Gaining my religion: seeing the light of Mac

Father Jobs

Stephen Evans pens a fun article for BBC News about the ‘Cult of Mac.’ He explores what lies behind the ‘mundane functionality’ of the Apple Macintosh that gives its users a sense of quasi-religious devotion (and damn if Steve doesn’t look particularly priestly in that photo at right).

Evans lists the primary strengths of the Macintosh computer as being usability and good looks. Both are absolutely true and yet, both are also so often used as arguments *against* the Mac, which is portrayed as losing a war in which the only salient metric is functionality. Usability and ‘style’ are seen as secondary considerations when in the market for a personal computer - as if packing more and more difficult to use features into a dull, utilitarian box is the only way to the top of the heap.

This is absolute hogwash, as the success of the iPod clearly demonstrates. It is a device that even a six-year-old can figure out in five minutes. It doesn’t have an FM tuner. It doesn’t have voice recording. It doesn’t brush your teeth in the morning - and nobody cares; they just want one. Because it’s hip? Sure. But moreso because it is so dead easy to use that it feels more like an extension of yourself than like a cold, calculating machine. And that is exactly where Apple’s marketing team gets everything right.

People are getting bored with lifeless boxes sitting on their desks. What’s more, we’re seeing a trend towards ubiquitous computing that will not stand for devices that look like they don’t fit into the natural flow of our lives. The ‘good looks’ and ‘style’ of the Mac are not simply superficial skins slapped onto technically complicated and confusing innards: Apple’s explicitly stated goal is to make complex technology easier to use. And design wisdom tells us that beautiful things work better.

When those things start to work so well that they feel more human than machine, it starts to feel downright transcendent. Is it any wonder, then, that Mac fanatics approach their computing experience with what amounts to religious zeal? Is there something to it? Is your Mac a spiritual machine?

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