It's the complexity, stupid...
That was the warning - and challenge - issued by America Online's Marc Andreessen in his keynote address at last week's PC Expo in New York.
Adreessen, the co-founder of Netscape and current chief technology officer of AOL, told the packed auditorium that PC makers had better start designing simpler-to-use products if they hope to realize the full potential of the Internet as a sales driver.
"Everyone on the planet wants to be on the web and to have e-mail," he said, citing the untapped potential of the global market. "But we need to make technology easy, and we better make PCs as easy to use as TVs."
To underscore his point, Andreessen noted the countless VCRs still flashing "12:00 a.m." some 20 years after their introduction, despite their 90% penetration and newer automatic clock-setting features.
He further illustrated the techno-illiteracy of consumers by citing an actual AOL help desk caller who believed her PC's CD-ROM tray was a cupholder, and another who inserted his credit card into the floppy drive slot because the screen instructed him to "Enter your credit card."
"Consumers are not systems integrators, and they don't want to know about specs," he said. "You never hear someone say, 'That's an evenly browned slice of toast. Who's your electricity service provider?' People compare brands, and products must be completely point-and-click."