Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Apple?

If I remember correctly, their first sensation was the blue first-generation iMac. By now, almost every commercial image with a desktop computer (either in an advertisement or in a shop) comes with an iMac, not a Dell or a HP. Then the iPod, whose design has become the standard in the portable digital music player industry, and the iPhone, whose design has become the standard in the smart phone market, and most recently the iPad, whose design is quickly becoming the standard in the electronic book reader industry.

I usually go for what everyone else does not have. By now, however, my desktop PC is an iMac (both at home and in office); my laptop a MacBook Air; my portable digital music player an iPod Classic; my mobile phone an iPhone 4 White; and I'm now thinking of buying an iPad 2 after learning that Amazon's Kindle doesn't really satisfy my needs. And the reason is there's something irresistible about Apple's product design.

I always wonder why Apple always manages to come up with what can be called the universal design. All the other manufacturing companies end up copycatting Apple's design and end up with inferior design to Apple's (the only possible exception is Naoto Fukazawa's Infobar). I'm not an expert in industrial design. In particular, I have no knowledge of electronics. So it is impossible to answer this question in a fundamental way. But that doesn't discourage me from thinking about this puzzle.

One of the keys seems to be thinness. Apple makes a lot of engineering effort to make products thinner than those produced by competitors. And thinness appeals to us as consumers, perhaps because almost every electronics product wasn't thin before. What's attractive as an image often coincides with what's not been available so far.

But this explanation seems only part of the whole story. It's probably also about simplicity or simple-looking appearance. Electronic gadgets tend to have multiple functions, which leads to too many bottoms on their surface. But perhaps not a single consumer will use them all. There is a gap between how consumers use the product and what the product looks like. Apple successfully narrows this gap. It's perhaps nothing surprising that Naoto Fukazawa manages to come up with a smart phone design that goes on par with iPhone, because that's exactly his design philosophy: narrowing the gap between how consumers use the product and what the product looks like.

(To be continued.)

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