Archive for the ‘debate’ Category

Technology in clown shoes?

November 4, 2010

Did you get an iPad yet?

You do have an iPhone, right?

Or whatever brand of smartphone you prefer – you know, the kind that has internet capacity (and not WAP, either).
If you do, you’re part of the future, if we are to believe some of the big players. Apple seems to have already relegated their actual computers to an afterthought, compared to the efforts placed on the carry-with-you-gadgets, Microsoft is moving in, and every mobile service provider out there is scrambling to give you on-the-go internet, as is a plethora of other service providers (here in Denmark we have free internet access on buses and trains, for example).

Mobile internet is the future, apparently.

Well, I’m not gonna poop on that, it’s probably true – I am, however, going to add some comments to it, for you to make of what you will.

The defining factor here is speed. The speed of your internet connection, and the processing speed of your hardware.
By now, the standard internet connection is more than 1 megabit, and many if not most people have way more.
This doesn’t just mean you can download that video of the sneezing panda in mere seconds. It profoundly affects the way web sites are coded; almost the entire progress in website design and coding has been dictated by the increasing bandwidth and computanional capacity available.

The earliest web sites were just static text, perhaps with an 8-bit image, then later with a few spinning gifs, but try going to, oh, I don’t know, let’s say your Facebook page.
Run your mouse over it a little – see all those tips, hints, pictures and stuff popping out? The constantly updating statuses, chat, whatever?
Or check out your favorite news outlet, and notice all the Flash adverts all over it – they need the advertisement for funding, without it they can’t exist.

Each of all of those things demand a chunk of code be downloaded into your browser, and for your computer to execute it. They also demand something else: The Mouseover Event.

Not many mobile units have that kind of bandwidth yet, and they also don’t have any mouseover capacity (because there is no mouse pointer – your finger is the pointer). We’ll get back to the power in a moment, but that event needs a little explanation, especially if you’re not a web geek.


sadly, this is not live anymore – easily one of the funniest memes ever

You see, most of what makes websites of today non-static (or reactive) is due to the mouseover event family. Regular code (HTML or Javascript) can pay attention to your mouse pointer and make the website react to its location, and most Flash in websites is almost entirely based on mouse pointer detection.
Basically, the only thing most Flash content will do on a mobile device is play video and let you click things like regular links – forget about playing all but the simplest point-and-click games, for example.

This is no small point – websites that rely, say, on expanding menus can’t be used at all on a mobile unit, pure and simple; you can’t access the site content if you can’t get the menus to show.

Then there’s the issue of power. That’s actually pretty straight forward: – if the content requires a lot of stuff to be downloaded and executed in the client (your browser), current mobile chips just don’t have the power, and, perhaps more importantly, neither do the batteries.
And battery technology is not following Moore’s law and can’t keep up – if you want an indication of the power consumption, try running some Flash content on your laptop without the charger plugged in. It will hork that power down like a stoner with a plate of burritos.

null
*BURP*

Also, it is worth keeping in mind that a lot of stuff gets downloaded or executed behind the scenes even if you don’t point at or click on it, sucking up bandwidth and power beyond your control.

The reason this situation exists is that web content as we know it was designed on, and for, stationary computers and laptops with a charger never too far away – obviously, the content was built to push the available power to its limit.

But what is the new situation – mobility – going to mean then?

Are we going to see all the knowledge and funcionality of the 21st century internet suddenly becoming, not obsolete (as it is not being replaced by something better, not yet anyway), but just not used anymore?
I mean, take Silverlight for example, Microsoft’s cutting edge web technology, which they’ve spent years developing. Good luck with that on a mobile device – it’s geared specifically towards all that multifunctionality executable stuff, rich media and whatnot, and even if the mobile chips grow powerful enough to handle it, and even if mobile internet becomes fast (and cheap) enough, we still need some pretty exceptional leaps forward in battery technology to be able to use it.
HML 5 is going to have problems too, as a large part of it is centered around extended mouse pointer detection functionality and rich media.

Will all this carefully developed technology be wasted? What should web developers focus on – powerful stationany machines or iPhones? With the current challenge of getting consistant behavior across platforms and a few years worth of computers (which has people like that frothing at the mouth already, let me tell you), they’re not going to be able to cover both flavors at once; the difference is way too big.

