There is a a quote that I hear many times which says something to the effect that technology executed well is nearly indistinguishable from magic. In many respects, I can see that very well being the case for how I approach and converse with others about the mobile tech in my life.
For example, in one story that I read yesterday, the boundary of cost is what helped to push the imagination behind much of the tech seen in the various Star Trek series. It was even to the point that the PADD that was used on The Next Generation is almost exactly the same as the iPad that I am typing this on.
But, there’s something even beyond that simplicity. There is this effect that happens when the jagged edges of technology are slowly or quickly replaced with things that just work. It’s that moment where tech begins to really be like magic. It just works. Then we are left with making decisions ourselves towards how we use that tool to empower our lives.
Susan Orlean said something of note in a recent interview via MacWorld:
…Laptops are going to start seeming like work tools. And iPads will be the sort of interesting, exploratory, adventuring, device. And not so much work but functional for work. And laptops are going to start seeming really drab and functional but its interesting it wouldn’t have occurred to me to get a laptop for my son to use in the car…
For her, the magic of the iPad was that it wasn’t just something to keep her child occupied in the car, but it would be an active learning tool where she could control the content, while using ute simplicity of the interface as a means to teach him to explore his world. The harshness of laptops, and even mobiles in some respects, doesn’t invite this except to some of us strange folks.
But for everyone else, when things get simple, they get usable and relevant. Then it is magic. It answers a concern, and probably does so with a view into life that is normally reserved for dreams and really fancy movie budgets.
I think of the many mobile devices that I have looked at in the past months. There is some good stuff happening, but usually not simple stuff. There are widgets, download speeds, applications, and splintered costs, but very little active engagement. When the device doesn’t just show you a pretty picture, but changes to match the weather so that you are prepared for your workday or a long travel, then it’s magical.
I think what I am trying to say is that simplicity is what counts most. Being relevant to how we want to engage our world, and at the same time being stroked in our imaginations because there will continue to be things created. Because whether we are in line for an iPhone 4 or a Nokia C3, we do recognize that there is something neat happening, and the result of such magic can and should improve our conversations and view of the world around us.