Apple’s OS X Spaces: Doing Tech Well

26 May

Some simple-minded analysts, such as Roger Passikoff, believe Apple woos users because it has a cool brand or that it has a great sense of design, as was promulgated in the documentary Objectified. If that were the case, the company’s trendiness would have passed by now and fickle, fashion-conscious consumers would have latched on to the next temporary thing.

The real reason Apple snags and holds users is because its products do smart things well. They perform as advertised. And very often, they do better.

Take, for example, the often overlooked, but amazingly productive feature in OS X called Spaces. When combined with another feature, Exposé, it is, as Charles Moore wrote last year, “…my favorite Leopard (and Snow Leopard) feature.

For the past week I have been writing major research report for a client. It involves data from 329 PowerPoint slides in six separate decks and close to 30 individual Excel multi-page spreadsheets. In the deep, dark, distant past, I would have printed out hundreds and hundreds of pages and organized them into piles on my floor around my desk. Each pile would have represented the data supporting an idea, concept, or trend I was pursuing in the report. As I moved through the piles, I would set aside information I had used or discarded in the writing process. The piles became smaller until they disappeared altogether, telling me the data I had to underpin an idea was exhausted. I either needed more data or I was done.

For years, that process worked wonderfully. I could see at a glance where I was in the writing process on one idea or another.

Then came OS X Spaces and Exposé and all those trees were saved. With those features (which, by the way, exist similarly as Panels in Ubuntu 10.04) I am able to create virtual piles on my Mac’s desktop. Now I swiftly toggle between Spaces with Exposé and zero in on the “pile” of interest. It’s just like having all that paper on the floor, but without the clutter or the potential disaster, as when my late cat would wander in and choose a pile or two to nap on.

I am no Apple fanboy. I think the company is making some serious business mistakes with its restrictions on developers, attacks on the press, and holier-than-thou hubris. But the operating system engineers it has hired since 2000 not only are creative, they execute well.

Branding and design are shallow and ephemeral. Thinking up a great idea is really easy. Selling it, even easier.

But making a great idea work in an elegant and intelligent fashion is very, very difficult. That’s why Apple is in the position it’s in today. It does technology well.

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One Response to “Apple’s OS X Spaces: Doing Tech Well”

  1. reya276 May 26, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    Yes I do agree with you that Apple should not restrict developers on the tools on which they want to use. It seems to me that Apple just wants to make money at all cost regardless of the outcome. Basically if you want to develop for their platform you have to make an investment and get a MAC. So they are in essence forcing you to buy their product if you want to develop for them. Talk about vendor locking, Microsoft could not come up with this one.

    I have to handed to them their products do work exceptionally well.

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