Are we going to see two internets – one for mobile, another for “real” computers? I mean, sure, we want stuff that works on our mobile devices but we don’t want to come home to our actual computers and load up something that looks like Facebook Mobile. We want the bells and whistles there.
But do we want two internets?

I guess what I’m asking is, are we going to see this state-of-the-art, developed-over-decades internet tecnology go tripping over its own feet, like the awkward adolescent it is?

Share on Facebook

– and it designs back…

August 19, 2010

I’ve tried not to get into this, on account of it being a veritable can of ticked-off killer bees, but I think I must, so with a due sense of dread I utter the word: – Microsoft…

(disclaimer: while I am very much a Mac fan, this is not going to be a “Mac vs. PC” article, and I probably won’t respond very well to that line of discussion. Clear? OK, let’s proceed)

So what’s the deal here?

Well, as any designer with a user experience focus should, I have taken note of this thing, the computer – in fact, the very recent history and speedy ascent of this thing presents us with a unique opportunity to see what design actually does in a complex environment.
You see, the computer operating system is the first widely accepted, uniform “object” ever to have taken on its shape purely by design, and to have spread far, far beyond any specific demographic, environment or circumstance.

What I mean is, the chair, the hammer, the glasses, the car, all the other designed objects we have, they were made into their overall shapes by a meeting of function and design – so there’s a million chairs in the world, but they all have a seat, and they all have some manner of footing, and a car won’t work unless you have a reasonably intuitive steering method that is also reliable, and so on – you get the point.


some are weirder than others though

Not so for the computer OS. Nobody had any expectations for this entity, and there were litterally no limitations – anything could have been built on the 0’s and 1’s that make up computing.
To say that something was limited only by imagination has rarely been more true.

Anyway, long story short, someone at Xerox PARC came up with a programming paradigm called Smalltalk, somebody thought of multitasking in windows, there was some borrowing, some stealing, some lawsuits and some business shenanigans, and presto, what we now know as Microsoft Windows became the prevalent operating system of computers all over the world.

And this design, it’s designing back – and this, as they say, is where the plot thickens…

For example, pretty well 90% of all computer users consider crashing and recovering from it a basic condition of working with a computer, much like refueling a car, but this is by design, not by function.
The only reason they think so is because the only OS they’ve ever known, Windows, is prone to crashing. They don’t know that a computer is not a thing that’s supposed to crash anymore than the aforementioned car is, and that it should be treated the same if any particular model is prone to do so.
Similarly, the way most people react when a piece of technology doesn’t do what it should is something along the lines of “- oh, I’m so stupid with machines!” – but this, too, may (!) be traced back to the fact that Windows, most people’s first and only direct acquaintance with hi-tech, notoriously chides the user when something goes wrong, and/or talks tech above the user’s head with gibberish alerts that sound ominously complicated, yet serves no purpose since nobody in the room understands what they mean.
It has done so ever since it was first brought to the market, and an entire generation of people just got used to it.

The list could go on but as I said this is not about bashing Windows, so let’s just say the point is made.
(if you feel like a real tirade, albeit an extremely well spoken and interesting one, this guy did his homework and then some)

Now, I’d like to think there’s more of a reason for looking at this, and certainly for writing about it, than just establishing that I don’t like the Windows experience particularly – and there is.
That reason is, there’s a cost – mostly in actual money, too, we’re not talking abstract cost here – and we’re failing to notice.


imagine a pile of these reaching from earth to the moon…

For example, look at the concept called the productivity paradox. If you don’t feel like following that link, the brief version is that, in the business world, there is hardly any visible gain in productivity with the increase in IT expenses.
This is named a paradox and has statisticians and other researchers flailing for an explanation but I believe the answer is right at hand: – the most prevailing computer user interface is Windows, and Windows does not increase productivity, at least not in any way relative to the expenses incurred by using it.

Let’s do a bit of math here – I know, it sucks, but it matters:

Acme is a copywriting company that, so far, has worked on electric typewriters. There’s some 25 writers employed, and they each get 40.000,- a year.
So let’s get them computerized – each work station costs $750,- and each copy of Windows is $300,-.
That’s $93.750,- right there – or more than two whole salaries for the first year (and we haven’t bought antivirus software yet, or even an office package). The computers better make these people that much more effective, but how would they do that? They’re still just writing stuff.

