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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

The Ipad Paradox: Less Is More


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The introduction of Apple's iPad predictably divided gadget fans into "love it" and "hate it" camps.

The haters say iPad lacks multitasking, a Webcam, Flash support, a USB port, massive storage, a removable battery, CD and DVD support, RAM upgradability, multiple OS support and other features.

The lovers are less clear about why they want one. So consider the list of features as above. It works just as well. The iPad is desirable for what it doesn't do—can't do—as much as for what it can do.

A strange trend has emerged that violates the more-is-better ethos of American consumer culture. Some products and services are touting limitations as desirable "features." And consumers are loving it.

This strikes some as Orwellian doublespeak: "War is peace." "Freedom is slavery." "Less is more."

But the truth is that people don't buy consumer electronics for the quantity of features; they buy them for the quality of experience.

For technical users, having more features means a better experience. So-called power users are harassed and annoyed by limitations, by the inability to do something they want to do. They feel a thrill when they're empowered to do some useful new thing.

But for most users, having more features degrades experience. People suffer information overload and its ugly cousin, runaway gadget complexity. They're harassed and annoyed, not by limitations, but by features they can't find or figure out, and by problems they don't understand. They feel a thrill when gadgets perform basic tasks without fail or hassle.

From Computerworld
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