You might remember Apple’s smart mouse having it’s left-right click removed. Now there is only mono-click. All hail mono-click.
Differentiating yourself from your competitors is generally a good thing. After all, if every company is producing the same product, customers will choose whichever is cheaper. However, differentiation is also not as simple as price or quality: at some point, this differentiation gets so huge that customers literally cannot switch back over without learning the competitor’s product from scratch.
Little differences make the electronics market incredibly diverse!
Apple and Microsoft have been the two big dogs in the industry for forever. Microsoft focused on software, while Apple focused on computers – Apple famously nearly bankrupted itself once by focusing too much of their resources at projects like the Newton, which would have been one of the first PDA devices able to recognize handwriting, in 1997. They also made a deal with Microsoft to secure an investment and get the company back into solvency, which lead to a much more user-friendly version of Windows for their computers. Essentially, Apple traded some of it’s UI in order to get back on track financially. Since then, Apple and Microsoft have taken wildly different paths, and while they’re always trying to go faster, they’re doing it in different ways:
Apple’s focus is very much on the human side of computer/human interaction, while Microsoft’s more concerned with the computer and it’s functionalities. After all, people are easier to teach new things to than the computer!
As a result, the two use very different machines to get to their ultimate goal of a happy customer. Even then, Microsoft can appear on any number of devices, from Dell to Azer or Asus and more, while Mac’s OS appears almost exclusively on Apple devices.
Let’s start small. Most mice have two separate plates for left- and right- click. Most mice also have a few millimeters of give on them for clicks, so they have to be divided. The newest generation of Magic Mouse defies both of these, and the left-right click is handled by one, singular button. The plastic is more flexible than on traditional mice to accommodate the twisting it needs to do to function. This fundamentally changes a user’s experience, as do the paper-thin buttons and the placement of the charging port. This new gen of Apple mice is also missing a physical scroll wheel!
Apple’s laptops and peripherals are becoming wafer-thin. Their tablets, too, are typically thinner than tablets of the same speed and power brought out by Dell or Microsoft. Meanwhile, Alienware (produced by Dell) laptops play up how much thicker and beefier their products are when compared to the sleek, small Apple devices. Differentiation here allows the customer to pick a device more suited to what they need: Alienware’s goal is to look like a gaming device. Apple’s is to look like a personal computer. The million other shapes and sizes of Azer, Asus, Dell, etc. computers fall somewhere in the middle. Looks still tell consumers a lot about a machine, so physical differentiation is critical for marketing!
Apple’s UI is one of a kind. Because the hardware is so different, the software itself needs to do more with less.
The Magic Mouse, for example, can’t be used while it’s charging. The charging port is at the bottom. It’s also missing buttons for separate left-right clicks, which presents an issue as the mouse gets older and becomes prone to mis-interpreting physical inputs. Both of these mean that Apple’s touch screens and touch pads have to be phenomenal to keep up with the features they’re getting rid of for sleekness – the built-in trackpad is often compensating for the finicky nature of the buttons.
Secondarily, the lack of physical buttons (like that scroll wheel) doesn’t mean those functionalities are gone, they’re just controlled by gestures instead. Apple’s newest Magic Mouse can actually “see” human hands and interpret certain movements as gestures! It’s even customizable to a limited extent. The software in the mouse alone is incredibly different from anything users see from Windows. That might be a good thing, as users are often frustrated by this 75+$ mouse when it glitches or misinterprets an input.
Meanwhile, third party and Windows-compatible mice don’t futz with gestures at all, bringing down the price dramatically.
The computers themselves are built differently. It is possible to download the iOS on a third party computer – however, most computers come with either Windows or that iOS already installed. While Linux can run on Windows, it had to be specially modified to get to Linux on an Apple-made device. Apple also prioritizes computer resources differently – thinner machines have to sacrifice some function to get wafer-thin. It keeps the stuff that an average user needs, and cuts wants down to the bone so it all fits inside. You may notice that Apple tablets struggle with more intense App games, and that’s not a mistake. Game studios have to create a separate version of their game especially for Apple devices, not only for the programming but for the hardware: Apple uses less powerful GPU units than most Windows manufacturers, since Apple is catering to casual users first.
Apple’s also notoriously finnicky about warranty – open up your Apple device yourself and risk voiding the warranty on the machine. They barely tolerate third-party repair shops, and it seems, at times, like they want to punish the end user for buying something Apple-made with expensive and easily breakable parts (notably their easily breakable phone screens, up until a couple of years ago). Windows devices, which are really an assortment of all sorts of third party machines, can get repaired basically anywhere.
Final Verdict? Apple’s main focus is always going to be on the user experience first and performance second, where other devices may let user experience slink to second or third place to favor other aspects of computers. In Cult of Mac’s article, you can see just how many of these principles are to make the user experience easier, vs. Windows, which often didn’t bother to spell things out for the user until much later in its history. They’re radically different in more than just appearance!