It gets worse though.
A piece of hardware such as a computer should be able to run pretty well for at least 5-6 years (in fact there’s no real reason why it shouldn’t run much longer than that) but, mainly because of Windows, this company is probably going to have to upgrade most of the workstations every 3 years or so – in addition to that, there’s going to be point updates to the system, costing money too (say, a couple of hundred dollars pr. workstation pr. year average).

But it gets worse yet.
Because, unless these people are mostly superusers, having 25 workstations running Windows is going to require at least one full-time IT support employee. If the company has servers, too, one guy probably won’t cut it (if they run Windows Server, IIS and the sort).

– and just as you thought it wouldn’t get worse anymore, it probably will; the company is all but guaranteed to experience serious downtime and expenses due to a virus or hacker attack. Most attacks (even taking the spread of Windows into account) exploit weaknesses and security holes in Windows that should not exist in the first place.


Remember these? Gone. By the wheelbarrow.

The calculation is not meant to be textbook but I’d have to be off by quite a lot before computerizing such a company is going to be worth it.

Again, my point here is not that they’d be better of with Mac systems – my point is we, society, businesses, take this as a prerequisite condition of day-to-day operation without question, even though similar conditions in any other field of human endeavour would have us frothing at the mouth.

Could this be because the omnipresence and uniformity of Windows has redesigned our perception? I maintain that it is, simply because there is no other explanation for our glaring blind spots regarding computers.

I think we, people, need to start learning to cope with tecnology and design – in fact, we’re overdue; the personal computer is spreading in the form of smartphones, and these are already beginning to show the same kind of vulnerability. If we just sigh and resign to this development, we will react to it in the wrong way, also known as the Micosoft way: – the tecnological equivalent of frantically trying to heal two broken legs and a gunshot wound with a band aid and a tylenol.

The world of computers should be teaching us this, to the tune of billions of dollars every year in costs incurred by virus-, bot- and worm-attacks, spam (some estimates have more than 75% of all spam spreading via Windows PCs, thanks to their inherent vulnerabilities) and just regular wasted time.

And it’s not even that we don’t know – articles flood the news everytime there’s a major virus or worm attack. It just never gets traced back to Microsoft, which is even more baffling when you realize that significant action could be taken against these attacks, and the costs they cause, by redesigning the computer operating system in a sensible way.

I think this is really an appeal to the true power of design – just imagine if we solved this problem, born from (bad) design, with (good) design, and saved the world billions upon billions of dollars…

Share on Facebook

Was it all for naught? – the iPad

January 27, 2010

It’s out: Apple’s iPad.

And if you know me you know that not having had my hands on it will never deter me from forming an opinion – this time, that happened right quick:

It would seem Apple have lost their collective mind. This is the first time since the Performa series that a new product from Apple didn’t get me thinking “I want that and I can’t believe I could ever live without it!!”.

In my eyes, no amount of slick video and uber-hype (from Jony Ive he-self no less) can gloss over the obvious fact that they made a screen which can’t stand or sit on any surface as it doesn’t have feet or a bottom or anything, and also doesn’t have a handle of any kind.
They defend this by comparing it with a book or a magazine but this is neither – it’s a computer without a keyboard, that you hold by the screen.

ipad

OK, try this: – turn your laptop sideways and grab it by the upper screen edge. Try to ignore the awkward weight distribution (the iPad is, of course, not unbalanced like that), and try to imagine yourself… actually, what exactly is it you’re supposed to be doing with this thing?
You’re not working, because working, as it involves computers and the internet, requires writing, and this thing doesn’t have a keyboard. Using the touch screen one for actual work would be like writing a small essay on a 9-key phone keypad.

You’re also not kicking back watching a movie, because even the smallest of TVs, as well as your laptop, has a screen at least twice as big as this one, and can be placed before you – the iPad has to be held.
Or leaned against the wall or a can of beans or something.

If you’re checking your email you’re using the iPad because you have to – because mostly that means having to write back, enter stuff in calendars and to-do-lists etc., and this thing doesn’t have a keyboard (I may have already mentioned that).

