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Tablet conflict

April 11th, 2010 (07:30 pm)

Some background for why my last post was "Toying with the Dark Side":

I'm somewhat conflicted about the iPad. The first reaction, of course, is desire. It's a very nice gadget, with a UI that, in some ways, is substantially better than a mouse-based interface. All touch interfaces have the chance to be this good, but iPhone OS seems to do better than others. So far.

On the other hand, it's quite clearly the thin wedge of an effort to destroy the computing world as we know it. Apple brought computing to the masses (twice), and now they're working to overturn their own revolution. In their future, there would be no open systems; they would stand as gatekeeper (and toll collector), able to say who gets to write what software (and, now, in what language). This is evil beyond the dreams of Microsoft at their worst.

On the other other hand, it's clear that touch interfaces are going to supplant mouse interfaces—at present, they're on slower hardware, but that's temporary. It's a disruptive technology, and I feel that, for the sake of my career, I should try to keep up. (Admittedly, this is slightly weak, because I don't usually write UIs these days.) There are other touch UIs; but iPhone OS is where most of the action is, and the iPad has the best hardware. (I have a tablet, actually, a Nokia N810; but it's small, and it runs an old version of Maemo, which is more like a desktop mouse-oriented UI.) To develop for iPhone OS, though, you need a Mac. cvirtue and the kids have Macs, but I'd need a MacBook, so I could work on the train (which is where I get most of my personal hacking time these days).

Sigh. So there's my conflict. I'll probably resolve it by getting an Android tablet once there are some to choose from. (So far, I think the only one on the market is the Archos 5 Android, which is apparently pretty unstable.)

Comments

Posted by: Alexx Kay (alexx_kay)
Posted at: April 12th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)

"it's clear that touch interfaces are going to supplant mouse interfaces"

They'll supplant *some* mouse interfaces, sure. But there are a large number of tasks/environments for which mice are much better tools, and I don't expect to see them vanish any time soon.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: April 12th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)

True. It's a disruptive technology: it's better for some things, worse for others, and the boundary will shift over time.

But it's already good enough that most things most people want to do can be done as well or better with a touch interface. A large part of the strength of GUIs is that you can directly manipulate objects you're working on. Going to a touch screen makes it much more direct.

Posted by: Alexx Kay (alexx_kay)
Posted at: April 12th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)

Direct, yes, but also clumsy. Fingers are much larger than mouse pointers. They obscure more of the working area, and are much less precise.

Also, harder to use at range. As long as we aren't yet at the "paperless office" (which I don't expect to ever see in actuality), it's useful to have vertical monitors that extend the working space of the desk upwards. Those will be harder to use with touch. And I'm frequently in meetings where one person is driving a screen at the other end of a large room.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: April 12th, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)

Direct, yes, but also clumsy. Fingers are much larger than mouse pointers.

True. I expect that we'll wind up with more and more interfaces redesigned to be touchable; the last holdouts will be the ones that absolutely have to be precise.

And I'm frequently in meetings where one person is driving a screen at the other end of a large room.

But aren't those mostly either PowerPoint or game demos? The former is simpler with a presentation remote; the latter is a niche market.

There is probably an intermediate case: a meeting that's actually getting work done—e.g., brainstorming, or collaborative editing. In that case, the solution is probably an MVC approach, where viewers and controllers can be on different screens and different hosts. Then you can edit the shared document on your tablet, and it'll show up on the main screen, but the main screen won't be a simple mirror of your tablet's screen; it'll be a different view of the same document.

Posted by: Justin du Coeur (jducoeur)
Posted at: April 15th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC)

Sounds familiar: I'm in much the same place, and will probably wind up with much the same solution. I like the pad concept, but at this point I'm increasingly unwilling to be an enabler of Apple's bad habits...

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