Friday, July 22, 2011

What Windows should copy from Apple

While I don’t always agree with the way Apple conducts business, there are alot of things the Windows PC industry can learn from them. I often help people pick a new PC, and there are things I bump into every time that make the process of picking, buying and setting up a new PC unnecessarily cumbersome. Here are five things I think HP, Acer, Asus and all the others could learn from the way Apple does things.

1. Just the OS please

Unless you build your own PC from parts, or have someone do that, chances are your PC comes with Windows pre-installed. That’s prefectly fine, except that manufacturers tend to add tons of useless “crapware”. There’s usually a trial version of the very worst antivirus you can think of, plus all sorts of other utilities you’ll never need. And most of them will at some point prompt you to buy a license, or upgrade to a pro version. Ugh.
My Asus laptop came with a program to change the look of the volume bar. It now looks like a pie chart of sorts. It’s slow and ugly, and I can’t seem to get rid of it without losing keyboard volume shortcuts altogether. Thanks Asus. I didn’t want that. I wanted Windows 7. Bundling Microsoft’s own Security Essentials might be a good idea. It’s free, and very good. Other than that, please take note of how Cupertino does things. Without crapware, Windows 7 actually offers a very decent user experience.

2. Restrict model variations

Apple currently sells eight Macbook model (1 Macbook, 5 Pros and 2 Airs). Asus has over 300. Madness. Even if you manage to keep track of all those product series, there are still all sorts of hardware variations within that line of products. It’s just simply impossible to choose from so many models. And once you do, you’ll have to find a store that carries that specific model. Good luck. In my experience, this is one of the reasons people start looking at Macs. Clarity.

3. Offer a great unboxing experience

PCs usually come in unsightly boxes that list all the machine’s components. Typically, they’re hard to open, and usually the first things you’ll see are wires, bundled seemingly randomly into small plastic bags. Only when you’ve removed absolutely everything else will you see your new computer.
Once you do get the actual product out of the cheap styrofoam padding, it’s bound to be covered in stickers informing you, once again, of it’s specifications. I can only assume those stickers are there in case the product begins life as a demo unit in a store. Regadless, I don’t want to have to spend the first couple of minutes after unboxing removing stickers, and then removing the glue residue.
Apple tends to package their product as if it’s jewelry. The whole package is designed to make you feel good your purchase. Well done, Apple.

4. In product design, less is more

I recently helped someone in my office get onto the wifi. Her brand new HP laptop had a wifi indicator light that was orange, and needed to be blue. The HP Wireless Assistant (see 1) was no help, nor were Windows’s own settings. At some point, I pointed at the aforementioned light, and accidentally hit it. It turned blue. It turned out to be touch-sensitive.
To me this is poor product design. Sure, it’s probably in the manual somewhere, but hardware design should be intuitive. Buttons should look like buttons. And it should be simple. Recently, both HP (with their Envy lineof laptops) and LG have released near-identical copies of Apple’s Macbook line, boasting the same, clean, design. I’m convinced there are ways to design great, clean-looking, easy to use computers without stealing. And it needs to happen.

5. Offer a decent support website

Have you ever tried finding anything on It’s a mess. And the same goes for every other manufacturer’s support website I’ve had to deal with. And even if you manage to find the right product, chances are the information will be outdated, or apply to the US version of that product, which has different components. Ugh. This of course relates directly to my second point. Less, again, is more.
So there you go. Five points that I think the PC industry needs to compete better with Apple. Do you have any additions? PLease feel free to leave them in the comments.


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