With every release of new technology a million so-called experts jump up and start shouting about all the things that are wrong with it. I’m as supportive of critical analysis as the next guy, but I’m also a strong proponent of “appropriate analysis.” Too often people attack new technology from the wrong direction. The iPhone and the UMPC are two great examples of this…
My Toaster Won’t Make Cookies!
Many of the complaints I hear about the iPhone and UMPC strike me as exactly this sort of argument. Let me present a fictional argument about toasters that exemplifies the flaw in so much of the talk about both UMPCs and iPhones.
Reviewer: “Toastmatic says they are releasing a new toaster…but it won’t make cookies!”
Toastmatic: “Well, no. It’s a toaster after all.”
Reviewer: “But no cookies? I just bought a toaster oven from Mastertoast and IT makes cookies!”
Toastmatic: “Well sure, but our toaster is for, well, making toast.”
Reviewer: “But the toaster has the technology necessary to make cookies. So why would you prevent users from making cookies by designing your toaster with vertical slots??”
Toastmatic: “Because 90% of our customers only WANT to make toast in their toaster. Vertical slots are easier to use when making toast. We found that if users want cookies they prefer the normal oven. As a result we’ve focused on providing a really excellent toaster. Plus by focusing on toast we have a device that makes toast with the push of a single button. If it made cookies we’d need lots of additional controls that would needlessly complicate it.”
Reviewer: “There you have it folks. A device that is doomed to fail. Toastmatic really missed the boat on this one. Fortunately I still have my Mastertoast toaster oven so I won’t have to go without cookies!”
The Moral of the Story
The UMPC is not meant to replace your desktop. It isn’t designed to replace the laptop of a heavy-use business person. The UMPC is an “at the coffee shop, around the house, email while watching TV, on the airplane, short business trip” device. Critiquing it from any other point of view is as silly as complaining that flashlights make a terrible lamps for the living room.
The iPhone is not meant to replace the business person’s blackberry or the hard core PDA user’s Windows Mobile Device. It is meant to offer “easy interface, internet checking, phone answering, music listening, fun video watching” functionality to a user base that doesn’t even know that the phone they have NOW lets them install software!
So, to the reviewers of the world, I implore you! Please look very carefully at the purpose of new technology before ranting about its failures. To do otherwise fails to serve your readers. Let them know how well new toasters makes toast, not how badly they fail when you put cookie dough in them.