PDA

View Full Version : Apple's been telling them all along...


G4scott
Jan 30, 2004, 03:42 PM
I couldn't help but laugh when I saw this story on CNN...

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/ptech/01/30/unfriendlier.electronics.ap/index.html


(AP) --Barry Jaruzelski would have never imagined he'd need to consult a 146-page owner's manual just to learn how to turn on his new cell phone.

The New York tech industry consultant had asked for the simplest handset available to replace a lost phone. But where was the power button? Turned out Jaruzelski had to push the red "end" button twice to power up the handset. Honestly.

Not only are the latest gadgets packed with more features than ever, they're also harder than ever to figure out.

Culprits span the gizmo gamut from DVD players to digital cameras and wireless devices. Even televisions are increasingly acting more like computers, those notoriously confounding beasts.

Jaruzelski's shiny new communicator, incidentally, turned out to be loaded with features he said he'd never use: games, text messaging, Web-surfing, and customized ring tones.

Larry Sherby, 50, of Palo Alto, California, also eschews frilly gadgets.

Sherby got a digital camera from his wife a year ago but only uses its most basic features to point and shoot.

Forcing the flash? Timer? Long exposure? No way.

"It's a computer, that's what it is. It's got menus and menus. I have to consult a manual anytime I try other features and then I forget how to do it," Sherby said. "If it takes that much effort to learn what to do, forget it."

Even tech-savvy users manage to get frustrated by gadgets with automatic features or one-button steps.

"The more a product could do, the more that could go wrong," observes usability expert Jakob Nielsen, a principal of the Nielsen Norman Group consulting firm.

Nielsen has a postdoctorate degree in computer science yet struggles with the 35 buttons on his DVD player's remote control. "The button I use the most -- pause -- is the smallest and in the middle of five other buttons," he gripes.

No laughing matter

The fact that some people still have blinking displays on their VCRs because they couldn't figure out how to program the machines is a long-standing joke. But techno-hurdles really aren't a laughing matter.

Time is wasted on poorly written, Bible-sized manuals. Patience is lost on customer service calls. Extra trips are made to the store. Consumers pay for bells and whistles they never use.

Neil Carty, an independent filmmaker and admitted gearhead in New York, hates the snags in getting his gadgets to run properly.

"You want to play with it as soon as you get it, and you don't want to find out that you have to go and get something else like an adapter," he said.

Often, consumers make do. Some rely on geeky relatives or friends to install or troubleshoot.

Sherby, a laser equipment salesman, has three computers, a wireless router and high-speed Internet access at home, but all are working fine thanks due only to the help of his son's friend.

Others, like Nina Burns of Redwood City, California, pay extra for installation or service warranties.

Burns, the founder of a parenting advice company, recently made use of her computer's $200 service warranty when she couldn't get the external DVD-writer to do file backups.

Burns also lets her husband handle the VCR and DVD player hookups. She just keeps a one-page cheat sheet they drew up by the TV so she knows which remote control buttons to press.

Electronic Tower of Babel

Some consumer electronics companies are trying to make it easier on customers.

One example: Epson introduced a television this month that has a built-in photo printer, CD-ROM drive and memory card reader. The company tested prototypes first and found the original designs sent users scrolling through too many screen menus to print a photo.

The result: a simple print button on the TV remote control.

Still, companies in the past few years have focused more on adding performance and features than on making products that are easy to use and play well with other machines.

A typical home's entertainment center has become an electronic Tower of Babel, given all the competing and sometimes incompatible formats and standards.

With digital music, songs encoded in the Advanced Audio Coding format are not playable on devices that support only Windows Media Audio format.

Recordable DVDs have four existing formats -- and more coming -- frustrating people who purchase blank discs only to find out that their DVD burners won't accept them.

Harold Garland, 55, of San Jose, California, nearly plunked down $500 for a state-of-the-art digital recorder at an electronics store -- until he saw the fine print warning that the gadget's software would not be compatible with his Macintosh computer.

Garland walked out with an old-fashioned $50 cassette recorder instead.

"I probably would have wasted hours and hours trying to figure out the digital recorder and how to master it anyway," Garland said with a bittersweet sigh.

