We have point and click, cutesy hi-rez dumb icons, fancy 3D rotating desktop cubes and glass everywhere. What we don’t have is smart computers that have really done anything to improve productivity or lengthen the life span of trees.
In the 20 some years I have been working with computers and software I have seen many declarations of revolutionary this and paradigm shifting that but the reality is since the shift from the command-line to the windowed interface the only improvements have been in the lipstick we have put on the pig.
Sure software has gotten better both under the hood and to the eye but that is usually in response to the outward aesthetics provided by the operating system or the hardware improvements that are being driven by the need for better and fancier looking graphics. But the core of the beast still remains the dumb transfer of one’s and zero’s.
Jason at webomatic also lamented today on the current state of computing:
Frankly, I think it?s because the entire desktop metaphor is presently rather unimpressive. Nothing is going to impress the most jaded of us if it?s just variations on the same old way of accessing our gigabytes of crap on our bloated drives. I?m talking about folders, icons, applications, files and Windows.
Much of what Jason had to say in his post had to do with Apple and the Mac but it can also be equally said for the Windows OS as well. We are stuck in a technological rut constantly being placated with fancier graphics and teasing tidbits about future computing environments (aka Surface) which may or may not come to fruition.
The thing is that I don’t necessarily hold Microsoft; or even Apple, accountable for the total state of entropy we are experiencing within the computing world. Both of the companies have in fact given us excellent platforms from which we should be reaching for the impossible on a daily basis.
Instead we get fed tripe about search being the holy grail or how the whole Web 2.0 is better than anything the desktop can deliver up; at least until Gmail goes down or Google Reader has a glitch attack. Well I’m sorry but search is not a paradigm – it is a root service – or at least should be. To hold this up as the next great leap as a user interface is nothing more than another distraction that shows us that we have lost the impetus to reach for the next level.
As for Web 2.0 and all that supposed platform agnostics promised is nothing more than the ultimate proprietorship wrapped in a plain Jane wrapper of muted colors. Think not? .. then think about this then. What Web 2.0 wants is for you to utilize all your software from within one application and one application only – the Browser. If this isn’t locking the user into a single platform then I don’t know what is and that worries me because if we go down that road then what really is the need for graphic visualization, where is the need for hardware manufacturers to consistently improve and innovate.
Jason went onto add in his post what would make him go out and buy a new Mac:
- Graphically rich ways of visualizing my data (all that Tufte stuff).
- Really tiny, portable hardware.
- Motion detection.
- Eliminate the application / file model.
- Written language comprehension.
- Pattern recognition. Realize I?m doing a task repeatedly and create a scheduled task. Basically, a computer that learns.
- Image recognition. Can?t the computer realize half of my photos are of the same cat and label the rest based on a couple of initial tags?
- Voice recognition.
- Programming for anybody.
Anyone of those things would almost make me go out and buy a Mac – hell any computer that had those abilities would probably get my hard earned dollars; and to boot none of those things can exist in a browser.
Yes we do need a real paradigm shift but we are looking at the wrong suppliers. It isn’t MS or even Apple; even though they have given us the tools to create that shift. No .. if any real paradigm shift is going to come about it is going to be from a developer who see’s past the eye candy and 3D rotating desktop and truly brings some intelligence to the desktop.