Since we promised to discuss innovation regularly, it is a good time to return to the do’s and don’ts of aping. Earlier, I already established that Microsoft’s Zune is far from a devastating, deeply innovating answer to the domination of Apple’s iPod. To be able to do sort of the same, but obviously not so cool, it is not exactly the market proposition you are looking for. And things can be made worse, for example by claiming that it is so convenient to exchange MP3 songs between two Zunes through the wireless connection (Steve Job’s answer: “I’ve seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your ear buds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of head phone cable”).
How aping can work out the right way is proven by Apple’s new iPhone device. The very juicy user interface consists of exactly one (‘home’) button and is entirely based on a touch sensitive screen. I am not sure how many patents have been registered, but it seems sure that that the impact of the iPhone on the user interfaces of computer-like devices in the forthcoming years will be massive.
What is especially remarkable in one of the demo’s hat can bee seen on YouTube
(besides the built-in sensors that automatically change from portrait to landscape mode and vice versa) is the way in which pictures are manipulated: enlarging, scaling down, arranging, it is all being down with smart, intuitive finger movements.
It brought me instantaneously back to the visionary ideas of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, in which hero Tom Cruise handles images in a very similar way.
And right after that, I recalled a highly impressive demo of Jeff Han during the TED innovation seminar, almost a year ago now, in which he showed several groundbreaking applications on a ‘multi-touch’ sensitive screen.
Note especially the second application, the one with the pictures, where the crowd raises the roof. There must have been an Apple delegation in the room. First they were charmed, then inspired. After that, they aped it in a smart way: the result is unique and yet very recognizable.
Meditate on it for just a while. Luckily, in some cases moving images still beat prose. In the meantime, let’s conclude with a comment that my colleague Milé Buurmeijer recently posted on an earlier blog-item about extremely simplified, ‘ZEN garden’ user interfaces:
“Then Apple’s iPhone came along. Have you seen its user interface? Awesome touch screen. For example, you can unlock it by moving a slider to the right. That’s far more convenient then the key combination on my phone. But the real ZEN garden is provided by the single home button! It’s still a phone, but is it? Are the operators aware that this phone will kill revenues with its visual voice mail?”
Just to make sure: I’m not suggesting in any way that Microsoft is consistently failing on innovation. One quick look at their Live Labs proves it. Especially their Photosynth application tickles the mind. Then again, imagine how it would run on an iPhone.
Did we hear a monkey there?