There are some signs of a changing mindset among manufacturers. At this month's Consumer Electronics Show, the industry's largest trade show, the need for simplicity was a repeated theme during speeches.

One of the strongest statements -- a do-or-die sort of rallying call -- came from Gerard Kleisterlee, chief executive of Royal Philips Electronics. He cited a Yankee Group study indicating that 50 percent of consumers postpone purchases thinking the products would be too difficult to use.

The data also showed that 25 percent of consumers thought they already owned a high-definition television -- the true number is less than half that.

"We as an industry have managed to confound the consumer even in the most basic consumer electronic device -- their TV," Kleisterlee said. "Our future is in the balance. Complexity is intrinsic in technology but simplicity is how we should bring it to the consumer."

This is a challenge that can't be solved with lip service, analysts warn.

"The simpler it looks," Nielsen said, "the harder it is to build."

This is why Apple doesn't want to turn the iPod into a PDA or a cell phone, or a movie player...

Although they do comment on features for cameras, I can see where the line should be drawn...

Products for purely simple consumers should be as simple as they can be, point and shoot cameras, the iPod, etc. Products for pros, or people who need them should have a good feature set, but should also be easily accessible by the user...

I love that last line of the article, though, and I think Apple would agree...

alset
Jan 30, 2004, 06:16 PM
Agreed. Every time two or more unrelated products get merged we end up with a headache or an inferior item that does a half-a**ed job. An example is the PS2 for DVD; it's acceptable, but terrible compared to a $50 dedicated player. What about combo TV/VCR/DVD? All three components are lower quality to keep the price down. As this trend continues to invade the market I predict fewer and fewer solid geek toys, until one day things will bust as the dot-com boom did. I hope.

I fear the day when more items are lumped together than sold separately.

Dan

themadchemist
Jan 30, 2004, 06:32 PM
I couldn't agree with you more. I like the philosophy of a product doing one thing and doing it very, very well.

Mike Teezie
Jan 30, 2004, 07:28 PM
That would make three of us then...

zapp
Jan 30, 2004, 07:44 PM
Originally posted by Mike Teezie
That would make three of us then...


Four....

Nermal
Jan 30, 2004, 08:10 PM
Originally posted by G4scott
I couldn't help but laugh when I was this story on CNN...

I think you've done quite well to progress from a being a story to being a person ;)

Seriously though, the story's right, modern devices are getting far too complicated. Take my first cellphone for example, an Alcatel "One Touch". One touch is right, it's one touch to turn it on, one touch to answer a call, one touch to send a text, etc.

Example: Sending a text message with my One Touch involved pressing the Text button, entering the message, pressing the OK button, then dialling the number. Simple.

But my phone eventually broke and I replaced it with an newer Alcatel. To send a text, I now have to press Cancel, then hold the bottom of the OK button and press it up (or is it the other way around?). Then I have to scroll down to Write, then choose New, then type the message, then choose Send To, then choose Dial...

Our DVD player isn't much better. If I want to fast-forward, I never know whether to push the button with one arrow, or the one with two arrows. Push the wrong one and you've accidentally skipped forward by an entire scene, and you have to find your place again. Oh well, it's difficult to use, but it's a lot more compatible than Apple's DVD player app (I swear I'm going to thump the computer if I see "this disc is not designed for this region" one more time! WinDVD was never this much of a hassle!)

But I'm getting sidetracked. The article's correct, we need nice simple devices again.

zapp
Jan 30, 2004, 08:21 PM
Originally posted by Nermal
...but it's a lot more compatible than Apple's DVD player app (I swear I'm going to thump the computer if I see "this disc is not designed for this region" one more time! WinDVD was never this much of a hassle!)....


