Monthly Archives: February 2010

Nannyspeak

On Sydney suburban trains there is/was an announcement that went something like: “Please move clear of the vestibule area when alighting from the train”. In a Sydney car tunnel, when there someone has broken down or has stopped in a breakdown bay, an announcement breaks into your radio program to tell you that “there is an incident on the carriageway”. Local signage near my house says that “consumption of alcohol prohibited” on the street.  An announcement on a Brisbane train told me to “take care when detraining”.

In major Australian cities, where there is a significant part of the population with English as their second or even third language, and where there are a significant number of tourists and visitors from non-English speaking countries, you would think that public announcements and signage would be composed for the broadest possible audience, being one of the conventional objectives of communication. Insurance companies and banks moved to “plain English” terms and conditions for policies and bank accounts years ago. I can’t see an excuse for the pompous and culturally arrogant language that is used by officialdom when communicating with the broad public. 

There, I feel better.

iPad thoughts

I’m upbeat about the iPad. Many have passed words on the subject in the last couple of weeks, so I will too.  I think the iPad will ultimately succeed for three reasons.

1. The Company

Apple is on top of its game. People point to previous product failures, and they’re right, but Apple is a much more savvy and finely-tuned company that it was ten years ago. They have the dominant mindshare. If you can deliver what people want, then the competition is irrelevant.  And because Apple own and control the stack, and can optimise from top to bottom, the technology not only just works, it works well. Like their other recent products, the iPad is a beautiful and polished piece of engineering. It is the product of a great deal of not just thought and care, but especially imagination and vision. Few other companies of this size both have it and execute it so well.

2. The Interface

The days of the WIMP interface are numbered. The mouse is on the way out. Multi-touch interfaces are the future. Object interaction is more natural with touch, and, as a result, more complex interaction is possible. Even for simple tasks like rotating a photo, or turning a page, the gap between intent and action becomes smaller and requires less thought, and the iPhone is the proof point so far. Where dedicated hardware interfaces — with sliders, knobs, and buttons — have been needed to provide simultaneous control and visibility of two or more parameters, the iPhone has demonstrated that a multi-touch interface can perform similar tasks. Now scale that up to a page-sized device. The large multi-touch screens of Jeff Han make the point even stronger. Add eventual multi-touch feedback, which is not far off, and you have a stunning interface.

 

3. The Developers

Apple provides the platform, but the community provides the applications, driven by a shared revenue model. In the same way that people have come up with novel ideas for iPhone apps, the same will happen with the iPad. Whether it be games, soft-porn, music, media consumption, social networking, office applications, or a combination; whether working in isolation or collaboratively, people will come up with novel iPad uses, and the marketplace that is facilitated by iTunes will decide what works. I’m looking forward to music software with an extensive touch interface. That alone will sell iPads to DJs and musicians. A similar app for each of the other domains will mean success for Apple.

Me, I’ll probably wait until version 2.