So it would seem Apple put their considerable powers to work in creating a device you only need when you can’t get to your actual computers, and for some reason also don’t have your iPhone with you.

Apple should know better – they know that most of the stuff we use computers for requires navigation around interfaces of many sorts. If they didn’t acknowledge this, then why give us the Magic Mouse?
They have also consistantly had the best, most consistant and most intuitive hotkey layouts in their OS since the days of yore, and they gave us Spaces, Exposé and Sneak Peak – all functions of the OS which make navigating easier by putting powerful tools at our fingertips.

Now, they seem hell-bent on taking tools away from us, leaving us, ironically, with just the fingertips.

I don’t want that, and what’s more, I’d like for Apple to stop playing one-up with their own iPhone by giving us hi-tech versions of “Babys First Pointing Book”, and get back to making the worlds greatest computers and OS better…

Share on Facebook

“UX is not” manifesto, really…

October 27, 2009

This is going to be just a short post (by my standards anywyay) – just thought I’d take a moment to commend this wonderful run-down by UX designer Whitney Hess, of what User Experience and the design thereof is not.

While I’m usually not particularly fond of defining anything through what it isn’t, the field of UX (as it’s also mentioned in the article linked above) is so new and floaty that, to get more familiar with it, the is-not view is one of the steps that we probably have to go through.

Now, I am not going to go down the list and comment everything in the article – suffice to say, I mostly agree with the points that are being made, and you’ll just have to read it to see what they are (I also suggest clicking on some of Whitney’s many links, interesting stuff there too).

And while you’re at it, feel free to compare what’s being communicated in the article to my personal work manifesto (see how much I like that word? Terrible!), as well as the reason for my self-ascribed title of “Design & User Experience Creative Playmaker” (conveniently located in the lower right side of my contact page there).
Yep, we certainly seem to be on roughly the same page.


– and you find all of that over at my website, of course

Finally, a side note: – did you peep that “drag to share” widget about half way down the page? Awesome!

Share on Facebook

Perspective on neo-tribalism

May 18, 2009

Have you heard about that, neo-tribalism?

Well, it’s a concept notably promoted by Seth Godin, modern marketing guru and widely credited for popularising the concept of “permission marketing”, and it revolves around using technology (that is, the internet) to form modern tribes around products, causes, activities etc.

actual tribe, the model for Godin’s concept

At present, this idea has considerable buzz going for it in marketing circles, spilling over into lots of other fields of professional communication – so I think this might be a good time to do a piece on it… here goes:

In Godin’s perspective, a neo-tribe is inherently positive – it’s a group of people who genuinely believe in something, and who are given the goodies about that something and the channels for spreading them.
Ideally, this means that a relatively small number of “true believers” will philantropically spread ideas far and wide, in a way no one person or company could, with a credibility you couldn’t match, and reaching deeper into the receiving masses than you could ever hope for.

A PR professional’s dream, and also, when it works, a great idea indeed – which is why Godin has reached the levels of fame and recognition he now enjoys – and a powerful implementation of permission marketing.

In fact, I use techniques similar to these when I communicate about the things I do, and I have done so before I knew anything about these concepts – however, my experience leads me to this advice: Don’t think this is magic.

The fact is, there are many, thousands, of us, trying to create this kind of following – you see this every day in your email inbox, on your twitter, Facebook, everywhere.
And you do it. Sort of.
You see, the modern tribe has two major weaknesses that an actual tribe either didn’t have or rarely fell under…

and neither did jedi…

Number one: – tech tribalism is easy. I can join a tribe about the most important topic in the world and be a contributing member in five minutes flat, by joining some manner of internet tribe, but I don’t even have to give my real name, and I can also forget about my tribe in five minutes, without any consequences whatsoever for me.
Tech tribes can build, grow huge and create momentum in short order, but they can also fizz out just as fast, and there’s usually little the tribe chiefs can do if that happens; it’s part of the speed of the media.
Just because your Facebook group has 50.000 members doesn’t mean that any of them actually do anything for your cause or product.

