Recently I got into a debate about interfaces. I know this isn’t the most common conversation. Actually, it was spawned by a conversation about my last blog post on Windows 7. Critiques (even if they are not heavy handed) will usually cause someone from a group that loves the item to lash out at you without fully thinking about the review. Zealotry of anything will cause you to be blind to some extent. The zealotry that is the core of most computer fights isn’t what most people think it is. Most people find themselves in three basic camps: Mac, Windows, or Linux/Unix.
Analyzing the problem further you will find that the real difference between all of these is the interface. The interface is how you interact with the computer. Mac people learned when their computers turned from Motorola processors to Intel that the guts became the same as everybody elses. They learned even earlier when Mac went to OSX that the core became Unix. Briefly returning to the aforementioned debate, the other person disagreed with my assessment of Windows 7 because the interface was easier to use for him. Joe Average User will never flip his lid over the look of Windows 7. Linux users have learned this the hard way. The major Linux interfaces are Gnome and KDE. Both of these have added all kinds of crazy effects, transitions, shading, etc. to better the eye candy in Mac and Windows. In actuality it can look much better than what either of the others can do. At that point they realized, “It’s not how pretty it looks. It’s usability. How easy it is to use.”
Usability is an area that Mac excels at. A Mac is a pretty easy piece of equipment to learn to use for the most part. With that said, it does however have the reputation of not being useful for higher level work or tweakers. Just creative types and people just typing papers and getting on the Internet. These areas seem to be some of the commonly said weaknesses of Linux. My friend’s believe in Windows 7 being easier to use goes even deeper than usability though. It strikes at the heart of my own zealotry. Input devices.
The monitor, mouse and keyboard have changed very little for the last 30+ years. We love these devices. They are near and dear to us. Have we reached the end of the interface road though? If you ever saw the move “Minority Report” you will be aware of Tom Cruise moving items in the air on a two dimensional projection in the sky. Many companies have come out with prototypes of this technology after Microsoft released video of it’s “Microsoft Surface” technology to come out to the public soon. Is this the next step? Even though keyboard changes like the Dvorak (no connection to publication famous John C. Dvorak) style keyboard were introduced in 1936, before the computer even came out, it has not been adopted because we don’t like massive changes in our inputs and interfaces.
So, all that to say the big question: “Have we reached the end of what we can get out of what we are using?” I really can’t picture how much more can be done that will totally blow the mind until virtual reality and 3D projection come but the future always holds some new surprises.