Funny you should mention that, I have had to watch several movies on my Mac because I couldn't play them in my DVD player. The DVD Player say "this disc is not designed for this region"

Nermal
Jan 30, 2004, 09:58 PM
Ah, the weird and wonderful world of technology :rolleyes:

G4scott
Jan 30, 2004, 10:36 PM
Originally posted by Nermal
I think you've done quite well to progress from a being a story to being a person ;)

I was having one of those "out of body" experiences ;)

Powerbook G5
Jan 30, 2004, 11:06 PM
My dad calls me whenever he plays a DVD in the DVD player I bought them. It's a Samsung and has all the cool features but the remote control has so many buttons and a joystick menu button thing and he's called me with the simplest questions like how to pause it and access the disc menu and stuff. It is pretty crazy, it'd be nice if you spend $250 for a good DVD player that they'd spend the time to research the design of it to make it possible for the average customer to use it.

And I agree with the cell phone issues. Why is it that a phone with only a few buttons has a 300 page book on how to use it and has two chapters just on how to properly turn it off and on?

Nermal
Jan 31, 2004, 12:16 AM
Originally posted by Powerbook G5
And I agree with the cell phone issues. Why is it that a phone with only a few buttons has a 300 page book on how to use it and has two chapters just on how to properly turn it off and on?

I just dug out the book for my new phone and realised that they're still calling it a One Touch! It has 96 pages, and page 17 tells you how to make a call, which includes the phrase "bla,bla,bla,bla,bla" :)

It also looks like the instructions aren't in order. You have to remove the battery before you can insert the SIM card, but the battery removal instructions come after the SIM card installation instructions :rolleyes:

And I'm not even going to mention what it says about "interrogating the voice mail" :eek:

Powerbook G5
Jan 31, 2004, 12:29 AM
My Samsung Sprint phone has an entire chapter of about 10 pages just on how to set up your voicemail.

MrMacMan
Jan 31, 2004, 01:16 AM
Awwwww.

But I LOVE Hassles!


;)

Sol
Jan 31, 2004, 02:04 AM
I find it very telling that CNN used AAC files not being compatible with WMA players as an example of the 'Babelisation' of technology. Any other American news web-site would have criticised iPods for not being compatible with WMA files and a few have done this allready. I think CNN got it right; after all, most people buy online music in the AAC format.

If anyone is to blame for hybrid devices it is the consumer. These are the people who made hybrid consoles like the X-Box and the PS2 more successful than the games-only GameCube. These are the people who bought all the MiniDV cameras that featured memory cards for still shots instead of the video-only models. These are also the people who chose a Dell over an iMac because the Dell had several more ports and room for expandability, most of which was never utilised. Now we are seeing WMA players that are also radios, recorders and video players. Who will use all those extra functions? Hardly anyone I guess, but companies will keep making them so long as there are consumers who would choose these products over something like the iPod.

slowtreme
Jan 31, 2004, 10:15 AM
I actually use my Xbox as my DVD player. Works great, and I only need the one box. The difference is it's NOT complicated to do these two things. the Xbox is a device that you put a disk in, and view the content. For games you interact with a controller, for DVDs you just sit back and watch. Plus it outputs in component for my HDTV. I also use it to play CDs.

The argument of the PS2 not working as a combo unit stands, the DVD output of the PS2 looks like someone rubbed vasaline of the TV screen. so I can see that being a failure.

You can have good multiple use devices if the:
uses are similar
interface does not hinder another
quality does not suffer

Powerbook G5
Jan 31, 2004, 10:49 AM
I also thought the Xbox did pretty decent DVD playback...until I used a pretty standard stand alone DVD player. The Xbox does a decent job, but you still don't get the best experience as if you had a stand alone unit.

alset
Jan 31, 2004, 01:07 PM
Originally posted by Sol
If anyone is to blame for hybrid devices it is the consumer. These are the people who made hybrid consoles like the X-Box and the PS2 more successful than the games-only GameCube.

Agreed, but I'd like to play devil's advocate. I would have bought an XBox that ran games only because I hate combo units and believe in the quality of component systems, but M$ didn't consult me. Manufacturers often don't give us a choice. I refuse to buy a phone with a built in camera, as I think it's pointless, but we'll eventually lose that option, as well. Even the Superdrive, though nice, sacrificed performance for combining features. In a PB, you don't really have an option... But I installed a fast CD-RW drive to complement it, in my tower. Life has been much better, since then.

Rambling....

Dan

stoid
Jan 31, 2004, 01:11 PM
Originally posted by Sol
These are the people who bought all the MiniDV cameras that featured memory cards for still shots instead of the video-only models.

