Adam Greenfield wrote an interesting article (it's too long to be called a "post"!) with his thoughts about the difference between his new job and his experiences at Nokia.
In a nutshell, he points out that the things that make Nokia an efficient business also tend to make it poor at designing great customer experiences. We should point out that Nokia is not alone in this, it is a general truth that it is very hard to be both efficient and innovative. As I wrote in this Stakeholder article[PDF], the solution is to create slack for innovation, either by giving people time (like 3M or Google) or by creating a "skunk works".
The most interesting part of Greenfield's article, to me at least, is his story about a protoype NFC vending machine. This is new technology that, among other things, will let your phone act like a contactless credit card. His point is that the experience worked, from an engineering perspective, but was horrible from a user experience point of view:
"I experienced, in fact, neither a frisson of elegant futurism nor a blasé presentiment of everyday life at midcentury. I was given an NFC phone, and told to tap it against the item I wanted from the vending machine. This is what happened next: the vending machine teeped, and the phone teeped, and six or seven seconds later a notification popped up on its screen. It was an incoming text message, which had been sent by the vending machine at the moment I tapped my phone against it. I had to respond “Y” to this text to complete the transaction. The experience was clumsy and joyless and not in any conceivable way an improvement over pumping coins into the soda machine just the way I did quarters into Defender at the age of twelve." [Emphasis mine]
This, in a nutshell, is what Apple tends to get right and its competitors tend to get wrong. Creating great experiences for the customer takes skill and care, and they must be designed. A good thing to aim for is what Mark Boulton call "spikes of joy" throughout the experience. This is as important as getting the underlying technology working, or no one will want to use it!