New Year greetings!
As I mentioned in my last post, I am very much of a mind to look forward than back. What is ahead for 2012 and beyond? It is very dangerous to stare into a crystal ball and many people, who were far better informed than I, have looked foolish in hindsight. Having read that a supervolcano in Europe, which is overdue for an eruption, is stirring [which would be an interesting bit of divine lateral thinking to solve the Euro crisis], perhaps I am looking at the future primarily for Asia and the Americas, but I want to ponder how computers will be evolving …
After the sad death of Steve Jobs last year, many people were keen to catalog the list of Apple’s failed products: Lisa and Newton being good examples. As that company is considered to be about as visionary as you can get, and they can get it wrong, I do not stand a chance. But I have been wondering about the “post-PC” era.
Over the holiday, my marketing/visionary skills were put to the test. I was told about a product: someone had the idea that they could make computer mice in the shape of classic cars and sell them to executives. My immediate thought was that this was a non-starter; who would pay good money for a mouse in a silly shape that would be less comfortable to use? The answer was that millions of these things were sold. I guess this explains why I have yet to make my fortune.
When I got over having been shown that I fail at being a visionary, I started thinking about human/computer interaction in the general sense. For most of us, this interaction is a combination of keyboard and mouse for input and screen and speakers for output. Although I am an enthusiastic iPad users, I still feel slightly lost with out a mouse with a “real” computer, as I have had such rodent company for over 20 years. Younger people seem to get along fine with track-pads on laptops, so other options are possible.
There is much talk [mostly from Microsoft] of “surface computing”, where the screen of the computer is a large surface that may be the top of a desk. Interaction with the software is largely by means of [multi-] touch and gestures. You do not have to look far beyond Star Trek [TNG onwards] to get the idea. Most people say that they need a keyboard too. Perhaps they do, but I am sure that much improved voice recognition could change that. Longer term, I am sure some kind of direct brain hook-up will be even better, but I am getting ahead of myself …
To me, there is very little difference – other than size/area – between a surface computer and a tablet [like an iPad]. In fact, Windows 8 seems to be targeted at both, so perhaps that view is common. I think there is an interesting possibility for the interaction between such devices. For example, maybe I am sitting at my desk [i.e. my surface computer] and I want to show a document to a colleague. In the old days, I would simply have taken a paper document over to them to discuss. This seemed a very natural way to interact. So called “modern” ways – emailing a copy to them – do not really feel the same. So, maybe I could simply slide the document off of my surface onto my tablet and carry that to the meeting. That would seem very intuitive. Is anyone doing that? [Other than in the Avatar movie – I knew I had seen it somewhere in the future.]