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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Okay, so it's easier. But how much easier?

My favorite example of "how much easier" is the "Ultimate Mac versus Windows Challenge" that was conducted at the 1996 Software Publisher's Association Conference in San Francisco. The SPA's idea was to pit two teams against each other in a head-to-head competition to find out which computing platform was easier to use.

A team of Mac users and a team of Windows users would each perform a series of real-world tasks indicative of what a typical consumer might experience. Each team would start with a new computer (still in the box) then set it up, install a modem, connect a Zip drive, get onto the Internet, connect to a network, create a file, save it, make an alias (or shortcut) to it, and finally uninstall an application. All of this would be performed on stage in front of a live audience.

Apple accepted the SPA's invitation to participate and Apple Evangelist Guy Kawasaki assembled a team to represent the Macintosh side. Microsoft was invited to send a team, but declined; so the SPA recruited both the Editor-in-Chief of Windows Sources magazine and his assistant to be the Windows team.

The Windows team was introduced and took the stage. But when the Macintosh team was announced, just one person took the stage—a 10-year-old boy named Alex Stein. That's right, Alex would complete all the real-world tests himself against the team of PC experts from Windows Sources magazine. In an undeniable testament to the ease of using Macintosh, young Alex easily beat the team of Windows pros in nearly every category. We should also note that during the contest, the PC crashed six times, while the Macintosh never crashed at all.

That's what the public saw. But what the audience didn't see was perhaps even more impressive. Guy noted that the Macintosh system was brand-new, still factory-sealed in the box. The PC system was also new; but prior to the live contest, the box was unsealed and the system assembled and tested in advance by the Windows Sources editor. After his testing, he reportedly returned the computer to a "virgin state." Guy also learned that during this "pre-show testing," the Window Sources editor spent nearly two hours on the phone with tech support because he couldn't get the printer to work.

This gives you just a tiny glimpse into the world of complexity that PC users face every day. But these were PC experts, not average everyday users. If they had to spend hours on the phone with tech support just to get the printer to work, what would the average consumer's experience be like? Even though this happened a few years back, in the previous chapter you just read excerpts from PC World magazine indicating that not much has changed since then—experts are still struggling with things that should be simple everyday tasks.

Apple was apparently inspired by the success of the "Ultimate Mac versus PC Challenge" because in 1998 they produced a QuickTime movie to show how insanely easy the iMac is to set up and connect to the Internet. This one was called the "Simplicity shoot-out," and like the live contest, each team would set up a computer system and connect to the Internet. Representing Apple was 7-year-old Johann Thomas, but he had help—he was assisted by his pet dog, Brodie. Representing the PC side was Adam Taggart, a 26-year-old Stanford University MBA. Johann would set up an Apple iMac; Adam would set up a Hewlett-Packard PC system. As you might imagine, Adam (and Brodie) easily whipped the Stanford MBA. The clip is absolutely hilarious, but more importantly, it drives home the Mac's "ease of use" advantage in such a clear, visual, and amusing way.

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