My Rx for Linux series last week drew the usual flack from people who maintain that Windows dominates the market because it's easier to use. Personally I don't think so, on the contrary I think that the hypothetical man from Mars who had never seen either system before would find it a lot easier to learn some basic Unix principles and then work out their application in Linux using the manuals than to memorize the action sequences needed to run Windows/XP servers. Unfortunately that's an unproveable proposition, at least until that Martian shows up and tells us we should all be using MarsOS Y anyway.
However, I noticed something about Apple's release, last week, of their new Aperture application that bears directly on this whole ease of use issue.
The application is intended for use by professional photographers and their editors. As such it works with, but does not alter, the raw images (i.e. the actual the signal intensity records for each color pixel used in the camera's primary sensor array). In some ways Aperture complements Adobe's Photoshop (and thus the gimp), in others it's a first go round on developing a true workflow system for professional photographers in the magazine, advertising, and events photo industry.
What's so striking about Aperture is that it's intended to run under Unix - specifically MacOS X - but none of the reviews I saw paid the slightest attention to installation or run-time issues associated with the computer. In every case, installation and operability were silently assumed.
That's confidence - remember this is an application designed for use by people who aren't interested in using a computer. Their focus is their work -:) - they treat the computer the way an actor treats the stage floor, or a telemarketer treats the telephone: they need to know it's there, but the focus is on what to do with it, not on getting it to work.
For example, Mark Peter's review of Aperture on letsgodigital.org spends no time on the details of the computing technology or operating systems needed to make it work. In contrast a typical PC community review, like Vincent Bockaert's review of some Adobe PhotoShop enhancements for Windows/XP, seems to require extensive coverage of installation, hardware, and operational issues.
So what's the conclusion here? It's a question: if Windows is so easy to use, why is that professionals using Windows applications need to be told so much about how to install them, how to set up Windows so their applications will run, and what hardware to use? Conversely, if the Mac, and therefore Unix, is so hard to use - why don't the professionals who run applications like Aperture need to take computer courses? worry about hardware setup? or care about installation hassles?
Features smeatures - look at who uses it, for what, and what they have to know about computers.