Sunday, July 22, 2012

Microsoft People vs. Apple People

There are Microsoft people and Apple people.

Microsoft people want every option, and can't imagine why others would find the surfeit of choices intimidating or annoying.

In the parlance of psychology, they are "optimizers".

Apple people want a simple, elegant experience, and care little about individual features. They adapt to the limitations presented to them, perhaps without even thinking about them.

In the parlance of psychology, they are "satisficers".

The approach you take depends on your read on your audience. Just recognize that you can't make both of them happy.

Microsoft serves corporate IT, which historically consists of highly-technical control freaks who don't give a damn about the end users.

Microsoft dominates this market, despite the fact that Apple's products and marketing are generally considered superior.

Apple made its money by convincing individual consumers to part with their money, in part by not making them feel like their missing out if they choose "Standard" rather than "Custom" when installing a new piece of software.

Apple dominates this market, despite the fact that Microsoft has spent untold billions on things like the Zune, and despite Microsoft's historical dominance in OS shipments and the Office suite.

The point is, you have to choose. If you don't, you end up with things like Microsoft's consumer products or Apple's datacenter products--strange chimeras which flail in the marketplace.

Where does your audience fall on this continuum?

(This post began as a comment on PandaWhale)


Anonymous said...

I don't know that Apple's products are "generally" considered to be superior. That sounds like anecdotal evidence to me.

Superiority comes in many forms and one major benefit of using Windows is not being locked into a single vendor's hardware. Another benefit is that Microsoft's business programming frameworks are vastly superior to Apple's anemic offerings in that arena, simply due to the fact that Microsoft actually has coverage in certain areas and Apple doesn't.

Chris said...

There's no good way to prove what is considered superior; Amazon and Consumer Reports ratings are generally fairly reliable, and Macs generally get better ratings.

The second half of the comment illustrates my point; for Apple people, they don't view hardware lock-in or business programming frameworks as relevant to their decision making. In fact, I doubt they even know what those terms mean.

ranndino said...

I work in the field of designing interfaces and all usability tests show that the normals (my favorite term to distinguish regular people from techies, from a Techcrunch article) vastly prefer simple UI's. In fact, most techies would be surprised just how easily the normals are confused even by relatively simple UI's.

There is a way to satisfy both, the normals and the techie power users though. You can design an advanced feature set that is not turned on by default. The techies will find how to enable it while most normals won't even be aware that it's an option.

Chris said...


I agree that techies often lack an understanding of how normals see things.

There are good examples of UIs that grow in complexity over time--they're called video games, and normals seem to do just fine with them.

The issue is that user experience design is much more emphasized in videogames than it is in applications.

Anonymous said...

Guess what's even more reliable than ratings and guess work? Market share.

People vote with their dollars, so
price and availability must be considered as part of a product's superiority. For instance...we can make "superior" transistors and CPUs from graphene now...but it will cost you $100,000,000 to buy one.

Foobarista said...

Our office has about half PC users and half Linux users. A few of the senior managers and marketing people use Macs, but no developers use them at work.

For Linux people, it's obviously a non-issue - as far as they're concerned, a Mac is a very expensive way to get a Unix command line. For PC developers, it's still the case that there are more tools and support for PC's, and many (like me) just use them to get command-lines on backend servers. If I'm mostly running email/web and terminal windows, I'd rather save the company $$ and use a PC.

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