An incredibly valid point! A friend of mine was arguing that he was better off technologically because rather than having a digital video and a digital picture camera separate like I did, he only had to carry around one device. Then I ask him when the last time was that he had taken a still picture with the camera. He said he doesn't because the picture quality sucks. I guess it's the principle of the thing that matters to people. They don't buy hardware because "I will" they buy because "I can." I think that combo sales will taper off as people realize that when they get their second expensive tech item that they don't need the useless and poorly designed bells and whistles.

slowtreme
Jan 31, 2004, 03:34 PM
Originally posted by Powerbook G5
I also thought the Xbox did pretty decent DVD playback...until I used a pretty standard stand alone DVD player. The Xbox does a decent job, but you still don't get the best experience as if you had a stand alone unit. Then you didn't compare the xbox DVD via Component out (HDTV and progressive scan) vs any DVD player under $100. I have a DVD player in my house that is about 1 1/2 years old, was $129 when I bought it and only does s-video and composite. The Xbox cost me 179 (plus 20 for the dvd remote) plays great games and has a great picture compared to the DVD player I have. It has a remote that functions exactly like any other DVD player for ease of use. It even has some pretty nice zoom features to expand letterbox films to full screen. Nice if you dont have a 16:9 screen and end up with just a sliver of image on your 4:3 screen with 2/3 or your TV displaying black bars top and bottom.

(note: I like my widescreen movies, but my 4 year old isn't really impressed. He'd rather have a TV full of star wars space fighters than a directors view)

My point is, the addition of the DVD didn't degrade the quality of the gaming machine, and didn't hinder the ability to play games or DVDs. In the case of the DVD player, it was a major upgrade for me for $20.

Now I didn't compare this $20 upgrade vs a $250 true progressive scan player with 3:2 pulldown and all that jazz. And it wasn't my intention. Unlike the addition of a camera to a cell phone, that can be painful to attemp taking a photo, and the resulting image being worse than a regular $99 digital snapshot camera... But then you wouldn't be able to email/send that image right away without that combo device.

kuyu
Jan 31, 2004, 03:40 PM
Originally posted by alset
I refuse to buy a phone with a built in camera, as I think it's pointless, but we'll eventually lose that option, as well.

I couldn't agree more. The .2 megapixel cameras in cell phones are a total scam. Everyone I know who insists that they have one on their phone have used it more than five times. Four snapshots were showing the phone to someone, and the other one was an accidental shot of their finger because they pushed the wrong button.

My mom isn't allowed to have camera phones at her work for security reasons. Also, at the Perfect Circle concert (awesome) I saw about ten camera phones confiscated.

Oddly enough, all my friends with camera phones have Dell's too... weird. "If the TV says I need it then I better buy one"

Powerbook G5
Jan 31, 2004, 11:31 PM
Originally posted by slowtreme
Then you didn't compare the xbox DVD via Component out (HDTV and progressive scan) vs any DVD player under $100. I have a DVD player in my house that is about 1 1/2 years old, was $129 when I bought it and only does s-video and composite. The Xbox cost me 179 (plus 20 for the dvd remote) plays great games and has a great picture compared to the DVD player I have. It has a remote that functions exactly like any other DVD player for ease of use. It even has some pretty nice zoom features to expand letterbox films to full screen. Nice if you dont have a 16:9 screen and end up with just a sliver of image on your 4:3 screen with 2/3 or your TV displaying black bars top and bottom.

(note: I like my widescreen movies, but my 4 year old isn't really impressed. He'd rather have a TV full of star wars space fighters than a directors view)

My point is, the addition of the DVD didn't degrade the quality of the gaming machine, and didn't hinder the ability to play games or DVDs. In the case of the DVD player, it was a major upgrade for me for $20.

Now I didn't compare this $20 upgrade vs a $250 true progressive scan player with 3:2 pulldown and all that jazz. And it wasn't my intention. Unlike the addition of a camera to a cell phone, that can be painful to attemp taking a photo, and the resulting image being worse than a regular $99 digital snapshot camera... But then you wouldn't be able to email/send that image right away without that combo device.

