Content and user interface are the most obvious but least important challenges for future Net devices.
From a long tradition of unfortunate code names comes "Paparazzi,"
the family name announced
for a line of wireless data devices from the dynamic duo
of Microsoft and Swatch. Whether you like the name or hate itmy
stand, Im sure, is apparentthese devices represent more than their
obvious challenges to developers.
I have to take a moment to observe that this is one really awful
trademark. But look at the history: Microsoft has already had to
abandon the code name of "Hailstorm,"
a word without a single positive association, for its personal Web
services offering. Swatch, for its part, deserves some kind of medal
its mega-weird notion of "Beats," a proposed unit of universal
at 1000 Beats per day. What was wrong with Zulu?
Put these two marketing teams in the same room, and youd almost
expect them to come up with a trademark like "Paparazzi"
word derived from the name of an annoying character in a Fellini film,
newly celebrated (if thats the word) in a
movie produced by Mel Gibson,
and internationally recognized as a
nickname for someone who shoves his annoying hardware in your face.
If we put the unfortunate MicroSwatch trademark aside, we can see
that Paparazzi is actually ... um, well, an unfortunate idea. Its the
latest incarnation of Microsofts Smart
Personal Object Technology
or SPOT. (The latter, it seems to me, is
another ill-chosen name: When I hear "spot," I think of Lady Macbeth
trying to wash her hands of something that didnt work out as planned.
I suppose, though, that SPOT was better than the original proposal: I
put Dan Rathers fact-checking team on the job, and they confirmed that
whats now called SPOT was originally dubbed Microsoft Accessories for
Compressing Bit-based Entertainment into Tiny Hardware. But I digress.)
The crucial question is, whats the import for application
It would be easy to get sidetracked by the interesting problem of
writing applications that tailor themselves to the available client
resourcesto adapt without user intervention to the full-screen
displays of PCs, the small-screen displays of PDAs and cell phones, and
the tiny-screen displays of smart wristwatches. We can have a lot of
fun with the XML tricks, for example, that make this possible with
minimal redundant code.
Its clear, though, that in the not-too-distant future, the Internet
needs to become a backplane inhabited more by devices communicating
with each other than by devices (or people) consuming the increasingly
scarce time and attention of (other) people. The best user interface is
no user interface: Consuming the users attention is a defect, not a
Nicholas Negropontes dream house.