Monday, July 03, 2006

Two types of computer users.

It has recently come to my attention that there are two major types of computer users. There are the ones that prefer the all in one suites and the ones that like lightweight applications. This was brought to my attention with a discussion on Maxton vs Firefox. For those that don't know Maxton, it's a up and comming browser based on IE rendering engine but incorporating many useful tools like tabs.

Maxton's design philosophy from what I can tell is the suite design philosophy. Bundle as much useful funtionality as you possibly can into this application for the user so the user never has to customize the application or get plugins because the popular ones will be integrated in the next release. From what I've seen suite users tend to be suite users for all applications, they prefer large "full featured apps" that try their best at doing everything. They also don't mind the idea that they start off knowing only 20% or less of what the application can do. These end up being the users that will prefer the full version of messenger to gaim outlook to webmail, and don't generally go to the task manager to check how much system resources a particular application is using. A general philosophy for these users is "a good application should predict and include all the tools I need without me having to go out and get them."

Firefox's design is quite different from Maxton's. Firefox has always gained popularity over it's suite program Mozilla by remaining simple and light. Firefox doesn't try and anticipate the functionailty from it's users but rather allows each user to go out and fetch plugins to extend the set of tools Firefox has on their own. As such Firefox attracts the lightweight users, or users that hate over bundling of functionality no matter how efficiently done it might be. The design philosophy behind Firefox seems to be, provide a very strong and basic core application, then allow the users to extend it any way they might like. Users of lightweight application design philosophy might use notepad as opposed to a heavier text editor just because "It's all they need". A general philosophy to these users might be, "just give me what I want with none of the bloat".

I won't debate the merits of either of these solutions because sometimes efficient bundling can cause the package to perform as efficiently as a non-bundled application. I'm purely pointing out these two divergent groups of computer users which I find intreguing. Being in the second group I can't understand the attraction towards the suite packages, but I cannot fail to acknowledge their popularity.

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