Saying goodbye to the old world

The Christmas period saw me truly enter the tablet age, with the arrival of an iPad and a Kindle Touch to my stable of gadgets. I had been coveting an iPad since it arrived, but tried my best to stick to a “wait till the 3rd generation” rule with Apple products, however an opportunity arose to get one and I jumped at the chance. The Kindle was a little different, I wasn’t pining for it in the same way, but in the end I got an Amazon voucher so decided to take the plunge and help make my reading on the ‘L’ a little more comfortable.

I had a moment today however where I realized just how quickly and pervasive these new technology items are becoming in my life. It used to feel like it would take decades to go from launch to full adoption at a critical mass scale. But now, that consumer level adoption seems to happen so much quicker. The smart phone and tablet revolution is the best examples of this rapid adoption.

Here is what I realized today:

  • I read my news on the iPad (hooray for Flipboard, the most awesome app I have seen for the iPad)
  • Watch TV over the internet with the Roku (I’d cancel cable if it wasn’t for the Fox Soccer Channel that delivers my weekly dose of football)
  • Read books on a Kindle
  • Stay in touch with friends and family on Facebook
  • Make video phone calls with my parents in England by Skype

It is mind-blowing to me when I look at this list. It has the feeling of a seismic shift from an old world to a new world approach to life. So many of my day-to-day activities rely on very recent technology, and yet using and adopting that technology has become easier and easier. The Steve Jobs mantra of technology that “just works” is clearly setting the tone for new product development, and the old masters of usability, Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen, must be thrilled to see the level at which interaction design is on the whole operating.

What is fascinating to me when I think about this trend, is that it is happening at the same time there is a “good enough” and lean approach to product development. More and more products hit the open market that are not fully finished, in the sense that some functions are a little rough around the edges, and they only arrive with a small, niche feature set. See the Amazon Fire as an example, it does a good job of playing movies, and reading books is bearable, but start using other features such as the web, and it quickly gets messy. But this approach counter-intuitively leads to a better product, as the early adopters use, abuse, and most-importantly feedback in to the product designer.  Therefore each version is configured to solve the pain-points of actual users, and the product develops in tandem with customer wants and real-life use cases, and due to technology improvements, release cycles are very quick, and on the whole getting quicker (too quick Mozilla if you ask me!).

Going back to my list of daily technology uses, I was thinking about which areas of my life are still loitering in the old world, and two items immediately come to mind.

1. Money
I still need to reach in to my pocket for a dollar bill or pay some vendors by check. I know people are working on this problem. PayPal are trying to set up a payment platform globally, and Square is an exciting new way to pay. I also hear that paying using your mobile phone, with some near field communication is on the horizon, but I think we are in limited test phase only. But this is significant area where technology really has not disrupted the conventions of the ages, and moved us in to line with many other areas of our lives.  In a slightly related point, I am on the waiting list for the Simple banking app, which looks awesome and is certainly a step in the right direction for money management in the Web 2.0 era.

2. Locks
I hadn’t really thought about this much until this blog post, but the old lock and key, is probably one of the most anachronistic item I use every day. Going to a hotel, or I hear being in Japan or Korea where key card locks are commonplace in  the cities, shows that we are already moving slowly away from the mechanical lock, but there must be a good opportunity here for mobile device integration with home security systems?

Overall I find it so exciting to live in a time where technology is accelerating so quickly, and consumer adoption and importantly appetite for these products is keeping pace and driving the change.  Bring on the devices of 2012 and beyond!

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