we’ve been running IMAP rather than POP3 for a few years, a necessity when going to desktop + laptop, and managed to move all the old mail during that transition as well.

    But I can fire up any old POP3 email client I like, and run it against 8 years of email (Do NOT turn on delete from server!) since we chose a mail server that allows the option to “Use both IMAP and POP3″.

    The reason I switched to Mail.app has nothing to do with syncing the iPhone or moving to IMAP. The reason I switched to Mail.app, and accepted it’s shortcomings (can’t type in any return address you wish), is that I saw that when Apple started making it’s own apps using open standards, there was some tight integration of which I’d like to take advantage.

    Mail.app, Address Book, and iChat by themselves are inferior to 3rd party apps. But together you start to see synergies that are more valuable as a suite than incompatible stand alone products. And these use standards based systems, so you can find stand alone products that integrate as well. Just looking at Mail.app, you can see the visual signs of the behind the scenes efforts, be it the green dot in an email to show you that the person who just sent you a message is online in iChat, and rather than typing a reply, you can respond by connecting a video chat. As you type an address, you see it pulling suggestions from your Address Book. You can see messages inviting you to an event include an attachment that double clicking turns into an iCal entry, or their vCard inserts their contact info into Address Book.

    Sure, this synergy is still in it’s infancy, but as more apps start using the open standards that Apple apps have been promoting, you’ll never again have to worry about whether or not Now Up To Date’s converters work with the next program. Being proactive in keeping your data in the most portable form, even at the expense of accepting some shortcomings, means that you avoid the issues you’re experiencing now, where you’re pulled kicking and screaming into modern methods, having ignored the point where you were encouraged to move on by the convenient converters you ignored and no longer work. And as future programs come along, they’ll build on what you’ve done.

    I didn’t intend to make the iPhone a seamless addition to my tools, I just went with the writing on the wall, and I suffered severe “new toy letdown” when there were no settings to play with, no data to enter, when I hit sync on the iPhone for the first time. It just suddenly became the tool I already had, with everything I already had, in a more portable form. I didn’t plan on being able to seamlessly bounce between laptop and desktop, but with Mark Space’s SyncTogether, all my important data is already in a format to allow my two computers to keep all my important data the same where ever I choose to work. Sync services is a powerful tool that’s been building underneath Mac OS X for a long time now… it’s worthwhile to take advantage of the tools that use it to help you manage your data and devices easily.

    Finding the best possible program for each task is a game for those with time to burn. Once your time becomes your most valuable asset, you learn to accept the compromises that come with a suite of tools and services that offer convenience and future growth over the fleeting superiority of the current best tool, damn the cost.

  16. “By contrast, for many years, Apple focused on hardware and the OS and relied on third parties (led by Microsoft and Adobe) to develop software programs for the Macintosh platform.”

    Sorry, Jeffrey, but this is utter nonsense. Ever heard of MacPaint? MacDraw? MacWrite? These were *star* applications when the Mac first came out, all designed by Apple. This stuff morphed into AppleWorks/ClarisWorks, which was NOT the weak forgotten product then that it is now. Add HyperCard and many other Apple-written apps, and you will see that Apple’s strategy has *always* been integration. In fact, while nobody in the computer world ‘invented’ this idea, Apple put it at the core of its business from Day One, whereas Microsoft really didn’t come anywhere close until after 1990. Sure, there was a healthy ecosystem of other applications for the Mac, just as there is today, just as there has always been for DOS/Windows. All that’s changed is that Apple is now focusing on different apps than they did before. Apps like iPhoto and iTunes, these are entire categories of apps that DIDN’T EXIST when the Mac has born.

    So no, Apple’s strategy hasn’t changed. It’s remained squarely the same and has simply shifted focus. And *Microsoft* are the wannabe integrators looking eagerly inside Apple’s window trying to figure out how they have been doing it all these decades.

    Your analysis is exactly backwards, upside-down, black-is-white, war-is-peace Big Brother Windows think. As in, whatever Gates did in 1990 he must have done first, because the person doing the analysis is totally clued out about the real details of what anyone else was doing before that time.

  17. “. . . Apple had learned it by the time they launched the iTunes/iPod cartel.”

