Form (designers) versus Function (geeks)
I need to make something clear -- I don't actually hate Apple. They make great products, they have amazing branding, incredible marketing, and a loyal customer base.
I hate that the competition doesn't do better.
I don't mean the competition doesn't make good products, I mean that they don't care about presentation and care more about features than usability. Technology has been controlled by the geeks, and geeks aren't exactly known for their fashion sense. Add a sense of 'first to market' desperation and you get the DVD players, phones, and hard-to-use crap we spend way to much money and time on.
Most companies that try to blend form and function fail miserably -- the function guys (geeks) don't understand why the form guys (designers) insist on that shade of ecru and figure dirty white is good enough. The form guys can't understand why the function guys can't just make it work.
Instead of calling a simple device 'revolutionary and magical', the geeks present a really complex, obtuse interface that does millions of things and say, 'read the fucking manual' or worse yet, RTFM, being cryptic, insulting and unhelpful all in one tight little acronym. It doesn't matter that Apple's 'Geniuses' are nimrods, they're friendly and polite and you feel okay about giving them a hundred bucks to throw away your old iPod.
As long as form doesn't kill you, it will always trump function. Hell, it can even kill you from time to time, cigarettes being a great example of marketing over benefit.
Somewhere on the Form<------>Function dialectic, you find management going off on a tangent. They don't care or understand either extreme and just wish the geeks and the designers would shut up and quit bitching and get a product out the door, usually rushing so the design is ugly, and the functionality just doesn't quite work.
'We'll send out a patch post-release…' The consumer shouldn't even know what a patch is, let alone a 'beta' version. If they get one thing that works, that they don't have to call technical support for, that doesn't need a seminar or a training course, the will buy it. The iPad being a case in point.
Apple has mastered the art of Top Secret R&D which buys them time to get the product working, make it look and feel nice, and figure out how to make everyone believe that the limitations are really cool.
Now, if we could just get the rest of the tech world to slow down, talk a little, and produce something that works and is pleasing, then I can stop ranting about Apple.