Own It All, Apple, Please: Homepage, iPhoto, Netscape 6, & The Problems

| Editorial

Do you like iPhoto? I do. I like the organizational features best, and the quick and easy way I can push pictures out to the rest of the world. Very slick. Very simple, Very cool.

How about the iTools Homepage, that place where you can send your Aunt Lulu to see the latest pictures of her sweet little niece she likes to call iSugar Booger;i do you like that too? I do, because it is one place thatis easy to find. Even if I change ISPs like I change underwear (rest assured, itis often), Aunt Lulu can always find the pictures of her little Sugar Booger. I also like how simple Homepage is to use: I upload some pictures or movies, select the frame, appropriately apply some caption text, and slammo-bammo, I got a page full of pictures. With iPhoto itis even easier because it does the uploading for you.

Now, what is your Web browser of choice? Apple gives you a choice, and thatis cool. While they pre-install Microsoftis Internet Explorer, they also include Netscape for you to load if youid like. The latest version of Netscape is version 6 (6.2.1 if you use OS X), and itis not bad. Not entirely great, but not bad at all. Of course, there are a bunch of other options, depending on what version of Mac OS you like to run, but the big boys of the browser world are still Netscape and IE.

So, hereis the scenario: Your Aunt Lulu grabs her best friend, Florence, and sits down in front of her iMac to show Flo how much Sugar Booger has grown (Aunt Lulu is so proud that she does this quite often, much to Flois dismay). Aunt Lulu, taking your advice, had bought an iMac and has relished every opportunity she gets to show her friends how technically hip she is. She especially enjoys the envy-tinged smiles of her friend, Flo, as she watches how aptly Lulu navigates the Internet.

Aunty Lulu fires up Netscape, clicks on the bookmark that links to your Mac.com homepage, and there she sees all the lovely thumbnail photos of your chubby baby daughter. Aunty Lulu selects one of the photos for enlargement, a slide show page comes up, but thereis no photo. Aunt Lulu, not being the computer expert she has lead Flo to believe she is, looks nervously at Flo, who has an ever-so-slight smirk forming on her red rouged lips. Aunt Lulu kills the blank window and tries again, and again she gets nothing.

"Having a bit of trouble, Lulu," queries Flo? The question dripping with sarcasm thicker than the cloud of sickly sweet odor that is Flois cheap perfume.

"Ah, no," replies Aunt Lulu, obviously flustered. Her normally pale cheeks now thoroughly flushed with red. "Iim not sure whatis wrong. Itis probably just a glitch."

Aunt Lulu frantically looks around the homepage for some indication as to what might be the problem, and finds nothing. All she sees are those adorable thumbnails of Sugar Booger, pictures too small for either lady to examine. Finally, Aunt Lulu gives up.

Now, Flo reaches into her suitcase-like purse and pulls out an overstuffed envelope. Aunt Lulu eyes the envelope and realizes instantly what it is, a picture envelope, the kind you get returned to you when you drop off your roll of film at the corner drugstore. Flo smiles from behind horn rimmed glasses that are bespeckled with chips of fake diamonds. "Well," Flo says, grinning like a cheshire cat, "when your nephew gets that thing fixed let me know. In the meantime, take a look at how MY little iRutabagai has grown."

Aunt Lulu smiles wanly and looks at the new set of four by sixes Flo proudly slaps into her hands, in her mind she has just taken you off her inheritance list.

Apple has given us some really nice toys in iTools and iPhoto. The way the 2 work together is really something. It literally takes me only 10 minutes to download the photos, organize them, create an album, then publish pictures that Iive just taken with my digital camera. That is just plain cool. To add ice to this coolness, I can order prints of any of the photos I have, or create a really nice photo album of little Sugar Booger to send to Aunt Lulu. Cool to the extreme.

What mars all this coolness are the little gotchas that Apple has overlooked or neglected to tell you about, like the fact that the album of your daughter that youive just published is not viewable in the slide show view in Netscape version 6. You must use Internet Explorer or an older version of Netscape (version 4.7, which is not available in OS X). Little gotchas like not being able to download pictures at all in Netscape, so Aunt Lulu cannot pick her favorites and print them, if she wanted to, unless, of course, she did this in Internet Explorer, which is not her default browser.

Another annoying thing is that Apple forces you to use the slide show. There was a time when the photos on your homepage opened up on your desktop. This is less convenient for casual viewing then the slide show, but it solved both problems.

Now, to me, that is the biggest hook for using, iPhoto, iTools, and Homepage, the thought that I can get my picture published and my family can go and grab what they want at will, any time, any place. But nowhere is it said, unless you send time digging through the discussions and FAQs at the Apple site, stuff that is beyond Aunt Lulu, that using Netscape just wonit cut it. Apple does not mind telling you how great iPhoto and iTool is, but seems darn near mute when it comes to telling the average Joe (or Aunt Lulu) why something doesnit work.

Why canit Apple put a link to a Web page that explains in laymenis terms the problems with using their apps? Itis understandable that no one likes to air their dirty laundry, but Apple claims its product are great because of ease of use. Thereis no disclaimer that says, "Using this product is great until you run into a problem, then weire just as bad as Microsoft."

At the very least make it a choice to use the slide show instead of forcing it on use and breaking the homepage for a good number of the visitors.

Apple has been pretty good with some things. When that new version of iTunes was found to erase some folkis hard drives, Apple was quick to alert people about the problem and quick to post a fix. But that was a serious problem. What I want is for Apple to do something similar for problems that might leave a lot of people scratching their ears and wondering why something isnit working. I want Aunt Lulu to be able to click on a button that says "Having Problems?," and it takes her to a page that lists the reasons why she couldnit show off her Sugar Booger to her best friend, Flo, in plain English. Apple does this with some of their apps, but not iTools.

Apple wants to control the useris experience. Fine, control it. For the most part, I think Apple does a great job in providing a user experience thatis the envy of the PC making world, but if theyire going to do it, they need to do it completely. Donit leave Aunt Lulu hanging. Donit push out an app or a service which works for only 50% (I may be generous here,Netscape probably only has 20%-30% of the browser landscape now) of the users and then not tell them why. (Yes, Apple does have a FAQ about the Netscape problem, but as I said, Aunt Lulu may never see that FAQ.) Owning the whole experience means taking care of all the details, even the ones youid rather not advertise.

Epilogue:

Aunt Lulu called and you were able to instruct her on how to make Internet Explorer her default browser. She has since reinstated you in her will and has begun pestering you to produce a brother or sister for her little Sugar Booger. She already has a nickname for the tike, sheill call it Sweet Stinkums.

Vern Seward is a frustrated writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. Heis been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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