    This is not a Cartel and you should be careful how you use these terms. A cartel is against the law something Microsoft knows all about.

  18. I think the whole idea that the company that introduced the universal copy-and-paste clipboard to the world didn’t trailblaze integration, is laughable on its face. And mind you, Apple didn’t stop there, innovating the ability to ‘publish’ and ‘subscribe’ live from one document to another (and this last was when Windows was still at 3.ZERO!) And that’s just what they did for copy and paste in the early days, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Applications, ==whether designed by Apple or not== (and this is KEY) *never* worked as seamlessly together, not at Microsoft and not anywhere else, as they did at Apple in the mid ’80s.

    The fact that I even have to sit here and type this stuff is also laughable.

  19. @Jeffrey

    “If you made an e-mail client for the Windows platform, you had to compete with Entourage. Entourage was part of the Office suite, which was installed on almost every computer in the world. Your e-mail product wasn’t. Entourage could do things with Word and Excel (and they with it) that your product probably couldn’t do. And so on.”

    I think you meant to say “Outlook” instead of “Entourage”. :-)

  20. Where to start? Some time ago, Apple came up with its “Digital Hub” strategy. In this world of hardware and software, the following can happen:

    1) You plug in your digital camcorder. iMovie launches, you import some DVclips, and start making a movie.
    2) Later, you’d plug in your iPod. iTunes launches…

    As you note, the iPhone is just the latest example of the digital hub, really.

    But saying that the iPod was the “a-ha” moment when Apple caught on is ridiculous.

    In all seriousness, did MS ever really know something about software integration that Apple didn’t? That, sir, is a joke.

    One doesn’t have to be an Apple fanboy not to buy the argument that MS was the first to dream up a software suite. Remember MacPaint?

    In the world of the PC — and in many people’s experience in that world — Apple invented hardware and software integration. (And, yes, control of same. That’s supposedly what killed Apple.)

    Why do you need an OS and software? The answer may astound us all. You need the software to use the hardware. It should be better if both work toward the same ends. That way, you don’t have to wait for the “well integrated” software to pull a Ponce De Leon…

  21. Another thing to add re:integration…

    Don’t forget that if you have a .Mac account, your info can not only be synced between your iPhone and the computer used to sync the iPhone but also across all of your machines (work, home, iPhone, etc.).

  22. let’s try to make it short and seamlessly.

    MyEmail = imap + procmail (for storing messages in a dated space) + apple mail (for smart mailboxes)

    Life is good.

    PS: Procmail is the only part which is too geeky. Apple should gives the possibility of more advanced filtering on the client side.

  23. And the great thing about Mail (coming from a recent convert from Entourage): smart folders and the extraordinarily rapid search. iCal beats Entourage’s calendar, too. Address Book’s interface is pretty awful, though, but two out of three ain’t bad.

  24. Great piece. One question, do you see Apple taking this step further and offering a complete iWork suite? iWork as it is now is nice, but you can’t run an office off of it. The biggest piece missing of course is a spreadsheet app, and if you exclude FileMaker, a database app.

    What are your thoughts on this? My guess is that its coming soon, but you have to wonder if they will take on Office head-on, or some other route as they have been. Thanks!


  25. Ah so many blogs on how Microsoft has stolen from Apple ~ this makes a refreshing change. It’s a good piece too. What I don’t understand is how MS have had people hooked on their software for years even when it’s really not that good. But as you say, it’s integrated (ie. when you start it up it has a splash screen that looks like all the others) so people use it.

  26. Entourage doesn’t totally sync with iPhone — it syncs the calendar and the address book and that works ok, but not with a big calendar (lots of appt.) — it’ll time right out and spike your CPU. Entourage’s implementation of IMAP is well, so bizarro, it could only be described as evil. What does work surprisingly well is iPhone and Mail via IMAP and I’ve been living with it, in a few different permutations, since I got the iPhone. I’ve gone back and forth and switched back to Entourage POP and now, I can’t stand that old way (as Jeffrey notes with rules, and folders, and geezus it’s a burden) — I’d rather switch than fight.

    Also check the scripts John Gruber is writing for Mail, driven by his iPhone.

    Best part of iPhone to me is that it made RSS actually useful . . ..

