What if we try to imagine a user interface for an operating system that leaves the old physical desktop behind. How do we actually work with files and contacts and communications? What is an easier way of managing these. Interesting questions, and I’m feeling my way through to imagine what can come next.
Right now there is an increasingly strong interplay between:
- Email – the way I communicate with people
- Internet – where I get new information including documents and news
- File system – where I maintain files and store private content of personal data including photos documents etc.
Yes, everything is going to the cloud – but it is not enough to just say that. Here are a list of integrated features which are already here, on their way, or (in my opinion) should be. (√ = done, Ο = not done)
√ Device independence; Instead of having a device perspective, my user system should be user focused. I don’t care where I saw a website from it should be in the same clickstream. I don’t care where I saved a document or a music file – I want to be able to access it from any of my devices. The cloud is rapidly delivering on this vision with autosync – amazon, apple and google all have their own versions of this – with popular upstarts dropbox and others maintaining a foothold.
√ Contact Harmonization: I know a certain number of people, and still know the same people regardless of which device or application I’m using. Thankfully my phone is starting to be able to keep up with this. My google, facebook, and phone number contacts are synced such that when I call somebody their picture (and most recent facebook status) appear. When I email somebody, my xobni or Rapportive plugin shows me their linkedin profile and perhaps to some recent tweets. This is good. There are still some hiccups between my outlook contacts, but we’re getting there.
O Message format independence. Right now on my phone – from a single device I can choose to send a text (SMS) through the phone lines, a message on facebook, an email from my personal or work addresses. I agree with only the final separation.
O Self-Aware Documents. I’m sure that lawyers must have this type of software that allows them to look back through revision history of a document and see how many times a word has been changed back and forth. Tracking changes in word gets messy in a hurry. There is room to do better with temporal layering of documents, but let’s not dwell on that. I want a document that not only can track edits automatically (gdocs does this already). I want a document that can tell where it has been and who has edited it. I want a document that knows how many hours it has been worked on. I want a document that knows what it is about, and more importantly what other documents nearby might be for a similar project.
O AutoCluster: From folders we went to tags. Tags are a little less binding but no less cumbersome to work with. Search has helped us limp along as we have by – regardless of file framework – still being able to find something based on it’s content and our fleeting memory of what it was about. The next step will be documents that know how they are being used. For example – a document that knows the resources used in it’s creation – knows the collaborators – and then can check back through people who it has been sent to, how long they looked at it, and any comments from such people and be able to harmonize and add comments from each of those other parties for revision harmonization.
O Air Input: The keyboard is a very limiting input device. An HD stylus that really worked more like paper would be a nice next step. Audio is getting better, and is a great next step. What has yet to materialize is a non-keyboard manual input – A digital interface where digit means “finger”. This allows for a user to interact with a wearable computer without having to whip out a tiny keyboard.