I just spoke at Appnation's closing keynote, which is a tribute to Mark Weiser. Most of the keynote was a conversation between Drew Ianni, the organizer, Lars Erik Holmquist and Matthias Rost of the Mobile Life lab, Bo Begole of PARC, and me, but we got a couple of minutes up front to talk about how we believe Weiser's ideas were relevant today.
I decided to make myintro about how those early ideas affect user experience design today. Here are my speaking notes from that intro:
What happened between the original era of ubicomp and today is the Web.
When Weiser and PARC were developing the original ideas for ubicomp, they were working in the world of traditional office applications. In that video they're using shared versions of word processors and things like MacPaint, and we know that's not how we now understand the value of networked computers.
They gave us a vision of the hardware, but it took 15 years of success and failure on the Web to teach a generation of designers and entrepreneurs where the value in networked computing lies. Now we have a healthy body of cultural knowledge and tools for designing user experiences that deliver value to enormous numbers of people simultaneously, in a mostly device-agnostic way.
We're at the point where the technological basis of what they is finally a reality. For about five years we've had devices that are badge, tab, pad, and board size. But more than just the form factor, we now have what we learned from the Web to tell us what goes on those devices.
What we're now seeing is the combination of the two philosophies, of single experiences that are simultaneously available through multiple form factors.
For example, when you think of Netflix or Boxee you think of a single thing, even though it may be running on completely different devices. You pause a TV show on a connected TV, walk out of the house, and unpause it on your phone on the bus.
I think that kind of transparent transition between devices is the real legacy of Weiser and PARC, and it's playing out right now in experiences that transcend apps to become services.