Apple and High Standards

At work, we had an e-mail discussion about this New Yorker article on feature proliferation, and one of the strands was about a mis-understanding in the article, specifically that Apple Design equals Simple Design, especially with the iPod. Among the various good observations — “simple is hard”, “sexy supports simple” — I chipped in with the following.

There is a weird follow-on effect that makes the best Mac software vastly better (or at least better-looking) than supposedly equivalent stuff on Windows or Linux. For example, Microsoft’s Mac e-mail tool (Entourage) is much nicer than Outlook.

Even more odd is the case of NetNewsWire, an RSS reader. It has been around for nearly five years, but no one has even managed to copy it on Windows, let alone surpass it. WTF? How hard can it be? Do Windows developers just not pay attention?

In some sort of cosmic synchrony, Tim Bray posted a one-paragraph shout-out to NNW today. Tim is Sun’s Director of Web Technology, the driving force behind Atom, and a really nice person. Heck, it ain’t that long, I’ll quote the whole thing:

The problem is, these days, that my input queues are jammed up. I’m reading Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy and it’s very good, but it’s awfully big and thick and dense. And my time for reading is tight because, after all, I’m married with two children and also I’m trying to read the Internet, or at least that huge little piece of it where people care about the things I do. And on that subject, once again I just have to plug NetNewsWire. I’ve tried a ton of newsreaders on a ton of platforms. Google’s blog reader is pretty good, and so are a couple of the other clients, but NetNewsWire just shows you more stuff in less time with fewer keystrokes. Years ago I predicted that feed-reading would have been sucked into the browser by now, but I was wrong. So between that and Caesar, and day-to-day job work, and a grungy unexciting complicated fill-a-hole-in-the-ecosystem programming project, well, I have Wikinomics and Everything is Miscellaneous and RESTful Web Services and the Programming Erlang PDF staring accusingly at me from the shadows. Blame Julius Caesar and Brent Simmons.

NetNewsWire rules. It is vastly better than anything else I’ve tried, including Google Reader.

One of the reasons I use a Mac is to keep my standards high. If my work is “as good as Windows”, it isn’t good enough.

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