I remember reading an article in the NYT magazine that had a picture of a young woman who had been horribly disfigured in a fire when she was a kid. They showed her the picture. She didn't know she looked like that. They asked what she saw when she looked in the mirror. She said there was a way of tilting her head and looking only at certain features that made her appear attractive. That's how she hid the truth from herself. This made an impression, obviously, since I read that piece many years ago, but the story stays with me.
Yesterday, I tried to configure an iPad with my mother, for my mother, and we failed. And in the process I saw clearly how awful the process still is, even though you no longer need to tether the iPad to a computer to set it up.
I understand it can be a hard problem, but I also see evidence of different teams working on different parts of the setup and not talking to each other. What else could explain why you have to enter your email address twice in the process?
And why exactly do they need to know her email address? And why does it need to be verified? We paid good money for this device. It's ours, isn't it? How does Apple justify getting in the way of our using it whatever way we'd like to? (Yes, I know that shows how naive I am and what a throwback I am to the days when computers were really ours, when they were personal computers.)
They didn't like the password she chose. It was a good password given that she just wants to play a game with it. But it required 8 characters, at least one had to be uppercase and one had to be a number. The chance of her remembering the password we created? Pretty slim. (And what good is a password that the user can't remember?)
They use so much techinical jargon in the setup process that a normal person couldn't possibly be expected to understand. I didn't write it all down. I knew what to do because I have almost 40 years experience using computers and a couple of degrees in computer science. But if they commissioned a study at Apple to evaluate the setup process, by someone who didn't have a stake in "it just works" as applied to Apple, they would have their eyes opened. This thing is not easy to set up or use. (It is easy to buy, however. That process they have invested in streamlining.)
All I wanted to do was give my mom a way to play Words With Friends with her friends. She's a lifelong Scrabble player, and I think she would enjoy it. But we didn't have a way to access her email from the Starbucks where we did this work, so she left without the iPad. And she's not good at following instructions over the phone. I had reservations about giving her something that would further complicate her computer life. Now I can see what a bad idea this was.
But what if Apple lived up to their claims? What if the iPad really were easy to set up and use? What if they streamlined it so that all unnecessary steps were taken out of the way of a user who just wants to have fun?
I read a quote from Steve Jobs where he said he didn't want to compete with Dell and have the computers delivered by UPS or Fedex because he wanted to experience the joy of an impulse purchase. He wanted to get the credit with his family for bringing home something fun, powerful and easy. I agree. But today's Apple doesn't deliver on that.