Blogger Anil Dash picks up the discussion about why enterprise applications are a chore to use, and what Apple can and should do about it. He says Apple doesn't have a moral obligation to the enterprise, but rather a social obligation.
Following up on my earlier post, Dash says:
[D]espite my strident tone, I don't think Apple has a moral obligation to create products that meet the requirements of enterprises. I think they have a social obligation to bring their tradition of great user experience to more of the business world if they want to really want to have the biggest possible cultural impact.
Part of my premise here is that Apple, with its focus on aesthetics and user experience, clearly cares about its intangible impacts on culture.
The issue isn't about Microsoft vs. Apple, either:
It's about user experience, and I'd point again to the example of Research in Motion and the BlackBerry. It's a phone that, from a feature perspective, does even more than the iPhone, albeit less elegantly for any task that doesn't involve entering text. However, RIM has made a product that users are passionate about, even addicted to, while still meeting all the needs of the enterprise and insinuating themselves deep into corporate (and political) culture. Succinctly, they've changed the way people do their jobs, and in doing so, changed the way people live their lives.
In the comments to my earlier blog post, Dash writes:
[I]t would seem that anybody who feels there are aesthetic and cultural motivations for creating technology (as Apple clearly does) should want to share that with everyone, not just the privileged few who can spend hundreds of dollars of disposable income on discretionary gadgets.
And John Siracusa of Ars Technica wrote to let me know that he does not believe that Apple is being more moral by choosing to market to the user rather than the enterprise. He explains further in a comment on Dash's blog:
There's nothing inherently more prestigious about being confined to the consumer market; it's quite the opposite, in fact. The thrust of the post was that Apple has consciously chosen it's market, and that this choice makes the creation of products that (to use your word) delight users, if not uniquely possible, then much easier.
The thing about enterprise entanglements is that, while they may not totally rule out greatness on the first outing, the burden of compatibility and (more insidiously) tradition / expectations grows quickly. After a certain point, it doesn't even occur to the people making these products to consider ground-up re-imaginings of the interface or hardware or product segmentation because that type of thing is looked upon with great skepticism by their enterprise customers.
To which Dash responds:
Damn you and your reasonableness, John! You raise a series of valid points, but I do think it's overly forgiving for a reviewer or journalist to mention Apple's (or anyone else's) compromise on these issues without calling them out on it.