The “It Depends” Method of Evaluating Technology

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There are a few areas where debate constantly rages over which product is better than another. Performance automobiles comes to mind. Music, and particularly popular music. Vacuum cleaners (well, maybe not, but I drew blank trying to think of a third category).

But nowhere are things worse than in technology. Apple vs. Microsoft. iOS vs. Android. Windows vs. OS X. It’s incredibly polarizing, with all sorts of arguments over which platform is “better,” is destined to win in the marketplace, should win in the marketplace, etc. I’ve engaged in it a few times myself (particularly regarding webOS, which I submit really was the best mobile operating system).

What I’ve discovered the more I’ve used a variety of different products is that, in many or even most cases, you can’t really objectively determine which is better than another. Certainly, there are winners and losers in the market, although predicting them is often seemingly impossible. Consider Android’s incredibly fast domination of the global market over iOS—who saw that coming in so short a time?

But market success can be determined by many factors other than the quality of a product itself, such as the vagaries of popular tastes, a company’s marketing efficacy, and, of course, price. Saying which product is actually “better,” however, is a slippery little sucker, which is why the majority of debates around the topic end up in frustration, anger, and the derisive term “fanboy” being flung in all directions.

I’d like to suggest, then, that really any and all questions about which manufacturer, product, platform, or whatever is “better” can really be answered with two words: “it depends.” I discussed this in in another post already. And so here, I’m formally proposing the “It Depends” approach to setting disputes over which product is better. Maybe it’ll help us all get along a little better (cue the music from Kumbaya).

So, the next time someone asks, “Which is better, iOS or Android” or firmly makes the claim for one or the other, simply answer, “It depends.” It depends on your needs, on your tastes, on your budget, even on your physical attributes (e.g., small hands and huge phablets don’t tend to get along). I don’t agree with the idea, being an individualist, but for some people it even depends on what’s most popular at any given moment.

Try it out. The next time you discover a debate raging in a forum about which product is better than another, toss in a quick, “You know, really, it depends.” And then list off some reasons why one might be better than another. We’re conditioned to defend our choices in many cases—there’s a whole psychological concept to explain why, called “cognitive dissonance.” As applied to our purchasing decisions, we don’t want to admit (to ourselves or anyone else) that we’ve made a mistake, and so we’ll defend it no matter how silly we start to sound.

Apply the “it depends” theory often enough, and maybe we’ll achieve world peace. Okay, probably not, but at the very least we can perhaps save ourselves some time. I know that I’ve spend less time arguing over which product is better by applying this technique, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve discovered that reducing conflict in general is a good thing.

So, what do you think of my “it depends” theory of judging product superiority? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. […] can get more real work done in Windows 8.1. That’s relative, of course—as I’ve said before, it really does depend on what you do with your devices. None of the major platforms is “best,” in a general sense, because everybody’s needs are […]

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