The SuperSource

April 2010

Apple Designs for the Rest of Us.

 Apple’s new, long awaited iPad computer tablet is nice. Not essential, but nice. First day sales were 300,000 iPads. Just as the iPhone, iPod, and the Macintosh itself are nice. Not essential, as are the sun, water, and oxygen.

         The iPhone has set the standard for contemporary smart phones. Fifty million iPhones have been sold since the first iPhone introduction, June 2007. Applications for the iPhone, and now also the iPad, by non-Apple developers are available from Apple’s App Store, opened in July 2008, over 170,000 apps.

         The iPod, launched in October 2001, is a portable media player. Another non-essential, that has sold over 240 million units.

         The Macintosh Computer launched January 1984, with the first major graphic user interface, and with 128k random access memory (RAM). Start Macs now come with 2 GB, about a million-fold increase.

         As with most things Apple, the iPad has stirred some controversy. But then Apple has has its critics and doom-sayers since 1984.

         iPad is a pleasing, intuitive, enjoyable tool for viewing and consuming digital media: Internet browsing, social media brief texting, video watching, music listening, With the appropriate app, an iPad can be an efficient mobile data-entry device for business databases.

         iPad is not a substitute for a computer—for the iMac, MacBook, Mac Mini, or Mac Pro—more effective tools for content creation.

         As a set of medical blood tests provides an overview of your body’s health, the commentary around the iPad highlights contemporary themes, issues, and fallacies.





         Apple’s App Store offers over a hundred thousand apps for the iPhone, most also work on the iPad. Every single one of the App Store apps have been evaluated and approved by Apple.

         Or from anotherAppleMark
perspective, an iPhone or iPad user cannot readily install any app they want. Moreover, Apple wants developers to program approved apps in approved software languages, currently Xcode using Cocoa and Objective C. Thus, some third-party software originally written for Windows cannot be run through a fast translator and made to kinda work for iPhone and iPad.

         Whether these restrictions are censorship or sensible likely depend on your financial perspective. A programmer who doesn’t take the time to learn the optimal languages for iPhone and iPad will not receive App Store approval. On the proverbial other hand, iPhone and iPad users are more likely to have consistent, bug-free experiences. One Mac Developer of a leading user-friendly product describes Object as “a great language, incredibly flexible and powerful.”

         A unofficial report from inside Apple explains the restriction against third-party toolkits is protect the upcoming iPhone OS 4, which offers multitasking, which the toolkits may not be programmed to properly handle.

         Another programmer notes that Apple specifically allows JavaScript apps. JavaScript, developed by Netscape and Mozilla, is an object-oriented scripting language used to enable programmatic access to computational objects within a hot environment. JavaScript is frequently used as part of a web browser, providing enhanced user interfaces and dynamic websites. In other words, JavaScript allows a programmer great flexibility in extending what can be done with an iPhone/iPad app.

         Apple’s vertically integrated products are partly closed. Yet the closed iPhone and App Store have generated over 170,000 applications, which millions of users can safely download precisely because they have been vetted by a reliable, albeit not perfect, evaluator.

         The Macintosh user greatly benefited from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines.


The guidelines stress consistency for the user, and a philosophy that if a user gets into trouble using an application it is caused not by user error but by faulty design.AppleMark

         Psychologist Barry Schwartz has studied The Paradox of Choice and concludes that too many choices restrict rather than free us, that “less is more.” "Freedom is the highest value in America, and more freedom means more choice, So it would seem self-evident that the more choice people have, the better off they are. But it turns out that a lot of things we hold to be self-evident aren't true."

         When the first Macintosh computers were introduced in the 1980s, they offered many fewer variations than competing DOS and Windows computers, generally termed IBM-compatible. Limited consumer choice. Limited to hardware, operating system, and application software integration optimized for the user. Easier consumer, and business, choice; easier use; easier learning; fewer software bugs; more enjoyable, fewer headaches.

         Societies, and technologies, oscillate between central and decentralization. From mainframes to personal computers and back to software as a service and data storage in the “cloud,” someone else’s centralized computer.

         The US Food and Drug Administration laws ban the sale of drugs and devices that haven’t evidenced they are safe and effectiveness. While some good drugs take time to be generally available, Thalidomide, marketed outside the USA as a sedative, also caused birth defects. The EPA seeks to balance scientific harms against economic costs. Efficient regulation saves individuals from multiply duplicating research and evaluation, separating candid consumer claims from dubious devious deceptions.

         As importance a choice is competence. Another developer has perhaps the last word on Apple’s restraints on developer languages:

“We’ve been there before, and intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform,” reportedly an email from Steve Jobs.

