It's Not All About Functionality.

july 26, 2005

I was complaining about maps yesterday and how Yahoo! Maps has better functionality than both Google and Microsoft. All that complaining was done without the realization of why I pay the extra money to buy Apple stuff instead of regular Windows boxes: Hip, cool, aesthetically pleasing design. It isn't all about the functionality as Lee Gomes writes: Apple Computer, of course, is often mentioned as the ultimate aspirational technology company. It isn't simply that the iPod or the PowerBook is "well-designed"; it is that Apple realizes the extent to which the people buying its products are making a statement about their good taste. Even if a Dell Windows machine does all the same things -- and is less expensive and faster to boot -- it still doesn't matter, as a walking tour through any tony design studio will tell you. This idea is central to Apple's success and goes back to the earliest days of the company. Back in the 1970s, it was Steve Jobs's idea to spend the extra money needed to give the Apple II, the company's first major product, a sleek, molded plastic case, and thus make it living-room friendly. (Steve Wozniak, his partner back then, would have been happy to stick with the hobby shop aesthetic of computers at the time.) The Apple vs. IBM/Microsoft/Dell tension shows up in other areas of technology. For example, Google arguably plays Apple to Yahoo's Windows. Google's home page is full of high concept white space, with its name in a rainbow of colors reminiscent of the Apple logo before Mr. Jobs bleached it. The Yahoo home page, by contrast, has the aesthetics of a strip mall, in both the good and bad sense of that phrase. Ouch for Yahoo! on this point. Does this mean that Google will be relegated (now or in the future) to being just a niche search website that looks good? Whereas Yahoo! will take over the world? I don't know how far Gomes will take the whole Google/Apple vs. Yahoo!/Microsoft thing. But, one thing I'll agree with him on is that though Yahoo! Maps certainly has the useful features, it does not have that coolness factor of satellite photography as Google Maps does.