What makes a tech product exceptional?

Question: What makes a tech product good?

David Pogue: See, readers have to understand my background. I am a magician and the reason I’m a magician is I always wanted to be magic. So to me, the best technology is the one that replicates that feeling. I push a button and my will is done. It’s magic. So that means simple, simplified, easy, elegant solutions to things, not a lot of steps.

I’ll never forget, one time I was reviewing the PalmPilot versus Microsoft’s attempts to do the PalmPilot called Windows CE or Wince, as we abbreviated it. Anyway, so on the PalmPilot, if you want to reschedule an appointment on the calendar, you tap it with your stylus and you drag it to a different time or day, simple, elegant. On the Windows CE device, you tapped it, you tapped edit, a dialogue box would open and you’d tap time, another dialogue box would open. In there you could use popup menus to specify the new starting and ending.

So anyway, I blasted it in my review for just being too many taps and not simple and not magical at all. And I remember the PR person e-mailed me afterwards, “Thank you very much for your review of our pocket PC platform. The team would like to know if you have any suggestions for the next version, I mean other than that, you know, user interface stuff.” Like it’s all the user interface stuff.

Look at the iPod, look at the iPhone. These were things that had fewer features than their competitors at the time, fewer features and they became the 800-pound gorillas. Why? Because they’re simple and elegant and pleasurable.

I’ve been to cocktail parties my whole life where I will be describing, let’s say, what’s nice about the Mac interface which is pleasurable. All the hardware from Apple has curved edges; nothing sharp and all good. “But I can buy a Dell for 400 dollars.” It’s like, oh.

There are people who get pleasure from their devices and there are people who don’t get it and it’s red state, blue state and they will never convince each other. A Mac person will never convince a Dell person that there is pleasure to be had in beauty and elegance and logic and simplicity and this guy will never convince the Mac person that anything is better than a long feature list and a low price, so matter of philosophy.

 

Recorded on May 15, 2008

It has to feel a little magical.

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