         Yes, Apple markets semi-closed systems. And millions of consumer and business users are thankful for well-designed, user-centered products.


         There is comfort in being in the majority. As social animals, we make many judgments based on what we perceive about who we judge as our neighbors and peers.

         Whether our salary is fair, whether a stranger needs help, whether the proper dress is a business suit, business casual, jeans, a swimsuit, or a tuxedo, we almost instinctively judge the situation and our own judgment in comparison with other people.

         Solomon Asch’s classic psychology experiments on conformity showed how uncomfortable a minority opinion judge can be when surrounded by a unified opposition, and how likely to voice a false opinion, concluding their own perceptions must be wrong if deviant.

         A large group making honest, independent judgments often reaches accurate decisions (James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds). But too often judgments are neither honest nor independent.

         Economics Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman reflected on How did economists get it so wrong? (New York Times Magazine, 2Sept2010), when the USA and global economic systems “came apart:”

economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field’s problems. More important was the profession’s blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy. …There was nothing in the prevailing models suggesting the possibility of the kind of collapse that happened. As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth. Unfortunately, this romanticized and sanitized vision of the economy led most economists to ignore all the things that can go wrong.”

       People aren’t always “rational,” maximizing decisions based on complete information. Freud knew that. Any parent that has survived the terrible twos and teenage time—their child’s not the parents—knows many important decisions are made emotionally, irrationally, and poorly—both by child and parent.

       Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith (founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-step program) knew in 1939 of people’s lack of rationality, and of the power of an informed, empathetic group to balance the incentives of dysfunctional environments and counter the immediate short-term pressures of maladjusted biology.

         Our folkloreAppleMark
knows wholeness requires both yin and yang: The Phantom Tollbooth's estranged Princesses Rhyme and Reason, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Folklore also knows the monstrous results from imbalance: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the Picture of Dorian Gray.

         Minority status has generated reasonable accommodation and ostracism, broader understanding and course prejudice, rich cuisines and ethnic cleansing. Minority status tends to foster group cohesion.

         Macintosh computer users are a constitutionally unprotected minority, which still suffers discrimination by various government and public-oriented websites eschewing unbiased open Internet standards, often in favor of lazy-developer use of majority but exclusionary programming.


         How will the Internet be controlled; will the common paths and default parameters benefit individuals or corporate interests? Lawrence Lessig raised that question in his 1999 book, Code and other laws of cyberspace. Public policy has not yet made a definitive answer.

         Meanwhile, the Internet and virtually instant communication are common expectations in much of the electrified world. Increasingly government filings expect, and sometimes require, electronic Internet filings. Organizations expect most members to have, and to attend to, email.

         July 5, 1993 The New Yorker published Peter Steiner’s now famous cartoon: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Now, 2010, on the Internet, everybody can find information about almost anybody. The Internet rarely forgets. Many people maintain all their past email messages on “cloud” servers.

preserves a digital library of many websites, and their changes over time, as well as other cultural artifacts in digital form. Even without a public Facebook or LinkedIn page, most people leave multiple digital traces.

         How you want to be perceived, what you intend to make public, what you want to keep private among your chosen “friends,” and what you want to keep secret are increasingly questions that should be explicitly considered when near the Internet.

         More people using the Internet more often. An expansion of the community commons and civic communication, or degraded disciples and demagogs.

         Some consider a there’s a new generational divide developing: the older one thing at a time versus the younger multi-taskers. Some research indicates that multi-taskers judge they perform as well as when focused on a single task (typically by invitation of the researcher, not natural inclination). However, objective measurement shows significant performance decrements.

         Many consider themselves typical and average. Some research concludes that even among professional judgers over 80% consider themselves “above average.” (Jeffrey Rachlinski’s research on How Judges Decide Cases). Logic suggests only half objectively quality.

         Doing one thing at a time has both performance and psychological benefits. Psychological flow has been  described as the mental state of full immersion in a taskAppleMark
   and a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success. Flow reflects high productivity concurrent with a natural high.

         A good user interface makes flow easier—more productive, more enjoyable computer and Internet work.

-- ◊ --

         MacGuide launched its Angels for Apple program, February 1996 [Apple stock about 12, split adjusted] and reprised Mach 2000 [Apple stock about 25, split adjusted], suggesting Macintosh computer supporters buy at least one share of Apple stock and publicly support Apple.

         Apple’s stock is now about 240 [past performance is no guarantee of the future]. MacGuide's proposal was moral rather than profit-oriented. A strong democratic tradition suggests supporting your local neighborhood and friends. Moreover, stockholders have a formal vote in Apple policy and management; consumers simply spend money.


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