Honey, If you loved me, you’d know what I wanted…
This CNET opinion piece discusses the naturally iterative relationship between high tech gadgets and their users. There are (pretty funny) jokes about how cars would work (or not) if GM treated cars like M$ treated computers, but these miss the point that unlike cars, electronic devices can change after you buy them. Software is becoming increasingly behaviorally complex and not just “complicated” it’s becoming impossible to predetermine the results of every interaction the user can have with the device. We demand that we can buy new stuff and load it on our computers and it will work. We don’t expect that of mechanical devices, which, by definition are “simply” complicated (its impossible for a car to operate differently after you change the oil or buy new tires). Buy a new operating system for you computer and you have a fundamentally different device than you had before.
With embedded computer in more and more tech gear, this ability to offer new functionality through software and firmware upgrades blurs the line between the mechanically simple and the behaviorally complex. Product producers can add new features and adapt existing ones to customer preferences. This is a far cry from Ford offering “any color you want, as long as its black.”
Getting the “user experience” right from the get go requires the same sort of psychic powers as the title lament…we can be mad about it, or we can communicate and improve the gadget/customer relationship..