Short Take: Jef Raskin, If You're So Smart, How Come You're Not Rich?

If youire so smart, how come youire not rich?

Title of an episode of "Batman: The Animated Series"

In Sundayis BusinessWeekis Online special report dedicated to Apple Computer, there is an interview with Jef Raskin, undeniably the true father of the Macintosh. The Cliff Notesi version of the interview is this: Raskin doesnit like much of what Apple is currently doing.

The tone of Raskinis responses sounded achingly familiar to those of Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini, another Apple alum from the Human Interface Group who weighed in with his opinion that Apple doesnit know what it is doing (see "Top 10 Reasons the Apple Dock Sucks" and "OS X: a First Look"; inuff said?).

I have deep respect for Raskin and Tog. They know what theyire talking about. Their views deserve hushed attention. Then, why is it that I feel like they are now sounding like the proverbial broken record?

Both men have made points that I can agree with, even though some are now dated and easily corrected -- Togis belief that the Trashcan belongs in the corner.

Raskin (and people like Tog) may be hated by the Apple cheerleaders (who think Apple can do no wrong) and may be "shouted down" in internet forums for daring to point out error, but they provide a valuable service, the service of criticism. Companies like Apple donit brook internal criticism. This is common to corporate America. Most large organizations (Apple, Microsoft, the government, etc.) receive criticism from the outside, in ways that pressure the companies to move in certain directions, most notably seen in the media.

But, individuals donit always change the course and policy of private and public corporations. Jeff Raskin and Bruce Tognazzini, great and erudite though they may be, do not wield nearly the amount of power as the one and only force that decides the fate of OS X and the Macintosh. Iim talking about the votes cast by shoppers.

The final verdict on Apple designs will be how they fare in the marketplace. Tog and Raskin appear to be trying to push Apple towards that nirvana called the Perfect Design. Excuse the grammar, but that ainit necessary for Apple to succeed. We need not look any further than Microsoft.

Now, donit get me wrong. I think that Apple can use some help, if they think that glomming an Aqua interface to the NeXT OS will save the day -- which is basically what OS X is. So, I agree that Apple needs to listen to people like Raskin and Tog. However, I believe that in the scheme of things, their opinion shouldnit be weighted any heavier than mine, because many of the elements of OS design are subjective -- hell, they can be arbitrary, since it can be argued that we can learn to love and get used to any design. Again, I point to Microsoft and the millions that use that companyis products.

(By now, Iive all but guaranteed that I will be flamed for comparing Apple to Microsoft, and implying that Apple should settle for the "standard" of "quality" and "excellence" that Micro$oft has set -- sarcasm doesnit apply to the Mac Business Unit, natch.)

In conclusion, I believe that professionals like Raskin should be listened to, but their every word shouldnit be treated as Gospel, since the computer-using public is already "trained" to many of the elements of both the Mac and the Windows PC, many derivatives of which now populate OS X. Besides, thereis plenty of time to evolve and create the next, great OS. After all, OS X in its current incarnation, faults and all, doesnit really have any stylistic threat in the marketplace.

Again... I point to Microsoft as an example.

Rodney O. Lain is Steve Jobsis love child (Steve was "into the sistahis" in the 60s). When heis not trying to get Steve to pay $320,000 a month in "back child suppport," Rodney writes his iBrotha column for The Mac Observer, as well as the occasional editorial. Rodney lives in Minnesota, where he works for The Man as an IT supervisor for a Fortune 50 company.