Redbean - It has been interesting listening to people discussing the iPad in the past week or so with the conversation revolving around “would you buy one?”. One group mockingly think of it as a large phone and mime putting this large device up to their ear which always gets a good laugh. The other group tries to extrapolate down from what they do on their laptop today and wonder what it will be like to use a screen keyboard and where will I save my documents? etc.
Both are genuine concerns of course but both have missed the point of the iPad. I first spoke in public of this device when working with Apple in 1992 and have been anticipating its release ever since. And amazingly the form factor and functionality is not far from what we imagined in those early days at Apple. Yet the technology and market was way behind the concept.
One of the only ways we can understand new technology or a new paradigm is to extrapolate from our existing knowledge and behaviour. We change in step fashion. People need examples to build upon. That’s why truly revolutionary products fail. People just can’t get it.
Now both of the examples above come from the same paradigm which is the production paradigm. Or what we have mostly been doing with computers to date. One uses a laptop to produce (music, movies, stories) and even an iPhone has a particular purpose - to produce communications.
The iPad comes from a new and growing paradigm which is to consume. It won’t compete with previous devices because it is for a whole new growth market - low cost subscription consumption of digital media. This is an enter/info/edutainment device beyond compare. Rich interactive media connected to the ether to browse, find and consume content like never before possible in one device.
Most current web content is texty, 2D, and non-interactive and this will shift to rich graphical, 3D and highly interactive, but also highly connected, content. The days of pulling out of an application to go to Google to search for a related piece of information will largely disappear as these connections are made seamlessly behind the scenes. The concept of Find will replace Search.
So who is going to buy this thing? Mainly people you haven’t met yet. That is a whole new audience. The people that iPhone and laptop users don’t mix with. ie the other 80% of the population.
Apple is on a winner here but this time they will be sharing the spoils with Nokia, Sony and Panasonic and the like since now they are firmly in the mobile consumer market. And a very competitive market it is.
Redbean - I recently attended SEWF09 (http://www.sewf09.com/)a heady two days of passionate entrepreneurs and social enterprises spruiking their stuff and collaborating under the banner of changing the world for the better. A lot of very ‘Smart’ businesses and people. Exciting and stimulating to say the least!
Far better than the average “let’s make wealthy white folks happier” conferences I usually attend. Although I must admit the back slapping and fawning admiration did start to wear after a couple of days. Too much goodwill at one sitting can be hard to digest.
But the debate was lively and not all one sided. The world has many real issues to deal with and when do-gooding and passion team up with the reality and hard-headedness of sustainable business I get the feeling that this ol’ world might just be saveable.
Here is the first of a number of social enterprises and entrepreneurs I interviewed at the conference. This novel approach to lighting solves a real dilemma for developing countries - the prohibitive price of energy.
Redbean - As a member of the ANZ Advisory Board for the New Media Consortium I attended the launch of the ANZ Horizon Report.
The Horizon Report series is a product of the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Project, an ongoing research project that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression within higher education and other sectors.
No great surprises in this year’s report but some fantastic examples of quality use of technology in education and creative expression.
Redbean - I recently spent way too much time in camera stores across the USA discussing features and functions of digital cameras. I was looking for the Flip camera and as I told the store staff how I was attracted by its simplicity and capability to do one thing well - take a video and get it on to my computer and online - they either stared, laughed or threw me out. But not before they had told me why any camera with only ONE BIG RED BUTTON on the back could never outsell their multifunction, benefit-laden, engineering marvels from the likes of Sony, Canon, Panasonic etc.
Well they were wrong. Recent estimates have put the Flip market share at 20-25% of the camcorder market. And that is why Cisco bought the company for US$590M in March. http://www.theflip.com/
What’s going on here? First the iPhone with a single button and now a camera. And people are loving it. People that is other than the (mainly male) geeks and gadget heads who love to back you into a corner at parties and spray tech specs at you all night.
Real humans who only give a minor damn about specs but a major one about functionality are buying these ’simple’, sexy devices in droves.
Last week at an art gallery I saw the famous ad that launched the Kodak camera in 1887. It stated “You press the button, we do the rest”. So it has taken about 120 years to go full circle and build what George Eastman described as ” The only camera that anybody can use without instructions.”
It is so difficult for these monolithic manufacturers of cars, cameras and washing machines to compete in a manner other than feature wars. It takes an upstart to come along and show them the way, confirming once more Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive technology that he set out in “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology
Recently at the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) annual conference I got talking with some eLearning vendors re the state of play in content development. Here is Katy Morriss from Sydney company www.cadre.com.au telling us about the maturing of the eLearning customer.
If the embed doesn’t work you can view the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EnZsrSM8nY
Where do you think the eLearning custom market is heading? Leave a comment!
