As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been around the computing arena long enough to remember CLI. Command. Line. Interface. Think DOS. Think Unix and CP/M. Think point and click without point and click, an era where the only clicking was from the keyboard. Thankfully, those days are (mostly) gone.
Yet, Mac power users know that true power comes from the keyboard, not the mouse. The mouse and trackpad make it somewhat easier for mere mortals to use computing devices that have become remarkably complex and complicated as we task them to perform ever more tasks.
Simplicity. Ease of use. You see it everywhere on iPhone and iPad apps. Now we see the giants of technology figuring out that less is more. Or, rather, easier is, well, easier to learn and use.
Take Microsoft Office. Please.
A few years ago Office came with functionality tied up into an overly complex Ribbon packed with tools that only the most proficient Office users could figure out. It was visually messy and usability suffered. A new version of Ribbon is on the way– first with Word. The objective is simple. Simplicity. Usability. Easier to understand also means easier to use and more usage means more stickiness to continue to subscribe to Office.
See how that works?
Maybe Microsoft’s new feature is an experiment and we don’t know if it will show up in Excel or PowerPoint but Outlook is next in line to get a feature that makes the app easier to use.
Our devices– all of them, from Office to Creative Cloud, from Windows to macOS, from Android to iOS, and all the applications in between– have become too complex, too complicated, and sufficiently so that usability has suffered even while we devote ever more time to using what the gods who hate humanity hath wrought upon us.
The internet came along back in the mid-1990s with the promise to make the world a village where everyone could connect to anyone anywhere and we could all just get along. Point and click was all the rage back then. Mac OS. Windows ’95. These days the internet has become the misinformation superhighway, and we need specialized software– virtual private networks (VPNs) to keep us safe from harm during our travels.
Malware has run amok. Complexity is the new norm. Too much of our digital lives has become a toxic hellstew of privacy and security concerns as we and anything and everything about us has become fair game for the forces that be– Facebook, Google, Amazon, and hackers from Russia and China and elsewhere.
The counterbalance to all that complexity is simplicity and you see Apple trying to bring such a sense of wonder and usability to iOS and macOS and watchOS et al by developing table stakes applications that can be used to make our digital lives easier to manage.
It’s about time.
Apple can do more. While many of use prefer the warmth and security of Apple’s eco system, the walled garden does not do enough to wall off customers from negative powers beyond our control. Mac and iPhone and iPad customers use their devices more than their Windows and Android counterparts, partly because Apple makes them easier to use so we can do more, but my fear of applications and systems that are easier to use will have the unexpected consequence of more usage, which results in more addictions, which results in more opportunities for malware and their proponents– Facebook and Google, I’m looking at you– to take advantage of us.
Easier to use apps means we will use more apps to do more and than means more opportunities for privacy and security to be abused.