As always, technology continues to change. It’s part of it. Microsoft has released Windows 8 (it’s still too early for business deployment without significant end-user training by the way), Windows Surface is out and making fast work of the market, and Apple is well on its way to releasing the next iteration of the iPhone and iPad. There is some really slick technology behind this technology, especially in terms of hardware.
But of course I’m reminded that all of this great technology does nothing if there isn’t a solid user interface in front of it all. In fact, Microsoft is only now regaining a real foothold in the mobile market (in terms of mindshare, which is critical to long-term adoption and sustainability of Microsoft mobile devices), in large part because Apple devices have just dominated the user interface.
And the user interface doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to work and be understandable. I signed up a while ago on the pre-release list for the Pebble, an e-paper watch that integrates with your iPhone or Android. (E-paper is the same technology that the Amazon Kindle uses to ensure readability in sunlight.) The Pebble’s interface is simplistic—it’s a watch, so they have little space to work with. There is nothing great about the Pebble as a watch, unless you see it as an extension of the iPhone user interface. Then something awesome will happen: You reduce the work involved in interacting with your technology. And you reduce it by exactly 1. You no longer have to grab the iPhone from its holster or your pocket.
Sure, some may consider that lazy, but it’s not. How often are we carrying our iPhones as we walk to read an incoming text message or email? With the Pebble, that need goes away. It accelerates access to the information, which potentially decreases the overall time required to interact. Leaving us more time to chat to the person next to us. (Hopefully at least.)
User interfaces have a huge impact on not just how we interact with technology, but in how much TIME that technology requires of us.
What happens in the next year or two is going to be fascinating.