The marketplace, the economics, the entire dynamics of the ecosystem are completely different to the 80s and 90s.
But, after six hours with an Android phone (my two and half year old iPhone 3G is dying a slow death), there is one striking similarity.
The Mac had a wonderful desktop with user interface elements never seen before (although the idea of the GUI was bought from Xerox PARC, Apple added pull-down menus and icons) and a large investment in researching how these elements should be put together – which were written down into the infamous “Human Interface Guidelines”. Windows had the same user interface elements (although as far as I am aware, Microsoft copied them without ever paying or even acknowledging where they came from) but it had no such research or guidelines (or rather they had guidelines but there was never any pressure to follow them).
The iPhone has a wonderful user interface with interactions never seen before (although touch screen phones and devices pre-date the iPhone by many years) but along with it comes a series of strict guidelines on how to build your user-interface – one very important one being that a tappable area should have a minimum physical size. Android has the same user controls and interactions, but there is no consistency in their usage; one common example being a number of apps let you swipe a page off to the left to reveal the page to the right hand side. But if you want to go back to the previous page, you don’t swipe rightwards, you press the back button.
A tiny detail.
And just like Mac versus Windows, it’s these tiny differences that add up to a feeling of frustration and dissatisfaction. However as the cause of this dissatisfaction is so tiny you never know where to attribute it. You just realise that you swear less and feel a little bit happier when using a Mac or iPhone.
PS: Don’t get me wrong, I can feel the potential in Android. And widgets on the home screen is a great idea.
But the user-experience is shocking.
Sadly, most people buy purely on price, not experience. And then wonder why they hate their computer and/or device.