Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Show Off

I bet the Nook also really shows off well what books you have with that coverflow screen on the bottom. So you can casually show off to everyone, from friends you are showing it to, to over-shoulder-readers in the bus, just how literate you are and what good taste you have and what media-tribe you belong to.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Does This Look Familiar?

Just confirmed by Barnes & Noble: the Nook -- seen here to the left -- their competitor to Amazon's Kindle. A black & white -- well, gray on white -- electronic paper display that is readable like a book in bright sunlight, with a color touchscreen on the bottom for flexible controls. It runs on Android 1.6, so that color screen most likely will show a touch keyboard.

Hey wait a minute. Where have I seen that before?

Oh yeah...

My friend Mike and I kinda came up with that device style -- mock-up to the right -- when we looked at the Kindle 2 and didn't like it all that much.

B&N STOLE OUR IDEA! Well, no, not really, I bet; multiple designers will look at the same problem and come up with the same solutions since we all live in the same world. (But if they did, send us free ones and we'll call it even!)

Well, what is next?

I remember when I started work in 1999 for Nokia on the WAP toolkit for making Mobile Internet Sites that we would all see these concepts of where phones were going in the bright and glorious future. Mostly, large color screens, front and back cameras, video calling, and strange egg-like shapes. Pretty much everything has come to pass except for the egg-like shapes. Sure, Nokia tried a bit, got good reviews for the software and bad reviews for the crazy hardware, and we are now all back to slightly curved rectangles, with or without keypads popping out. This is why pretty much all smartphones are boring me these days: box box box box box. Even the iPhone is too boxy with all that black.

Yet the concepts out there for personal communications are about armbands, curves, shapes that bend to the body for carrying but straighten out for viewing. You can't see a video or publicity still for a new display technology without some person in it trying to bend it, twist it, show how thin it is. Foldable screens are a way to deal with the issue that we want a device to be big when we are looking to interact, but tiny when we just want to carry it on our person.

So I am ready to say that this is where the future will go for electronic ink and for phones, media players, portable game machines: they will be full color, high resolution, and fold out, bend, clasp around your wrist or disappear into your pocket. Many will flirt with being wearable, but not everyone will want that (my wrists sweat too much for a watch to be comfortable, for example). They will have adjustable font sizes as an increasing amount of the population grows older, and they will upload and download everything without wires or memory cards. And when they are widely available, you can ask me what come after that then.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let's Do That Debate Again!

First there was HTML, gray backgrounds with black text and blue links, and information was just let to flow on the page.

  • Then came the need for an 'experience', and newly minted web designers started asking how big the average screen was, because scrolling was evil. 640 by 480 pixels was a target, while many decried that as too big and leaving too many people with smaller monitors behind.
  • Then came debates within the 'experience' community whether enough people had migrated to 800 by 600 screens, with many decrying that target size as too big and leaving too many people with smaller monitors behind.
  • Or even 1024 by 800 pixels wide, with many decrying that target size as too big and leaving too many people with smaller monitors behind.
  • Then monitors became cheap as dirt and the only debates were on what content should be 'above the fold', because scrolling is evil: users won't do it and if a function is not sign-posted in the top eye target hit area, users won't look for it.
  • Then we had the whole debate again for tiny screens. Scrolling: even more evil. Well, it was indeed a pain on most WAP phones.
  • Then the iPhone made scrolling such fun users were doing it to pass the time. I wonder if there's an app to let you endlessly flick up and down and shows twirling colors or something when you do.
  • Now smartphones are running full browsers grabbing full pages on small screens, making the user scroll again, while inching to become the primary if not major secondary device with which a user accesses the web.

I foresee a new debate in many a digital agency about whether 640 by 480 is a target resolution that is leaving too many users behind.