Number two: – there are other tribes. Many, in fact. An actual tribe doesn’t have to worry about this until it meets one of them, at which point they may have to fight over the ressources.
Which is exactly what tech tribes will have to do almost constantly.
See, like the food the actual tribes fight over, there’s only a limited availability of people, their time and their attention – so a tribe for veteran car owners can be in direct conflict with a tribe for fans of the tiger lily, simply because they occupy the same space in the receiver’s attention.

This can get much longer but for now, I’ll say this: – by all means, let’s go ahead and use those techniques Godin promotes, but as an advocate of really beating as few dead horses as possible, I say let’s already consider our next moves – and most of all, let’s be as real as we can about anything we do: Nothing is inherently perfect.

Now go forth, grasshopper.

Share on Facebook

UX thoughts on a friday

March 6, 2009

Settle down, class… I know the weekend is only hours away but we still have stuff to get through…

I thought I’d just use the newly launched (or rather, beta-launched) “Den Store Danske”, the Great Danish Encyclopedia online as a case study – so let’s go ahead and take a look at this picture:

storedanske

You can see the first problem with the user experience quite well, can’t you? This does not look like an encyclopedia.
It looks like a site for something called “Villahjælpen”.

You see, the site is advertisement funded, and that top banner ad is a tricky bastard – if done right, it’ll be OK, if not it will steal the thunder from the site’s own headline. This doesn’t begin well, because the site’s own header simply is too inconspicuous, compared to that banner ad space.
(Also, one has to apply some form of do’s-and-dont’s to website ads, to avoid massive clashing, but that’s a different article)

What you can’t se in that pic up there, however, is that both the top banner and right sidebar ads are flash animated out the wazoo (go visit the site, I’ll wait), and this brings us to the next UX issue at work here:
“Den Store Danske”, being an encyclopedia, is a knowledge harvesting site – it’s a place you’re supposed to go when you’re studying and need specific information, data, facts.

An encyclopedia is a no-nonsense thing, and the design here doesn’t reflect that – all those animations are quite distracting, actually, escpecially if you’re hunkered down over something serious and just need to quickly establish some facts.

Sure, people will sometimes just sort-of browse for interesting stuff in such a place, but it should not be designed for it, any more than an actual encyclopedia (the book – you remember that, right?) should have a wee comic and some entertaining short-stories thrown in every 10 pages.

Finally, there’s the encyclopedia itself – the part where you search for, and hopefully get, information.
This is the primary function, and should take up the primary space, visually. In stead, we have here a case where the log-in entry fields at right are just as prominent at the search field, whereas the filters are just text strings, basically sitting there as if they were any kind of text.
– and those are weird, by the way, with stuff like “cars & motorcycles”, “food”, “travel” making it look like an eBay subsite menu…

Now, DSD is supposed to become a kind of official wikipedia of Danish scholarship (you can log in and submit things, which – unlike a wiki and with the intent of lending greater trustworthiness – will then be verified by a board of editors).
Therefore, it should come across as a wiki: – it should be open and inviting, and the searching should be at the very center of your first impression. Basically, a search control panel with some supporting stuff surrounding it, impression-wise.

This design is not open, in my opinion, and it doesn’t communicate very clearly that this is a search site.
I would have gone about this very differently.

A final thought: – should knowledge sites like this ever have ads?
I mean, isn’t there a risk that, on a subconcious level, the proximity of ad material (animating its way into your attention wether you want it or not) to supposedly un-biased data will compromise our trust in the latter…?

Have a good one!

Share on Facebook

Huzzah, the new website!

February 18, 2009

This may not be very comme il faut but I feel like congratulating myself just a tiny bit – the new site at jesperwille.com is up as of today! Yay!

I’m particularly happy about this one because this time, not only did I design it (of course, the previous one was of my own design too) but I also programmed it all myself.

Actually, I mention this for a reason (as you may have guessed) – this was, and is, a project…

This internet thingy, well, let’s just say it’s keeping JW on his toes, being an experience nerd – I don’t think a single day goes by that I don’t, in some way, have thoughts about how this medium is used. Some do it this way, others that and the other, but in my opinion, far too many websites (considering how long we’ve had for practice) succumb to the scourge of technology:

Discordance between purpose and the underlying tech & mechanics

omgwtfwebsite

(you thought I was going to say “feature overload”, didn’t you?)

