TechnologyPaul McAleer

All this useless beauty

TechnologyPaul McAleer

(This was really heavily influenced by Christina Wodtke's post on change, so please read that first.) 

There was something off about Apple's iPad event this week. Ben Thompson wrote up a great piece on what he saw.  I'd like to bring in something else, something that I feel expresses the current Apple just as much.

Beauty.

Apple has created wonderful videos about the incredible engineering prowess it takes to make a chamfer, or an iPad, or the admittedly gorgeous Mac Pro:

This, frankly, is some impressive shit. It boggles my mind to think about all of the factors that go into making one computer or device, let alone billions.  And this focus on the product and the way the hardware  exists in the world is very much present in Apple's latest ads (think back to the iPhone photography one, etc.)

But the other component here is missing: the software.

Where is the video about making the new GarageBand? Or making Keynote? Or making Maps? (Well, maybe not so much that last one). What goes in to understanding the software features people need? How do you build that?

Maybe it's just not an impressive process. Maybe talking with users, or researching them, isn't as glorious as a big robot shaping pieces of aluminum into computers. So instead, and particularly since iOS 7, we get a steady stream of beautiful  software. The latest Apple app updates? "Beautiful" and "stunning" are all over 'em... hell, even Numbers spreadsheets are called "beautiful". Spreadsheets. 

Beauty is a quality that the entire product can embody. But there is a functional component Apple addresses with the hardware - and Jony Ive talks about at length - that they are not at all addressing with the software. Or, if they are, it is subservient to beauty and not apparently addressed in the same capacity.

Apple is currently valuing beauty in products above all else. A fine goal, but I worry we'll see usability and overall experience (not shopping experience, overall) take a back seat to that.