The Productivity of Fewer Choices

I liked this piece switching by Bill Westerman on utilware about switching over to a Mac. What caught my eye were his points about the productivity of fewer choices:

You’ll be amazed at how few things there are to modify
I was the ultimate tweaker in Windows – registry entries, options menus, toolbar buttons – and was taken aback at how few things there are to tweak on the Mac. At first it seemed to be restrictive, but I’ve realized it has actually freed me to do things other than tweaking.

There isn’t as much stuff to buy for a Mac
If you go to the local Fry’s or Best Buy, you’ll find aisles and aisles of stuff for Windows, a few things (like USB Keys or mice) that work on both Windows and the Mac, and if you’re lucky, a crappy little shelf of Mac goodies. But you’ll also likely find that you don’t need to buy all that extra stuff, as a lot of it’s not necessary with the Mac.

You’ll get more things done
Once you get over the bouncy icons in the dock, and exploring all the built-in applications, you’ll probably end up spending a lot more time getting things done with your computer, and less time doing things to it.

Truth be told, we spend far too much time tweaking our computers and not enough time actually working. I’m not a massive Mac user, but this kind of post inspires me to spend more time on my rusting PowerBook.

Is It Back To Basics For The PDA?

What do you want in a PDA? The Register carries a story that seems to belie the conventional wisdom that folk want everything in one device. It quotes Jupiter Research as saying that vendors are getting it wrong by focusing on the high-end, convergent devices, when actually they should be looking at the low-end, just-give-me the basics, market. “The adoption of portable devices increases as their size and complexity of use decreases,” the Jupiter report says.

But on closer inspection the report’s not just saying that folk want a basic PDA. It’s saying that basic PDAs will remain the core of sales, but will gradually be taken over by phones that offer those same functions. This is the market’s “sweet spot for handhelds”, it says, where untis offer voice (read telephone), personal information management, or a combination of the two, ditching other integrated functions. By other integrated functions it means game play, playing music, that kind of stuff.

The figures seem to back this up: They show pretty low — 7% — penetration of the U.S. market. Jupiter forecasts a U.S. installed base of handheld PDAs will number just over 14 million at the end of 2003 and will only grow to 20 million by 2008.

I think on the whole they’re probably right. Extra bits and pieces just tend to make things go wrong, and if the machine goes wrong, and you have to send it off for repairs, you’re stumped. On the other hand, no mention is made of cameras, an area where I do think both PDAs and phones are going to see strong growth (see my column in FEER — subscription required). But I also believe there are other add-ons which are useful: Good voice recording — not just short memos, but a proper voice recorder that can store several hours of conversation — is useful for your modern thrusting exec (or journalist like moi).

Still, I think Jupiter have a point. Most folk I know just want something they can store their stuff on, and maybe check email in the office. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi etc: They’re all nice to have, but let’s face it, most people won’t use them. And given that ordinary PDAs are getting cheaper by the minute — fellow Jupiter analyst Avi Greenhart recently spotted the Palm basic Zire model for $43 at Best Buy — why bother going for the high-end stuff?

News: Have you been brand spoofed yet?

 SurfControl, an anti-spam company, says that “brand spoofing spam” – where a spammer sends fraudulent email that pretends to be from a well-known and trusted company — is getting worse, after only a few months of its existence.
The spammer, posing as a customer service or security official, directs the unsuspecting recipient of the spam to a phony Web site. The site then requests confidential financial information or a Social Security number that allows the spammer to commit fraud or identity theft. Over the last few months, SurfControl said in a press release, Best Buy, UPS,
Bank of America, PayPal and First Union Bank have been brand spoofed. Four large Australian banks also have been brand spoofed, including the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Last Thursday, Sony Electronics reported that it had become aware of a deceptive spam e-mail that had been sent to consumers, requesting personal information such as password and e-mail address, claiming to come from “SonyStyle Customer Service.”
SurfControl says brand spoofing spam was first seen in March and has been growing steadily since then. Brand spoofing spam has grown from zero before March to more than five a month. The increase in such dangerous spam is linked to the growth in the availability of open proxy servers, which allow spammers to send anonymous, nearly untraceable e-mail. According to a researcher at the University of Oregon Computing Center, the number of identified open proxies grew from 1,000 in October 2002, to 100,000 in April 2003.