03 March 2008

Mouse buttons and iPhone apps

Macs come with a single-button mouse. If you upgrade to a two-button mouse, however, the system supports it just fine. Apple will even sell you a mouse that has a two-button mode.

It would be nice to see the same thing with third-party iPhone applications. If Apple—as is expected—will have a process for approving third-party applications to make sure they aren’t naughty, I think that will be a great thing.

But I also think that those of us willing to take more risk ought to have the option of installing unapproved applications.

A good argument against this, however, is that everybody will choose to take the risk without understanding it. The approval process will be pointless and chaos will ensue.

Take the Windows 95 logo. When Windows 95 came out, developers who went through an approval process could put a special Windows 95 logo on their product. End users, however, didn’t care, however, so it really didn’t mean anything.

(Aside: It probably didn’t really mean anything anyway.)

Did chaos ensue? I guess it depends on how you look at it. Things were no more chaotic than they had been under Windows 3.11.

Back to mouse buttons, though. It was a long time between the introduction of the Macintosh and Apple selling a mouse with two-button capabilities. It was also a long time before the system truly supported a two-button mouse without third-party enhancements. Perhaps that made it easier for the current situation to develop?

Well, it’s perhaps a strained analogy anyway, but this is a common situation that comes up in human-machine interaction: Balancing the machine’s interface between the needs of the “casual” and the “power” user and how much to allow it to adapt to both.

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