The Market Creates Usability
John Gruber says all the things I want to say about Linux on the desktop, usability, UI, Mac OS X vs. Windows vs. Linux, and all that crap that you’d think we dorkuses would get tired of arguing about.
The summary? Linux on the desktop may be improving (really slowly), but that’s in spite of a development mindset in the F/OSS community that doesn’t take usability and good interface design seriously. Meanwhile, “[m]ost of the talented developers still using desktop Linux are either cheapskates or free-software political zealots” because 1) OS X today is what the Linux desktop wishes it would be in five years and 2) Windows is usable and gets the job done no matter now much you hate it.
I think the one thing Gruber may miss is that it’s not the job of open source developers to create friendly software; while his arguments for why they should are compelling, he also points out that usability is a product of the marketplace. A fair portion of my job is making F/OSS usable; usability has value because no matter how powerful a bunch of code is it’s only as useful as it is usable. A better example: Apple’s OS business model these days is, in part, selling polish on top of open technologies, and it’s working out pretty well for them.
The lesson? Let F/OSS hackers write crufty interfaces for their sweet code and we’ll make it pretty. For a price.