Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Duff: Why Dvorak is wrong about the iPhone

Duff: Columnist goes off the deep end over iPhone

I usually try to stay away from easy targets, but when a big-name columnist sticks his neck out, sometimes I can’t help myself. John C. Dvorak is the Mike Wallace of technology columnists. He was writing a column for PC Magazine when I was learning my way around the halls of Monterey High School.

But wrong is wrong, and I feel like someone should speak up when an emperor of Dvorak’s caliber decides to take a stroll without his clothes.

In a January column for MarketWatch, Dvorak tries to talk down the iPhone. He agrees with Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, who can’t see it being that successful. For evidence, Dvorak mentions a European phone called a Neonode, also with a touch screen, that is “more of a fashion accessory and conversation piece than anything else.”

He dismisses the iPhone as “an iPod with benefits.” All of these observations are within the realm of reasonable discourse. Smart people may disagree about the state of the industry and the utility of Apple products, but then Dvorak goes off the deep end.

He says the iPhone hype is due to Steve Jobs’ “reality-distortion field.” Specifically, he thinks Jobs has mastered some kind of Transcendental Meditation technique that gives him influence over the minds of men.

It never ceases to amaze me, the lengths rational people will go to in an effort to deny the obvious. Apple products don’t succeed because Steve Jobs has magical powers. Apple products succeed because they work. They are beautiful, functional and easy to use. Most companies can master two of these requirements, but to create a product that can satisfy all three – that takes real work.

I wouldn’t be caught dead with a Mac on my desk, but I love my iPod, and my brief encounter with an iPhone overcame my concerns. The touch screen works. It’s fast, clean and responsive. The device is remarkably intuitive, and you don’t have to understand the details to appreciate it.

Apple’s competitors underestimate them because they don’t know how to balance these elements. They give us ugly, functional products – or they saddle us with pretty ones that are hard to use. Apple’s success comes from the fusion of function and design. Consumers think these products are worth paying for, and to people who don’t get it, the results look like magic.

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 20, 2007 at 14:53

Posted in Apple, Columns

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