Paul Thurrott’s Spotty WWDC Coverage

June 26th, 2011

Apple / Mac, Personal Rants

Windows blogger Paul Thurrott has a long track record of saying dumb things when it comes to Apple, but it’s still fun to point out where he’s wrong. Reading his coverage of WWDC and OS X Lion, I found a lot of things to take issue with. Let’s get started.

On why people buy Macs:

People buy Macs for the beautiful hardware, not the lackluster OS X user experience.

Thurrott doesn’t even back that statement up with polls, or, you know, any evidence whatsoever. I know I bought my Mac because the hardware and software are leagues above what you find on Windows PCs, and I’m confident that most Mac users agree.

On Lion’s new features:

[Lion] now supports iOS-like features—full screen apps, an App Store, quick resume, and a “grid of icons” LaunchPad—as well as new trackpad-based navigation gestures and window management tools. Nothing dramatic.

“Nothing dramatic”? I think the new multitouch gestures alone are enough to fulfill the drama quotient, since Windows has never had anything like it.

On Lion’s ease of use:

By the way, the big issue I have with Lion is the same issue I’ve always had with OS X. And that is that, contrary to Apple’s claims, which are parroted endlessly by its biggest fans, OS X is anything but easy to use. It is, in fact, a system specifically designed for power users only. And you see this everywhere in Lion’s new features, from the Resume and Auto Save stuff that doesn’t even prompt you or remind you that quitting will not delete data, the scrollbar-less apps that give no visual indication that more content is hidden below the fold, and the undiscoverable gestures that will elude all but those who really research the changes in this release. OS X is great, a solid, well-made OS. But let’s stop pretending it’s easy to use. It isn’t, and it never has been.

Let’s discuss these examples of uneasy and undiscoverable features in Lion.

Resume and Auto Save: Auto Save and Resume work in such a way that the user doesn’t have to know about them to benefit from them. Let’s say a user accidentally closes the TextEdit window for a previously saved document. The user panics, and their natural response is to open the document again. In Lion, when they open it they’ll find all their changes had been saved and they haven’t lost any work.

What if a user accidentally quits an app? Again, all they have to do is their natural response, which would be to re-launch the app they just quit. In Lion, every window they were working on will pop back up with everything exactly as it was, even in unsaved documents. Sounds easy and discoverable to me.

In regards to the user not being notified about data loss: Wouldn’t these “reminders” get annoying after awhile? I know I’d be annoyed if I got a reminder every time I quit an app or closed its window.

Scrollbar-less Apps: People don’t seem to have a problem with this on iOS, which has never had persistent scrollbars. Users can also turn scrollbars back on in Lion’s System Preferences, if they so desire.

Gestures: How exactly is Apple supposed to make multitouch gestures more discoverable? Include a tutorial video when you set up your Mac? Marr the UI with some Clippy-like abomination? I think Thurrott’s just jealous because the most he can do with a Windows PC is two-finger scrolling.

Even so, it’d still be relatively simple for someone to discover these gestures: A user just needs to adjust the sensitivity of the trackpad, a common thing to do with a new computer. Doing that will lead them to the Trackpad pane in System Preferences, where they can change gesture settings, thus discovering them. Apple even has little videos showing each gesture in use.

Sorry, Thurrott, but I can’t trust someone’s opinion on ease of use when their favorite OS is home to this monstrosity of user interface design.

On Lion’s Versions feature:

This latter bit of functionality one is classic Apple, because we’ve actually had this functionality (via Previous Versions) on the PC for about 8 years, but the problem is that Microsoft has never adequately surfaced a simple UI. Well, Apple has now. And it looks great. Even though they basically stole the name.

The feature is actually called Shadow Copy. The only place the phrase “Previous Versions” appears is in the tab of a folder’s Properties window. I doubt Apple (or anyone) uses Shadow Copy enough to even notice that phrase.

On iOS 5’s Newsstand:

On Windows, of course, there’s nothing like this. Instead, we turn to the Kindle platform, which is just fine for me and millions of others. Superior, in fact.

Yes, Thurrott assumes that a features he’s never used is obviously inferior to Kindle.

On Lion being download-only:

[Lion is] download-only, and an upgrade only for those users who have the previous OX [sic] version, Snow Leopard installed. So later system rebuilds will require you to install Snow Leopard first, then Lion.

This is completely wrong. When a user installs Lion, a recovery partition is created that the user can boot to and reinstall the OS from. There’s no need to install Snow Leopard first. Thurrott makes this mistake not once, but three times, in three seperate articles.

Article two:

Apple is also taking the somewhat bold step of offering Lion only via electronic download from the Mac App Store, which means that everyone who owns a Mac today will need to first install their previous OS X version before re-upgrading to Lion if they wipe out their system in the future. Can you imagine if Microsoft required such a thing?

And three:

And one wonders about those who purchased a Mac with Leopard, upgraded to Snow Leopard, and then to Lion: How do they get back to Lion? They’ll be installing at least two OSes (Snow Leopard, then Lion), that’s how.

So, Thurrott wasn’t aware about Lion’s recovery partition and wasn’t sure what’d happen if you wanted to reinstall the OS. Rather than researching the matter, he simply states his opinion as fact, not once, but three times, and then never corrects it, even when he’s aware that he’s wrong. Great journalism.

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Alex is a blogger. You can find his personal blog here. You can also find him on Twitter.

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3 Responses to “Paul Thurrott’s Spotty WWDC Coverage”

  1. Richard Ward

    Excellent commentary on this known idiot. It’s very important to know your idiots because one day you might be able to kill them. You want to make sure you off the right one. This frees up air, allowing your Mac/Hack to run better.

    • Alexander Brown

      I hate Thurrott too. His bias against Apple is evident in EVERY SINGLE POST. At least the Mac sites don’t show as much bias as clearly.