  27. I went straight from Outlook to Mail.app, Address book, and iCal when I swhiched to a Mac a few months ago. I sync with a Treo 600. There are some little things I miss, and one big thing — notes. The funny thing is, ignoring the extra install hassle of getting it to sync, it syncs more stuff than the iPhone does. Without notes, I can live with attaching notes to To-do lists, but without To-do, and not a full calender sync, I’ll be waiting for iPhone 2.0. I have no idea why Apple didn’t put more of an effort into the PIM area — it is, after all, supposed to be a smartphone.

    Someone mentioned that the iPhone doesn’t do bi-directional syncing? It that true? Can’t you create events or contacts on the iPhone?

  28. David Wogan: I’m sure Apple are working on an Excel clone as we speak. I think there was even a leak about such a think happening on one of the Apple-following blogs a while back (tuaw.com?).

  29. But still Apple doesn’t have something like Exchange Server. I changed for MAC a few weeks ago and I think it’s a pain in the a.. that there is no way getting my exchange calendar into iCal.

  30. You didn’t mention that Apple’s “suite” is built on open standards, which is why developers can make apps like Basecamp and share data to iCal, but the same can’t be said for the Microsoft Suite, which uses proprietary formats and, ahem, variations on standards to do the same.

  31. I agree with Carole Carter completely!

    “I have never used a cel phone that actually makes me want to use it.”

    I come from a complete Microsoft background. I architect .Net apps. I had the Cingular 8125 smartphone until I saw the iPhone. Microsoft totally missed the boat – shame on them. The simplicity and elegance of the iPhone more than make up for teh features other phones have.

    It took me 30 seconds in the AT&T store. I got so jacked up I bought my wife one too – on impulse. I wanted her to experience it with me.

    Jobs has me hooked.

  32. Sigh, Jeffrey. I was hoping you wouldn’t make a post about this unremovable battery havin, non picture message sendin, no 64-bit supportin, non video recordin, uncapable of ringtone changin, game lackin, worthless on-screen keyboard havin, overly sized and overly hyped piece of garbage.

    Thanks, though, for at least writing it with elegance and not sounding like you are a poster boy.

  33. Very insightful look into the positioning apple is taking with iPhone. I wholeheartedly agree with your position and frankly the only reason I’m not touting an iPhone already is because of some of the tech specs that I just can’t live with like lack of support for bluetooth stereo headphones (and some other BT related issues).

  34. I have aTreo 650 an iMac 10.4.10 and the MissingSync and I can sync everthing, even music via itunes and photos via iPhoto. the integration of the apple apps are great and the integration I can get to my Treo makes me think twice to siwtch to an iPhone. I think I’ll wait to a 2.0 realease (with a text editor, copy/paste, etc) and that google maps start to show the streets of argentina.

  35. :: iWork as it is now is nice

    Aside from it being dog-slow, at least on my dual 1.8Ghz G5. When Word runs about three times quicker than something else, you know there are problems with the other app (Pages, in this case).

  36. Many of the commenters must be very young or very obtuse. I believe the point Jeffrey is trying to make is the sheer beauty, and subsequent market dominance, that comes with good application integration.

    Having spent 20 years in the corporate world, I recall the days of preparing annual reports for stockholders in which the act of bringing data from Lotus into WP or Word would drive you to tears, and nothing was as simple as an attachment in your inbox.

    Then came Microsoft Office, and the quality of life in an office did truly become 1000% better. Whatever your philosophical feelings are about MS, they achieve dominance through application integration.

    Then Adobe did the same thing by making PS, Illy, InDesign, Bridget, etc., and are now focus more and more on application integration. Quark might be strong in some areas, but you tend toward InDesign because it INTEGRATES better.

    Microsoft created the model, Adobe learned quickly, and now Apple has come to the table. There are arguments that they have been there all along, but not really, not at the level they are beginning to play it.

  37. Funny I’ve had a similar experience with my iPhone email conversion. I too have gone to a read/respond/delete setup and it’s fabulous. Actually, I find email on the iPhone to be better for my time management as it’s a more focused task than using email on a computer. Plus the limited keyboard stops me from writing a big huge emails.

