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Apple

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Shellshock. Whiplash. Overload.

What a month or so. Give me half a chance I am sure I will be sitting on a park bench somewhere in 50 years time reminiscing about the two months from September to October '11, 'them were big ones'.

Demibooks, the company I co-founded reached a funding milestone.

There was the release of an apparently deflating iPhone 4S. However, the rush of sales that proved many a pundit wrong or irrelevant. The iPhone 4S is selling like the proverbial hotcakes. It may have something to do with the super sexy Siri (Hal 9000's little sister). The age of the talkative machine is coming and no one knows where it well end (as long as it doesn't end like it does in the movies!)

An IT industry rocked by the news of Steve Jobs death, something that seemed unexpectedly and perhaps irrationally to affect the world at large. A single death that had a much deeper impact on those working in user experience and design.

For a company that appears to scorn the classic UX techniques, they sure produce a vast number of incredible technological hits that in turn create large scale social change. Devices that have pushed experience into the frontal lobes of technologists worldwide.

The Kindle Fire, the first tablet (other then the iPad) that seems to hit a sweet spot of gear + content.

Apple and Samsung take it to the patent ring to duke it out.

Facebook Timeline. Your Life digitized in one long timeline.

Technologies like Tumblr, Twitter, Blogger, Facebook mobilizing civilian armies worldwide to protest socio-economic inequality. Protesters using twitter as a political platform (again) when occupying Wall Street.

Meanwhile, the cynical could argue that the froth of high-technology and social movement has done little to address truly wicked problems, like a famine threatening to break out in the Sudan.

Truly a month made of equal parts joy, sadness, devastation and hope.

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Technology is scary without Steve Jobs

I'm writing this on an iPhone, which should say a lot. My last phone was a Sony Ericsson. I loved it. It could take pictures, it had a very basic form of email. My phone before the Sony was a glowing green screen Nokia. The old candy-bar style phone that you could safely hit with a hammer. 

Then I got an iPhone (the less we say about that relationship, the better).

Needless to say the iPhone, for better or worse, redefined by perception of what a phone (computer?) could do.More importantly, my iPhone redefined what technology should really be like. I have always had the idealistic view that the best technology becomes invisible.

My iPhone is not invisible. When it is in my hand it is far from out of mind. Sadly, it is probably the only thing in my mind. The iPhone provides entertainment and therefore attracts my attention. 

But when I want to do a task, it is so much easier to do it on the iPhone, when compared to the same task on other phones of equivalent capabilities and functions. Trust me (or don't), as an experience architect, I come into contact with a lot of newest gadgets on the market. Nokia, Blackberry, Droids. I've tried them all recently. The phone that was a relief to return to, was my iPhone. 

As I mentioned before, it may be that the mark of truly significant technology is that it fades into the task. I also mentioned, the iPhone does not do that. Very few technologies do this (except the humble automatic sliding glass door which opens without me even thinking about it. Magic.). However, the iPhone (and other Apple products) come closer then any high technology product has come before it.

But I hated Apple originally. My initial experience with Apple was
with a Apple IIGs, at a time when my friends had the latest IBM or clone machine. They could play games and I could barely find a copy of Frogger. 

Fast forward to the last couple of years and I am an Apple advocate. Have I consumed the kool-aid? Has the famed reality distortion field warped my gaze? I don't think so. I just got tired of working on my technology, I wanted to work with it to do my job, or write, or use the internet. Spending hours a day tweaking non-Apple hardware was taking my time away from actually doing the work. 

Then Steve came back. And it all changed. 

But that is a simplistic perspective. I get that. Cook, Ives and others are leading figures and true sources of work. But I can't help but wonder if there is something beyond that, something intangible. Some like vision, or guts. Vision to see a different technology and the guts to (arrogantly or otherwise) make it happen. 

The language of compromise is everywhere. Product after product enters our markets guiltily draped in compromise before it has even made it off the shelf. Plastic parts, weak keyboards, Operating Systems that show the influence of a thousand different chefs and no Head Of The Kitchen.

And that is just it. Steve Jobs, head of the kitchen, and his Degustation the stream of Apple products that have redefined markets, pushed Apples market share to the stratosphere, given them a cash kitty larger then the US government. 

Is that too much to lay on the now thin shoulders of one man? Perhaps. 

A very small part of me still shivers a little, hoping that there is still vision at the helm to keep the overwhelming aspects pf technology at bay.







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