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Chapter 14. Power and Pleasure > Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake

I live and work in Silicon Valley, California. Virtually everybody I know is involved in the high-tech industry. We are all affluent, highly educated, and geographically and socially mobile, and we are all very comfortable with computers, cell phones, DVDs, ATMs, and every other software-based product in the middle-class menagerie. When I eat lunch at the Crescent Park Grill or Spago, the people at the next table are always discussing “client/server this” and “Web-based that.” It's an exciting place to live, but it isn't representative of the majority of people in this country, let alone around the world. Here in Silicon Valley, it is easy for our estimation of the suitability of high-tech products to be terribly skewed. We forget how hard these products really are to use.

Ten years ago, retail consultant Seymour Merrin said that we have found it easier to convince consumers that software is easy to use than it is to actually make it easier to use. Merrin was being cynical, but he was also expressing surprise that we were getting away with such a bold lie. His assertion is as true now as it was then, but with the growth of high tech, we cannot continue on mere cynicism—we need a real solution.


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