Actually, I use the Xbox with the HDtv box, a pair of $100 monster cable components for video, and a $90 monster cable optical cable for audio, and it still doesn't compare, not to mention the Xbox doesn't do true progressive scan video out and it doesn't do beyond standard 5.1 channel surround sound, either. Even to a standard DVD player, it doesn't quite live up. Not only that, but whenever I pause a DVD on the Xbox for more than a few minutes, it freezes and I have to eject and put it back in to work again.

edit: The Xbox doesn't play all DVDs, either, there are quite a few that after buying, I found out I couldn't play on the Xbox, which is why I had to go out and get a new DVD player anyway and then discovered the difference between my $300 Xbox with the $30 DVD playback kit compared to a $200 stand alone unit that was cheaper and works better in every way.

slowtreme
Feb 1, 2004, 06:29 AM
Originally posted by Powerbook G5
...I found out I couldn't play on the Xbox, which is why I had to go out and get a new DVD player anyway and then discovered the difference between my $300 Xbox with the $30 DVD playback kit compared to a $200 stand alone unit that was cheaper and works better in every way. OUCH, $330. Like I said. i was comparing a $179 xbox and $20 remote with a $129 DVD player that is over a year old. Sure, your $330 purchase is the same product that I paid $199 for, but I wasn't willing to pay spend that. I waited till the value was right for me.

I made it clear I was not trying to compare the xbox dvd vs a high end DVD player, I was comparing regular consumer products. Since most DVD players today sell from $40 to $149, I would call a $200 model outside of the range of my comparison.

My point is, the addition of the DVD didn't degrade the quality of the gaming machine, and didn't hinder the ability to play games or DVDs. In the case of the DVD player, it was a major upgrade for me for $20. Sometimes combo units work, most times they don't.

Powerbook G5
Feb 1, 2004, 09:46 AM
Yeah but you don't have to have a high end DVD player to get progressive scan and higher end audio. Even $100 units now have these features built in. I only spent $200 because I liked the clean design and it had all these geek features like 180x FF, 1/100 still frame, and 100x zoom.

Either way, there is a differences between the two. Even the DVD player using standard connections like composite or s-video looks better than the Xbox using the high end component video. With the Xbox, it gets a bit saturated and it seems to have more artifacts in the video than when using the same movie in a stand alone DVD player. And also, for some reason, I have had issues where when I put a number of DVDs into the Xbox, it tells me it isn't a valid game or DVD format unless I take out the DVD adapter and put it into another controller port. It's weird, like, Daredevil only plays if it is plugged into port 3 and Beauty and the Beast only plays plugged into port 1.

cr2sh
Feb 1, 2004, 10:17 AM
Originally posted by G4scott
Products for purely simple consumers should be as simple as they can be, point and shoot cameras, the iPod, etc. Products for pros, or people who need them should have a good feature set, but should also be easily accessible by the user...

I love that last line of the article, though, and I think Apple would agree...

If Apple agrees.. then why can't I buy a two button PRO mouse?

They really need to pull their..... well, let's just say they need a two button bluetooth pro mouse.

Roger1
Feb 1, 2004, 07:02 PM
1. New cell phone for Christmas. Manual 184 pages long. Burned up 20 minutes trying to set up voicemail. Played 3 games of blackjack. Tinkered with that voice thing where I say a persons name and it calls, after figuring out that I have to press a button anyway to get it to work. Why do this if I can use speed dial?
2. VCR. NEVER recorded on it. Use it for movies, and for TV channels. Since we got the Gamecube and the DVD, we run those through the VCR. Did you know with enough adapters, you can get a DVD player, Gamecube and Cable to connect to a TV whose only aux connector is a coax port?:D
3. Gamecube-play games.
4. DVD. Use for radio (occasionally), and DVDs. No MP3's, nuthin'. We use the play button, switch disk button (should've gotten a single disk player), pause and stop. Oh, and volume.

This stuff is too complicated. Next time I shop for this stuff, I will pay more attention to ease of use. Especially since I have to train everybody on how to use it.

Edit: Microsoft started this. After all, they are the ones who make us press start to turn off our peecee's. :cool: