Color me ambidextrous. My technology usage swings in multiple directions. That means I’m certified to use and recommend disparate technology platforms. Hence, I like Apple, I tolerate Google’s apps, I’ve been seen using Windows notebooks at work.
What I’ve come to appreciate about each platform is how they approach the user. Apple is customer centric. Microsoft tolerates users and now sells hardware. Google treats users as if they are part of the product. All three have become complex beasts in a complicated world where a little simplicity can go a long way.
Most of us lead somewhat complicated lives. We may have heard of the KISS Principle— keep it simple, stupid— but struggle to apply it in our own lives. Don’t feel bad. Three of the world’s most popular brand companies struggle with simplicity in an age where everything is becoming more complicated and complex.
First up, Apple. I use Calendar. Apple has Calendar running in sync everywhere. Mac, iPhone, iPad, and now Apple Watch. I use Calendar for events, reminders, and especially for a wide array of alerts, alarms, and notifications to keep me on schedule during a busy day. Calendar on my Watch stopped working over the weekend. No alerts. No alarms. No notifications. Events and reminders remained visible but Watch stopped telling me what was about to happen.
Yes, I tried everything and the usual suspects. Apple Support. Change settings. Nothing helped to get my alerts, alarms, and notifications back to Watch. Yes, I reinstalled Watch settings from a backup. No go. Scour Apple’s own support website and you’ll find other customers with similar problems. Sync and settings appear to be more difficult than we were led to believe. When they work, all is good and much loved. When they don’t, and it happens, solutions are not easy to find.
Second, Google. My friend has a new Google Pixel 2 smartphone. Yes, that one. For whatever reason, Google wants to be in the hardware business. Why not? Like Amazon, Google has fooled Wall Street into thinking it’s a technology company, so why not fool customers into thinking it can design, build, and distribute a smartphone. Yes, my friend’s Pixel 2 is the one with all the click sounds and the burned in display. Google doubled the warranty from one to two years. Smart move, Google.
Third, Microsoft. I’m not sure what it is about technology companies with more money than most Western European countries, but somehow they think all that money can move their companies into whatever technology venture they dream up. Going back a couple of decades, Microsoft has invested many tens of billions into companies that haven’t done much to change the bottom line. Remember WebTV? That 1997 purchase took almost half a billion of Microsoft’s money which netted, uh, um, zilch. Hotmail? Another half billion. LinkExchange. A quarter of a billion.
Titus. A billion. Great Plains Software. Another billion. Navision. More than a billion. aQuantive. More than six billion. Skype. 8.5-billion. Nokia. More than seven billion. LinkedIn. 26-billion. Did I forget to mention Microsoft Surface notebook and hybrid sales? Sinking.
Apple is a technology hardware company that differentiates its wares among many competitors via software. Google is an advertising company that pretends to be a technology company. Microsoft is a software company that pretends to be a conglomerate.
All three companies have steady revenue streams, plenty of profits, and use modern technology to drive their futures. All three have ventured far beyond their core strengths. The latter two have wasted tens of billions in vain attempts to diversify their businesses. All three have created complicated, complex ecosystems which stretch their customers and users into a long-tailed Bell curve with usability speed bumps scattered among products and services that we love to use until something goes wrong.
I know many friends, family, co-workers, neighbors who have invested money and time into the newest technology gadgets and struggle to get out of them what they put into them to make them work as expected or appropriately. Is it any wonder that most Mac and Windows PC or iPhone and Android device users keep to the basics are do not explore all the intricacies of their products? Complication arise. Complexities take time to learn and master. The end results do not always meet our expectations.