Redbean - It is always interesting to go into other environments and use the technology that people in those environments use every day. At first the concepts and processes are often alien until you observe how the ‘natives’ use the available tools. Even before this you may not understand either the use or the need for the tool until you are confronted with a real world example that forces you to look for a solution. Once again watching the natives solve a problem and noting their tool selection can help guide you.
Last week I was immersed (literally) in just such an environment. I went sailing. Now I have sailed smaller boats all my life and also a few larger but low tech boats as well. And for many people even a simple boat using commonplace technology developed hundreds or thousands of years ago can be a very alien environment. Especially when the wind starts blowing.
I however was immersed in a fairly new Beneteau 361 in the Whitsunday Islands on the Great Barrier Reef. Being a yacht worth around US$120,000 this was a fairly sophisticated piece of equipment. Sailing boats are designed to provide a self-sufficient and safe existence anywhere on the 70 percent of the planet covered in water. They do this through complex systems of sails for locomotion, engines for power and through increasingly more digital equipment for navigation and communication. And that, despite my years of digital familiarity, is where my ‘experience’ went sour.
The navigation instruments that should be making life easier for a sailor are so difficult to use that most people (who I have talked to) just give up on them or, like Microsoft Word, use only a small portion of the functionality. The interface design is so bad in many of these expensive instruments that it is safer not to use them rather than battle with the arcane algorithms required. We are also seeing this in car nav systems. By the time you work out where you are, you have either run over several pedestrians or hit the reef. The focus seems to be on gaudy bright colours and flashing symbols which provide an interface that is reminiscent of computers twenty years ago. Other similarities to those dark days include a lack of standards, really bad interaction design and proprietary software. It’s like 1990 all over again.
The marine communications industry has many harsh environmental hurdles to overcome including water, salt, limited DC power and distance. Considering this the functionality of their equipment is quite reliable. Yet the first company (and this industry includes some very large companies) who can provide an intuitive and functional navigation system will be on a winner. They badly need the iPhone of navigation. In fact now that the iPhone has GPS built in I might just use that.
Of course the best part is turning all the crap off and just going sailing. It always amazes me just how exciting it is to drive five tonnes of boat through the water at a meagre 10 knots with wind power alone. This is the bit that puts a smile on your dial.
Boston - MIT is a large campus with plenty going on. So when I happened across a small faculty talk featuring Sir Tim Berners-Lee, now known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, I knew I had to go and hear this genial boffin’s views on the future of the web.
Because we were few we all did brief introductions around the room. There was enough thinking capacity here to power a small city. Between physicists, artificial intelligence experts and other engineering related disciplines the MIT Centre for Collective Intelligence was truly living up to its name.
Berners-Lee was both enigmatic and insightful and it was wonderful to be in a small space with his thinking rather than the usual auditoriums where he speaks. His talk revolved around the following premise:
” We are exploring the essence of what it means to be web-like: connected, decentralized, fractal and tangled. Is it time for us to plan more? Can we start to understand the web itself as a complex system? Should we look at it more as the web of people than a web of pages?”
Essentially Berners-Lee is saying that the technology is no longer the focus. Social rules were changing faster than technology. Yet developers and technologists in general were still focussed on efficiency rather than effectiveness. In addition mapping ontologies (relationships) was going to be too slow and by the time they were done new social relationships could make them redundant.
This was music to my ears but I could sense the discomfort in the room. Scientists don’t always like to include humans in their thinking. Humans can be erratic, unpredictable and even irrational. Yet the argument they were hearing was that the future of the web will not be engineered but possibly developed through a ” collection of half-formed ideas”. So while mapping the existing networks and tree like structure of the WWW was useful there needed to be more work done to understanding and predicting the parallel social developments the changes in technology and business models induced.
All of my work around Synergistic Design mirrors Berners-Lee’s conclusion. Technology, practice and business can not operate in isolation. They depend on and influence each other. And using a creative yet methodical research and design approach is the only way to uncover, and possibly predict, the true relationships that occur in our systems and organisations. And yes that research should very much include humans.
The slides from this talk are not on the www.w3.org site yet but I will update this page when they are.
Redbean September 2007 - I look for synergy in organisations, teams and learning and performance programs. Clark Quinn has stated that “aligning engagement and education creates a synergy to make a more compelling and effective experience. Doing good engagement is hard, as is good education… Learning can, and should, be hard fun.” (Engaging Learning, 2005 - http://www.quinnovation.com/).
Making learning “hard fun” has spun off a whole industry known as Serious Games (expected to be US$1.5B in 2008) which is being taken very seriously by the government, corporate and the education sectors. You can even get a Masters degree in serious game design from Michigan State University. http://seriousgames.msu.edu/
Anne Derryberry has just written a comprehensive paper on Serious Games where she argues that “21st century learning experiences need to reflect the lives of 21st century learners.” It is a great read and provides a balanced view of what an investment in serious games can do for an organisation. Adobe commissioned this paper and it is available on Anne’s website. www.imserious.net