a glob of nerdishness

June 27, 2007

Interface evolution: iPhone as home computer

written by natevw @ 5:48 am

I came across Philip Greenspun’s Mobile Phone As Home Computer at about the same time as Apple revealed a guided tour of their expensive (and hopefully excellent) new cell phone.

If Pilot/Photographer/Peregrinator/Professor/Philip Greenspun was on the right track in late 2005, Apple is on the right track now. The iPhone already has most features on Greenspun’s “What must it do?” list: Web browsing, email, calendar, contacts, digital photos, music and movies. Further, as he hopes, none of the desktop applications the iPhone syncs with (Address Book, iCal and iTunes, plus services on the Web) rely much, if at all, on the files/folders paradigm. Even the iPhone’s main menu focuses, arguably, less on applications and more on organizing documents into categories of appointments, photos, entertainment and the like. This could have been more revolutionary — Bruce Tognazzini rightly berates the “hard separation of email, SMS, and voicemail”, which also turns up in the separation of “Photos” and “YouTube” from the other multimedia accessed via “iPod” — but regardless, there is no visible hierarchy of endlessly-nested folders containing files and other files that open those files and more files to tell those files where the other files are. I digress…

There are other more disruptive/revolutionary ideas in Greenspun’s article which Apple has chosen to forego in lieu of what is, in undistorted reality, simply an evolutionary device done well for a change. I think, though, that users will appreciate being able to take smaller steps away from the familiar into the future via subtle changes in the computer interfaces they already know.

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