The Apple Conundrum Part 2: When Windows Attack

This is a follow up to my last post here.  If it seemed like it was a little one-sided, that’s because it was.  It was getting a little long in the tooth, so I split it into two separate entries.  If you read one, and feel the need to comment, please make sure to read both.

At the end of my last entry, I sort of bashed on the iPhone unfairly.  It’s not that I have an actual issue with the iPhone per se, but it was the best example of Apple’s “we can charge you extra for what PC user’s have had for years!” mentality.

In truth, where Mac OS shows everything that making a computer “idiot proof” can do wrong, the iPhone shows where “idiot proof” isn’t such a bad thing!  (special thanks to my friend Robert, a Mac user, for the phrase “idiot proof”).

Also this last weekend, my phone fell apart.  I’m not making that up either; part of the screen fell off and the center 5-way directional wheel peeled away, leaving a nice glue spot to press against my face.  I’ve never had a phone, much less a Motorola, suddenly do this and it was more than annoying.  Since I can’t go out and just buy a new phone (not with all the features I want, anyway) I was in a bit of a spot until some friends came to the rescue.  Welsdog and Robert both let me use their phones till I could save up for a replacement one of my own.  Since Robert’s was more advanced than Welsdog’s, I settled on it out of the two.

The “old” phone is an HTC 8525 on AT&T’s network running Windows Mobile 5.  Well, it was for about ten minutes anyway; I had the SIM unlocked to use my T-Mobile card and the ROM upgraded to Windows Mobile 6 within minutes.  I’ve used Windows based smart-phones before, and they’ve always left me wanting.  Sure, they are little powerhouses compared to most small electronics, but the interface is downright maddening!  

In a device that is going to be primarily used as a phone, I don’t want to have to use a stylus to do everything.  And I mean everything!  Answering a call should not be a chore when I have a touch screen!  You should not bury the keypad under 4 menus!  This is a phone first, and a mini computer second!  Windows has problems with that, it seems.

While waiting for my iMac to create its backup image and let me know if it was going to work or not, I started modifying the very nature of my phone’s interface.  I decided that, for all faults it might have, the iPhone interface is actually very finger friendly.  The fact that I can read and scroll through all my contacts without bringing the phone up to my chin was appealing to me.  After a lot of reading, experimenting, and cursing at various applications, I was able to completely transform my Windows Mobile 6 smart phone into an iPhone clone.  Only this one actually has hardware you’d want to use (and can cut & paste).

Just so we’re all up to speed on this; I made an Apple product run Windows, and made a Windows product behave like an Apple one.  But I can justify this by the type of products we’re talking about!  Apple’s OS X (as I previously pointed out) likes to treat a desktop system like it’s an electronic toy; to be reset and replaced on a whim.  That’s not how you treat an actual workstation!  That’s how you treat . . . well, an electronic toy.  Sort of like a phone.

Windows treats an electronic toy (which I’m sorry, all smart phones are, I don’t care what you use them for) like it’s just as important as your desktop computer.  It’s not!  It’s a phone!  You can reset the crap out of it and it will keep on chugging along.  You actually make backups of everything important on it every time you plug it in (kinda like a Mac!), so recovering from a massive failure literally only takes a few minutes . . . and involves resetting it and restoring from backup!

Don’t get me wrong; I like that the Windows Mobile environment is flexible and powerful enough to adapt to any situation I’m going to give it.  But like so many little devices, I’m only going to tweak it so much before I just let it be.  Can you imagine if Microsoft had used the same interface for their car-bound Sync platform?  People would die in massive pile-ups constantly!

“Sync, unlock, confirm unlock, access phone, contacts, scroll, scroll, scroll, home, main number, dial, yes.  I said yes.”

Don’t even start on how you’d access your music or directions, and that’s assuming they’d even keep the voice interface!


Sync: Microsoft's first true idiot-proof concept.
Sync: Microsoft's first true idiot-proof concept.

It’s not that I don’t understand or appreciate Apple’s simplified interface on a laptop or PC, I do.  I do, and I find myself enjoying it.  But it’s such a downer when you realize that the back end of the operating system isn’t any more complex than the pretty interface on top of it.

On the flip side, Windows seems intent on bringing the same “give you every option you could ever want” to its most simple devices, leaving them drowning in menus, screen taps, and endless file directories.

I can go on and on how I hate Apple’s advertisements and their pricing structures, but that really wasn’t the point of my posts.  On a design vs. design level, both Apple and Windows could learn a thing or two from each other.  In the end, one could summarize the difference between the rivals as such:

In OS X, you’ll be able to find your way and understand the entire system within moments of turning it on . . . but that’s as far as it will ever be able to take you.  You may never be able to learn all of Windows little secrets, but you’ll be able to take it farther than you ever thought you’d need to.

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