    However, I don’t like to completely loose emails, so I’m routing my email through gmail first for spam filtering and archiving. From there it forwards on to an IMAP server for my iPhone. This way I can delete everything upon reading it, even important client emails, as it’s still in gmail.

    It took me some bit of ruminating to get it set up this way so I blogged the process: IMAP/gmail hybrid iPhone email setup

  38. I too, somewhat recently converted to Mail and iCal – (previously used Entourage and then Thunderbird).

    If you are going to use Mail, then you absolutely must install the MailTags and MailActOn plugins… they make such a wonderful addition in capabilities to Mail, that they really should be pre-installed.

  39. So I don’t think those avid PC users are going to run out and buy a Mac.

    @Glen: I’m not talking mechanics, I’m talking persuasion through experience. Those PC-based iPhone users, when they use their iPhones, are essentially having a Macintosh experience. And it is a really good experience. And that can be persuasive—even addictive.

    A beautiful, smooth-flowing, perfectly conceived user experience—one that’s so usable you’re never at a loss to understand it or to know what to do next—is different from most people’s experience of using a computer. And that difference could be persuasive.

  40. Still, saying that Apple learned software integration from MS is like saying that Chuck Berry learned I-IV-V chords from J.S. Bach. Not to compare Bach with Gates or anything.

    In other words, some functional ideas get to be common, and one of those common computer ideas is a suite of software — a la MacPaint MacDraw, MacWrite — for different but possibly related tasks. (What’s new? One piece of software for related tasks, as in Panic’s Coda.)

  41. Amazing range of comments here. Everything from the zany “Apple could never learn anything from Microsoft” fanboys to the “iPhone is complete garbage” bitter luddites.

    I think you toed the line with some good insight on this one. The original Mac OS certainly enabled a broad sort of integration, which MacWrite, MacPaint and HyperCard took advantage of. But by the time the 90s rolled around, Apple was spinning its wheels while Microsoft perfected its monopolistic strategy.

    Even now Microsoft integration is more impressive than Apple’s in terms of sheer scale of the applications involved. But Apple has really perfected the elegantly “good enough” experience that is so elusive for daydreaming developers to capture. For most of the people, most of the time, less is more; especially when dealing with a whole suite of applications. In my experience, very few features are truly critical, and the time savings from something simple often outweigh the nice-to-haves. Anyone who has a need (real or imagined) for the esoterica already has plenty of options to choose from.

  42. I agree that ease of use is what wins in the end. When I got my iPhone I thought how cool it would be to have all my contacts with me all the time and update both ways, and mail, and my calandar.

    As many though, I didn’t use iCal or Address Book I used my Gmail account. Being a contractor for some time and using multiple workstations both Mac and PC I needed a hub for my data. At home I used Mail, but this was just a mirror of my Gmail account, and Mail 1.0 sucked really. So now I have to migrate and its a drag. I want my info to be available anywhere in the world from the web. The change is slow but I am migrating

    What Apple did accomplish though is again seamlessly syncing my data across a device and my computer that is simple yet refined and beautiful to look at and handles my media like a champ. And I all I had to do was plug it in and click a button once or twice.


    Why, why doesn’t Apple put Mail, iCal and Address Book into one application? How hard is that… I can’t stand having lots of applications open. I want a one stop shop.

  43. I ‘ve hidden away all my gadgets after i introduced myself as JohnG instead of John.
    Beware of the addiction people..!

  44. But Apple has really perfected the elegantly “good enough” experience that is so elusive for daydreaming developers to capture. For most of the people, most of the time, less is more; especially when dealing with a whole suite of applications. In my experience, very few features are truly critical, and the time savings from something simple often outweigh the nice-to-haves.

    @Gabe, I think you nailed it.

  45. I bought a mac mini because I loved the iPod experience so much. I ought a mac mini just to play music. I now have had 2 ipods and have a Macbook Pro too. And that was all because I just enjoyed the experience and simplicity of the iTunes/iPod ecosystem.

    I can’t see how the combinations of generally more mac’s in the market (if you’re friend’s got one …) and the same effect from the iPhone wont boost Mac’s other lines.

    I’ll be interested to see how the iPhone handles two machines though. I run my music via my Mac Mini and my contacts and mail on my Macbook Pro. I’ll need to sync them both.