So what I did was set out to define for myself how I wanted my website to look and feel, and what I wanted it to do – and then get my own hands dirty and see if I could indeed do this, without having to become some kinda professor and without forcing the hand of my users, or annoying them (technically speaking – if you’re annoyed at my style, that’s entirely allowed).

I didn’t think it had to be that bad, since a site such as this has very few functions – no databases or sign-ups (although I could have added a newsletter real easy – maybe I’ll do that one of these days), just pure presentation, which is all a lot of sites do, so I decided part of it would be doing it myself (if a non-coder can, it’s a strong argument against technological difficulty as a reason for not-too-well-done websites, right?)

I also don’t like flash sites very much (no offense intended, my previous site was flash) – I think it breaks the conventions of navigating the net, but not in a good way in and of itself.
It’s all down to the flash programmer, and that can mean too much freedom, because the function of this type of site has to be rather simple – and doing simple things should never be complicated just for the hell of it (even if it looks good in flash).

So the mission was to find out how close I could get to my initial vision, using only basic code, no embedded flash or any such stuff, and getting all my info off the web (did the weirdest google searches I’ve ever done).

Well, I got pretty close – the new site looks like I want and does what I want it to, so: Mission accomplished.

Until I change my mind.

Share on Facebook

Challenge? – don’t go there

August 23, 2007

I have an announcement to make:
– Jesper W. of CPH fully intends to drop dead, or at the very least comatose, rather than participate in Bang & Olufsen’s so-called Creative Challenge.

Why, you wonder? – why would any industrial designer, and even one with a particular interest in household electronics and the ilk, balk at the opportunity to squeeze his foot in the door of one of Denmark’s most famous companies, design-wise?

Because of this:
“Vigtigt: Creative Challenge – Beovision 8 er ikke en bureau-pitch på Bang & Olufsen, men en kreativ konkurrence, hvor man deltager som privatperson(er). Konkurrencen er lavet for at fremme kreativiten og de indkomne bidrag vil ikke blive brugt til at
markedsføre Beovision 8. Alle rettigheder til indsendt materiale tilfalder dog B&O.
( – for my non-Danish readers, the bold part says all rights to any of the submissions will belong to Bang & Olufsen)

In other words, B&O presumes to harness the collective, creative power of some 200 (at this time) design teams, subsequently taking possesion of every scrap of work done by them – without paying so much as a nickle for it.
Oh sure, they’re prizing out all of 3 (yeeesh, three) Beovision 8 TV sets – come on, they loose more than that due to breakage in a single month…!

I can’t stress enough to all my hopeful colleagues – if you have thought about entering this competition, please reconsider.

Let’s not work for nothing, huh? – especially for a company that sets the tone, teaching everyone else that designers will work for free.

Update: – this topic came to my attention thanks to Line Rix’ post about it at her blog, and now Claus Buhl has also chimed in on the subject with his words of wisdom – anyone else, hop on board, won’t ya…

Update #2: – for how one might do this in a better way, take a look at Bolia’s “Design Award”. The conditions state that Bolia will hold the optional rights to start a production (not the actual IP rights for the design) and that, in this case, a separate contract between the designer and Bolia will be drafted.
Yes, B&O, it’s really that easy…

Share on Facebook

Second whatnow…?

August 21, 2007

I’d be surprised if anyone remembers but waaaay back in the end of ’06 and the early part of this year, there was a buzz goin’ on about something called “Second Life”. Everybody who thought they were anybody had to be there and pretend to take it seriously.

JWcph was there too, actually I had opened an account a few months before the full hype wave hit (because JWcph is always in front, of course) – only, we never created a presence, nor did we when .noia. was born (it’s still a baby though, and as such the other partners and I hold it close – don’t worry, you’ll know more about it soon…). We paid attention, and certainly yours truly spent unhealthy amounts of time there but we never built anything for ourselves, because we didn’t care to rush for the buzz.
As with everything else, we want to deal in knowledge, not know-it-all’ledge.

