Meeting Steve Jobs and Freedom vs Simplicity

Steve Jobs turned up in London last week for EMI’s announcement that they were breaking ranks with the other record labels to drop DRM copy protections on music.

The press conference and informal chat afterwards was my first encounter with Jobs, who turned out to be less Californian than I imagined: More active and sharper tongued than expected.

By far the most memorable thing he described was Apple’s balancing of products between simplicity and freedom.

If you give the consumers too much freedom, they are overwhelmed by choice and confusion. If you limit their freedom by too much simplicity, they feel constricted, Jobs said.

You can see the use of design to bring simplicity in so many of their products. The trick is selecting the right places to restrict consumer options.

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2 responses to “Meeting Steve Jobs and Freedom vs Simplicity

  1. You are aware of the following, written quite a while ago:

    The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counterreformist and has been influenced by the “ratio studiorum” of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach – if not the Kingdom of Heaven – the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

    DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

    You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counterreformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It’s true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions…..

    And machine code, which lies beneath both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is Talmudic and cabalistic.

  2. Pingback: antoin@eire.com » Umberto Eco on the Macintosh

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