    I’ll be getting an iPhone anyway, I’ll figure out some solution. A decent email client and web browser is enough to save me getting out my laptop on the train to work, it’s worth it.

  46. Justin Bell: I had read that a few months back. Last I heard it was called ‘Numbers’. I haven’t heard anything about it since then, or anything on iWork now that I think about it.

    Craig Grannell: I should be more clear, when I speak or iWork I’m usually referring to Keynote. I have done some amazing things in Pages for what its worth, but it still has a ways to go.

    I’m also running on a MBP, 2.16, 2 gig so its pretty nice.

    I think the precursors of a spreadsheet app are present in iWork now (making charts and graphs with numbers), but a full fledged Excel would be nice.


  47. Adrian, there’s no problem using multiple computers for the same iPhone. Make sure that each iPhone setting for each computer does not sync automatically. Then set the various things you want to sync on a particular computer, for each computer. For example, addresses on computer1, mail on computer2, music on computer3, videos on computer4. After set-up, for each computer

    1. Insert your iPhone into the computer.
    2. Push the sync button.
    3. All done.

  48. The iphone does the basics, yes. And it’s very pretty, yes.
    However I use my current (and last 2 cell phones) to replace about 90% of the hardward I needed when traveling or on evenings and weekends. I used to have to drag my laptop around with me 24/7. My windows mobile phones have allowed me freedom from the old laptop ball and chain. I push my phones to their limits.
    I need all the things most people have talked about in these comments, receiving text, mms, email, contacts, calendaring, alarms, photos etc. I exploit all those features on a daily basis. But I need more from my mobile device than just that stuff.

    But, So far the iphone itself hasn’t been opened up for tweaking and tinkering. I’m a geek. I own a business and part of my role in the company is to monitor and maintain several servers and the iphone just isn’t there yet for me. I need something that can at least run proprietary apps that I’ve written for it. They could be rewritten in java or something else. I use ssh on my phone to connect to my servers to do simple things like restart httpd, stop and restart mysql, just check on cpu load etc.

    When the iphone is really opened up and able to run on different cellular service besides ATT&T, then I might have a seroius look at it. But if I’m going to spend the big bucks on a replacement now, it will be on an HTC manufactured device. I’ll wait until the iphone is really there. I just don’t think for the money that is is yet.

  49. One other thing. I prefer clamshells. Bar phones are not for me. I tend to stick phone in my pocket and I’ve called australia in my pants. Literally!

  50. @Kelly: Look into the Nokia E70. It seriously puts the iPhone to shame, and you can easily do the things you mentioned. You can run terminal software on it and connect to your remote servers thru telnet or SSH. Not to mention that it’s keyboard is un-freakin-believably superior to the iPhones (you dont have to tap and pray!).

    Unfortunately you cant reflect a batman-style Apple logo given the proper lighting, so it’s not for all of us!

  51. Lets be honest… Apple has a lot of rabid buyers who were sold on the iPod experience, so when Apple comes out with a new product like iPhone. These rabid buyers will jump on the bandwagon, no questions asked! Does it actually mean the iPhone will be able to give the same sort of experience? From the reviews i have read i doubt so…

  52. @Keith, as an actual user of the product, I can assure you the experience of using it more than lives up to the hype. (Note: Apple didn’t create the hype.) It’s a 1.0 product, which means it’s imperfect. There are a few bugs and a few omissions. But overall, the thing is a pleasure to use. That’s what great experience design is all about, and it’s what Apple does better than anyone.

    @Josh: I haven’t used the Nokia E70. (My last phone was a StarTac.) Feature for feature comparisons between the iPhone and other products are only part of the story. Another product might well have more features, but how intuitive is the interface? How pleasurable is using the device? I tried a lot of “advanced” phones but the ones I tried all suffered from atrocious user interface design. That’s what sets the iPhone apart. Not a batman-style logo. Not mere prettiness (not that there’s anything wrong with prettiness).

  53. Lovely article Jeffrey. I can’t wait to get hold of the iPhone (I am in the UK. ) At the moment, I sync all my contacts and calendars to my iPod, but all I can really do is look at my data. My phone, a BlackBerry, syncs this info too, via a third party adapter. The email works great, but it ain’t an iPhone. The web browsing experience is pretty lame also, but it works. My setup lacks a certain polish, which I am hoping will truly shine, when I get hold of the iPhone.

