Having fondled my new iPod touch non-stop for the last couple of days, I get what he's saying. This thing doesn't just wow me with new capabilities and integrated gadgetry like never before. Here's its grail: it works exactly the way I expect it to. (Which is saying a lot.)
I grew up with Windows*. You'd think after growing up with Windows, I'd immediately know what to expect from a new PC every time I upgrade. Maybe I'm exceptionally daft, but I generally don't. I give myself a few days to learn a new PC in case of nasty surprises or unexpected deficits -- or, at the very least, just to get a sense of how to navigate it.
Same with my first Palm Pilot. My mom donated it to me because it "complicated her life," and the thing took me days to get used to. And when I had finally purchased all the gadgets that would make it complete (custom stylus, Targus Stowaway), and grew to depend on it with all the accumulated data of my young unspoiled life, it reset itself the second it ran out of battery.
I sold it on eBay that night.
Now I have a Blackberry. I dig it all right, but it still took me a couple of hours to get a sense of its possibilities and limitations, and a few days before I really understood what I'd primarily be using it for.
But when I play with other Blackberries -- my mom's, for instance -- I'm totally thrown off-course. I don't know how to unlock it, I can't work out where things are, and I'm under the impression its functionalities are totally different from mine. (Does the Pearl seriously have no browser or am I just not finding it?)
Here's the beauty in the design of the iPod touch. From first glance, Benj and I knew exactly how to unlock it. We've never even touched one of these things before. And the icons? Hey, those look familiar. I know exactly what they do. Set up my email? In a snap.**
Everything syncs and loads and works just like you, for reasons you can't even describe, imagine it should. You look at it and just get it. Even the way I touch it makes sense: I pinch my fingers together to make things smaller and widen them to make things bigger.
I've never done that before. But it's like I was born with that knowledge.
I'm not saying the iPod touch is God's gift to digital junkies and can't be improved. And in all probability, the ads (which I watched maybe three times to incorporate them in a review) contributed to my so-called "intuitive" knowledge of the interface.
I'm saying extraneous factors aside, great design makes a big difference -- even just in terms of usability -- and it should always fall hand-in-hand with an improved feature-set.
When your revolutionary new product makes so much sense your core demographic isn't clamoring for a handbook just to turn it on, say hello to paydirt.
And if it's pretty too? Well, hey. Nobody needs to school you on the viral merits of pretty.
* 3.0, on up. We even had Windows ME. Ew. I know, right?
** This is a big deal. The Blackberry required guesswork, and it still doesn't operate as nicely as I'd like. It appears to delete or keep messages at will.
On the day I changed my Gmail password, the handheld went Exorcist on me -- syncing six-month-old emails as "New," that kind of thing. I had to call at least three numbers to get it fixed, and I'm still not sure who resolved the problem in the end.