1. The iPhone, iPad and iOS Are Powering a Revolution

    November 06, 2010

    Most people just don't understand computers. Are these people dumb? Some may be dumb, but the people who make them are maybe even dumber. Because they can't seem to figure out how to create a computer that the majority of people understand.

    When the original macintosh arrived at the stage back in the eighties, computers became a bit more human-friendly, but it was limited to the constraints of the then available hardware. It put away the text-based interface and introduced the graphic interface. It used the desktop metaphor to create this graphic environment. But this metaphor has had its day.

    Many people don't understand the desktop metaphor since they don't have a desktop and have never used one. Also, it is a metaphor, it's to translate the computer environment to something humans understand. But what if they don't understand the metaphor? For example, many people just don't 'get' the Windows Explorer or the Mac OS X finder. The desktop metaphor does not seem to fit in how people think.

    Every time you see a person enter a URL like www.youtube.com in the google search field, you will realize that we still have a long way to go.

    Most people did not seem to realize back then that the release of the iPhone wasn't that important, but the release of iOS. The iPhone was the first smartphone (a word most people are not familiar with) that did away with a stylus or hardware keyboard. It uses what is closest to us: our fingers. A totally new user interface, one that is very natural and close to us, is now available.

    Using touch as input required a total redesign of the entire user interface. All other interfaces were designed around hardware keyboard and mouse devices. Fingers are big, and are obstructing the view. But it allows for a more direct interaction with a device. And now all new smart phones sport a touch interface.

    Rumors of an Apple tabled existed for long, but it was very clear when the iPhone was released that if Apple would release a tablet, it would run this new iOS operating system.

    When the iPad was released, it became an instant hit. As of today, there is no device on the market that can be truly called a competitor. But why is this so? The ground work has been done by the iPhone. Most people with an iPhone will notice that aside from some performance issues in the past, the device just always worked. It was instantly available to sent an email, look something up on wikipedia or find the nearest Starbucks. An iPhone just always works. No boot. Very reliable. And an interface that makes you happy.

    Why does iOS make people happy? Because it provides a user interface that is human. People understand it instinctively. Any person of any age or background will be able to use an iOS device within minutes. The interface doesn't make you look like you are dumb because you just don't understand how it works. It not only works, it is easy to use and you are not afraid to break anything.

    The iPhone and the iPad are learning a lot of people not to fear computers.

    The iOS does away with the old desktop metaphor, but so does Symbian or similar interfaces. It is the combination with touch and the well thought out interface that sets it apart from other mobile operating systems. Even when the iOS platform did not have native applications, people still bought it and not only because Apple released a new shiny toy.

    However, the app store on iOS has created a very special and important environment. People can finally install and remove applications in an extremely simple way. They don't need to be scared that some program will crash your computer either while installing it, using it, or removing it. The whole iOS ecosystem creates an environment wherein people don't need any help any longer from other people. They are finally in control. They don't need to be afraid of their computer.

    This trend will affect the old-school user interfaces such as Mac OS X. How it will turn out is anybodies guess. But there is at least a small trend to 'eradicate' the finder as much as possible. iPhoto stores your photos. iTunes stores your music. If you want to include a photo or song within an application, you pick the photo or song in question from a miniature iPhoto or iTunes interface. There is no finder anymore. The finder is disappearing from the workflow. And why not? If programs are written well, why bother with it? The finder should be abstracted away, as is the case on iOS, where you don't have a finder.

    Another thing is multitasking, you know, that stuf we like to do, but cant. We can only do one thing at a time. What we do want is fast task switching, not multitasking. Sure, some programs must be running in de background, to continue to operate, such as a chat program, but that is not the point. Most people are just going crazy if you show how multitasking works, with different windows. Again, iOS shows how 'multitasking' should be implemented. It is implemented as fast application switching, allowing these applications to register services that must continue to run, while the application itself freezes when the user switches to another application. People tend to use one application at a time and especially on mobile devices, every single bit of screen real estate counts, so they are always running full screen. This full screen notion will also be incorporated in the next Mac OS X release, Lion. People switch, but do one thing at a time.

    Computer nerds tend to feel superior to people who don't have much skill using a computer. This feeling of superiority is totally misplaced. They should be really humble. because up until the advent of iOS, nobody was able to create a human friendly computer interface. It is not the lack of understanding on the side of computer users, it is the lack of understanding on the part of the computer nerds on how normal humans think and act.

    Simple, human friendly computer interfaces will liberate humanity from those pesky computer nerds. And that will cause a bit less suffering in the world I hope.

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