    I have been dreaming about Leopard too. With its notes functionality in Mail.app, and the new iCal server in particular, will make the Mac an even more compelling platform. Seamless, reliable and transparent, what more could you want? Well, there’s always something ;-)

  54. @Chris:

    Eudora is dead. The “open source version of Eudora” = Mozilla Thunderbird. There’s nothing wrong with Thunderbird, but it’s not Eudora.

    Pretend I decided to stop publishing A List Apart. So I sell the name to Carson Productions. Then I announce that A List Apart will continue as Vitamin. In this scenario, Vitamin will continue, and Vitamin is great, but it’s not A List Apart. Such an announcement would be, what do the U.S. senators call it when they’re afraid to call it lying?, disingenuous, would it not?

  55. @Bob C, thanks. I wish they would announce which carrier is getting it in Europe. Looks like another 3 months wait at least here. Probably 4-5 in reality. Sigh.

    @Kelly, tweaking is all very well and good (I’m a geek too) but it’s an edge case. 90% of iPod users I know don’t even user smart playlists, so whilst it would be nice to tweak this isn’t a core customer base. However since the iPhone runs OSX, it has to be possible to do far more on it than any other phone. Just a matter of time before somone figures out how to unlock the front door, or apple does. As for clamshells, big in USA, much less in EU. EU sells far more candy bar phones. I for one have no idea why anyone would want a phone where you keep having to open it to use. It’s just personal preference that tends to vary somewhat by geography.

    @Keith, all the reviews I have read have both been very good and very honest about the iPhones failing. Most “rapid apple buyers” tend to read a lot of the reviews and know what they are getting. In fact the reverse has mainly happened where people I know don’t want an iPhone but when asked the reason it’s some FUD they have picked up. It amazes me how people assume the hundreds of thousands of iPhone users are all mind dead dolts. Apples made dud products before but currently people keep buying the good products. Everyone slated the shuffle pre launch, and it’s sold massively well. Not because people are rapid buyers but because the products are good products. Just because not everyone is the target market for an apple product doesn’t mean those who are, are just brainwashed fools.

  56. I switched to a mac and started using the free tools immediately. When the iPhone came out and I saw that it synced seamlessly as well, it was a “no-brainer”.

    I Bought it. I Use it. I Love it. I Would Recommend it.


  57. @Jeffrey: my understanding was that Eudora would be a unique email program based on the Thunderbird open source code. It would not be Thunderbird renamed, as they will likely want to add new features and icons to mimic earlier versions of Eudora. (It’s like Netscape and Firefox aren’t the same, yet they both use Mozilla code.) But If all they’re doing is rebranding Thunderbird, then that would be pointless.

  58. @Chris, you may be right. And, loyal schmuck that I am, I would have kept using the ugly, non-OS-X-like, non-Intel-native, HTML-mail-garbling Eudora forever if not for the iPhone.

  59. Jefferey, great entry. More interesting to me are your struggles and recent changes of habits and you motivation to do so. The old MS vs MAC babble in some comments makes me yawn.

    Please don’t be horrified to hear that there is something in the making in Canada that you might have to change your habits for again soon ;-).

    Cheers from Canada (formerly Germany)

  60. Misuse of the term “fallow…” Fallow ground isn’t ground that is dead, sterile and unproductive, it is ground that has been purposely left with nothing growing in it to replenish it’s nutrients. After a period of time fallow ground is plowed and replanted.
    Other than that, phenomenal article. Profound statement:
    What “free” wasn’t enough to achieve, “seamless” just might be

  61. I don’t get it. I’d love to switch from Entourage to Mail, iCal and Addressbook, but I just don’t see the same efficiency and ease in trying to use the three programs rather than the one integrated application. Furthermore, Entourage synchs as seamlessly with my iPhone as does addressbook. All you have to do is enable that in Synch services.

    You gush on about Apple’s strengths, and as a longtime Apple user I agree, but I don’t see or hear any concrete examples of how the three apps can be used as readily as Entourage to keep track of addresses, emails and schedules.


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