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[Discuss] Its not possible to make things easier for users

On 01/15/2013 09:55 AM, Mark Woodward wrote:
> This is why I think people get confused about computers. Computers are 
> not DVD players. Yes, they *can* play DVDs, but they can also do 
> almost anything else. You can't think of a general purpose computer as 
> an appliance. You can think of a particular app, designed to handle a 
> particular goal set, as an appliance.

You paint too tidy a picture. This distinction is getting muddy and this 
is going to be very interesting to watch.

We are seeing a decline of general purpose computers (to the point of 
civilians maybe not being allowed to program their own computers? Apple 
is toying with that future...) and the rise of the so-called smartphones.

These phones might look like appliances to you, but they are so 
impressive in part because "There's an app for that."; they are powerful 
because underneath they are still general purpose and some nerd is 
programming up new features that we can install (if Apple agrees or if 
the nerd programmed on Android).

I suspect that people use a greater number of "apps" on their phones 
than they did "programs" on their general purpose computers. Ironic, the 
appliance is being used in a less narrow, less appliance-like way?

How confused are people by their phones vs. their computers? Which is 
being used for more purposes?

When I take a picture with my "camera" and put it on my computer and 
e-mail it, I have to make lots of decisions and follow lots of steps. 
When I take a picture with my Galaxy Nexus "telephone" it is simpler and 
I have far fewer decisions to make.  Google has removed a lot of the 
"stupid" and made the whole process both simpler *and* more powerful.  
My "real" camera still takes better pictures, but it is a tough, little 
clamshell model that is easy to have with me, and not a heavy, big beast 
that can clearly win the picture quality fight. The phone is a very nice 
camera that is elbowing its way into my life...

Yes, my computer, with its bigger screen, mouse and keyboard, and geeky 
programs like Gimp, will let me do things with pictures that I cannot do 
on my phone, but much of that is the bigger screen, mouse and keyboard. 
Gimp is a lot like an appliance with a lot accessories, and the ability 
to script.

And with scripting, I get to a nice feature of a "real" computer: the 
possibility for a nerd to do a little, ad hoc, light weight programming 
in the form of a macro or shell script or Perl snippet, etc. We 
associate this with "general purpose" computers. But most people are not 
nerds and have never done this on their "general purpose" computers.

And, because I have an Android phone, I have the app Frink that lets me 
do a little programming if I like (Apple won't allow such things on 
their phone).

Another distinction is between whether you can alter the basic 
factory-crafted way a device operates. Here I argue that an Android 
device is more customizable than is a computer running Microsoft Windows.

The distinction between an appliance (at least a non-Apple appliance) 
and a computer is not as clean as one might expect. Your distinction 
seems to be between civilians and nerds, and whether a product is 
attractive to you.


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