Now everyone else is getting out again, after (excuse me) half-assed attempts that never really took the concept seriously – .noia. and JWcph, well, we’re still there, and now we even have our first wee location, courtesy of arcspace:
“under the clock” – meet .noia. (this is a so-called “slurl”, you need SL to use it)

Second Life is not great – not even close.
But it is a very serious attempt at pointing towards a possbile future for online interaction, and so far the only such thing in the world, as all the others simply are not created by or for the users to the same degree.
(this is subject to fierce discussion but this is my statement, and I’m sticking to it)

That’s why I still hang out there from time to time, and why I still wonder where it might go…

arcube-01a.jpg
– that’s me, resting my black wings under the clock, waiting for my date: The future…
of course, everything in the cube was built and scripted by us, from wind sensitive trees to the custom sitting pose

Share on Facebook

Speak of the…. iPhone

July 9, 2007

Yep.
It’s out.
The iPhone.

– but not here in Denmark…

However, being unable to get one for myself and get first hand knowledge doesn’t keep me from having formed an opinion, if not about the iPhone himself, then at least of the idea of it and the hype surrounding it.

cp.gif

It’s interesting, first off, to note the “campaign” for this gadget (more on that term later) – the Mac circles have been murmuring about an Apple phone for years, yet Apple themselves never said anything about it before the stunning presentation of a fully functional iPhone by mr. Jobs himself at one of his famous turtleneck stage performances.
Having a sort-of cult following as Apple does pays off; such attetion as was built by the rumors (neither started nor supported by Apple in any, least of all economical, way) is hard to create with even the best commercial campaign…

When the product finally hit the streets it was, of course, impressive – wether you want to love or hate it, noone with any interest in tech stuff, devices, computers or design is unaffected.
What is funny, though, is that the most innovative features (in my opinion anyhow) are hardly the topic of any of the numerous reviews, so I’ll try and point at some of them:

– the multi-touch display. This is the first time ever that any device with a touch screen as its primary interface is available to the general public, let alone at a price that is reasonable (if indeed on the heavier side of reason), and the ability to interface with it using multiple touch points is nothing short of brilliant. All the same, most reviewers seem to take this interface for granted…
edit: – it has been brought to my attention that certain camcorders do have touch screens at consumer levels, and PDAs and smartphones have been pointed at. I admit I didn’t think of the camcorder angle (one might argue that it’s not a camcorder’s primary input device, though), but I intentionally left out PDAs and smartphones; the former is pretty much useless without a stylus and hence not a true touch screen from the consumer’s point of view (even though technically it is), and the latter have a numeric keypad as its primary input device…

– The iPhone is not really a gadget. I mean, let’s be honest, when we talk about a gadget we mean an implement which does all manner of technically advanced, yet mostly useless, stuff, but really none of the iPhone’s features can be called truly useless, leading me to the next point:

– It’s not a cell phone. This machine is a dedicated communication device; pretty much only the on-board iPod is not directly targeted at modern, web-based communication – sporting several applications needed for this, such as email, bluetooth, text messaging (with a graphic interface for keeping track of “sms conversations” – cannot believe nobody thought of this before), voicemail browsing (ditto), picture sharing, full blown web browser, and an API solution that will allow for additional functionality to be added user-side. Not to mention it’s really a computer, running an actual system (OS X), making it the first “cell phone” which will truly be updateable and upgradeable…

– And, of course, the user experience. Another first: breaking with the common numeric keypad as the primary input device – let’s face it, how often do we actually use the key pad for punching in a phone number the old school way? Most of the time, the limited number of keys are subject to advanced finger acrobatics to force them to fill tasks not even remotely connected with their nature.
The iPhone vision also shows a great understanding of how a hand-held communication device is used – for example, integrating maps with address & phone number search and info, and that with the telephone function, et cetera.

Even though it’s obvious I’ll put the disclaimer in words: I haven’t tried it myself, the above is based on Apple’s own info and user feedback online.
Even if this device eventually fails however, it has already pointed to one thing: We need to think about how we use technology to communicate in a whole new way.

Oh, and before anyone writes it off because it doesn’t have a video camera or MMS capabilities or because the feature list is shorter than your average Blackberry, let’s remember that many people laughed when Apple launched a desktop computer without a floppy drive, or when we first saw a portable mp3 player – the two products that turned Apple around and pointed the way for everyone else in the business today.

Share on Facebook