Posts in Category "Devices"

Evaluating device choices

We’re entering a period of high change, high choice in new types of devices… phones, tablets, readers, televisions, computers in various form-factors. Things will change even quicker as more operating systems make their Flash-enabled releases. I don’t know enough to offer a model-by-model buying guide, but here are a few quick questions which can help classify device choices.

One of the tricky incentives is that nearly every manufacturer wants to highlight the world’s creative SWF content… they want Flash. This leads to differences between various Player 10.1 and Flash Lite offerings… between devices which have worked with Adobe for mutual optimization and those which haven’t… even between Adobe runtimes and non-Adobe SWF renderers (whether JavaScript or native code or third-party ports).

Fastest shortcut is to check the devices Adobe has tested, in the Player 10.1 System Requirements page. [Update: New device page now available, more models.] These are known quantities, where both parties have worked together for a highlighted release. I don’t know how frequently this list will be updated as device shipments swell this autumn, but if you see a model on this list, then you know Adobe has confirmed the results.

Next, check the partner list at OpenScreenProject.org. These are manufacturers who are working with Adobe to bring a consistent high-performance interface layer across any screen. If they’re on this list then check more into particular models, but if they’re not a partner, then it’s good to check more into their particular SWF support.

Those are the big two differentiators — look for a known quantity, whether a model or a vendor. Here are some other tips, based on current online conversations.

  • Whose code? If an unexpected site offers an installation called “Adobe Flash Player”, then please really check into what it really is. There are some legit non-adobe.com installations (OS partners, some high-profile download aggregators, a few) but if a download doesn’t come from adobe.com, then it’s good to wonder why. Same goes for the operating system. Mainstream configurations are more predictable. (The history of early PostScript has some parallels, but on today’s Web there are additional security concerns.)
  • Flash Lite or Player 10.1? Up to you. Each is a different era, will do different things. There have been a billion or two devices shipped with Flash Lite through the world, and they’ll continue to play a role for some time to come. You may want your own high-end most-current device, but it’s really vital to know how your potential audience may experience things too. If you’re developing creative work for realworld audiences, then experiencing their experience is vital. Up to you.
  • Will my model play Flash later? Will it update? The manufacturer will be the best source of info. The general goal is for all devices to just automatically auto-update as time goes on, but it will take awhile to achieve that.
  • Will it all be totally groovy? Groovier than without, but the World Wide Web’s graphics & video haven’t always anticipated being displayed on itty-bitty screens (or great-big screens either, for that matter). It will take a few years before the Web is equally happy on all types of displays. High-resolution video files will particularly strain a connection. Set your expectation against prior reality, not idealized reality. It’s a big step forward.
  • How to troubleshoot? First step is to identify the actual problem, whether it’s stability, or performance, making the problem happen on-demand. On customizable devices it’s particularly necessary to get back to a known configuration. Adobe has info on general support, but for a new device, your manufacturer’s support area would likely have more pertinent and timely info.
  • Player vs AIR: The Adobe Flash Player works within browsers, and there’s a lot of existing web content, whether that’s one-third, two-thirds, whatever. AIR is applications, where the interface logic and data remain on your personal machine. Whether the app code itself is “in the cloud” or “on the desktop” is your own choice, and most people find both are necessary. First AIR/mobile deliveries are expected to appear on Android later this year. Do what makes sense for you now.

Bottom line: Try lots. Not just one form factor either. The devices you’ll use daily eighteen months from now likely don’t even exist yet. Experiment. Figure out how applications should work in daily life, how these devices should bend to your will. Watch young kids, to see how they naturally want to use it. Even if you can’t purchase one soon, then you’re still free to think, to imagine, to figure out what would be really useful, in a world where any screen communicate with any other. Now’s the time. Go for it.

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[Comments: Platform Wars elsewhere — and personal attacks from anonymous accounts, no way. Creating the future is bigger and more important than any investment in a brand.]

Better questions

“The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.”Claude Levi-Strauss

Augusts online are usually the time of scandal and high emotion, all based on little real news. It has gotten a little more dire now that many websites are paid by the click. “Is the Web dead? Is Net Neutrality dead? Did Privacy kill it? And what does Apple think of all this?” You know the drill.

But what’s going on around us, nearly unnoticed besides the pretty shiny drama, is the great advance humanity is making.

We’ve got the first universal translatorsdisplay screens big as six football fields… early control of external devices through handheld control panels… assistive technology which can turn anyone into Superman. It’s no longer sitting at a desk, staring at a screen.

Good progress, but we humans don’t know how to architect this stuff well. We made Usenet open to all, and forgot about spammers. Then made the same mistake with email. The World Wide Web of hyperlinked documents got buzzworded by “Web 2.0″ for third-party tracking. We yak yak yak and miss the big picture.

You’re living at a time in human history where, within two years, most everyone everywhere will have the world in the palm of their hand. And also, you’re one of the relatively few who sees this future coming and can do something about it, can influence its course.

It doesn’t really matter at all what brand of device is in their hand. The big question is, how will they use it, and how will we change as a result? How can we design things now to bring about a better result later?

You have the opportunity to change this, just by your day-to-day awareness… just by the questions you ask each day. The techblogs are a distraction, with the same dynamics as celebrity TV shows. You have to choose the questions you ask, else others will choose them for you.

With such massive disruptive opportunity arising in day-to-day life through multiple screens, what’s most important to you in the way they will be used? And what can you do to bring about the type of future you’d like? That’s really a much more valuable question to ask.

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Like to close out with some of the quotes from Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen which were in that interview in The Telegraph, almost hidden beneath the “But what about Apple” veneer.

“We’re really filling out the entire chain of what we can deliver to our customers,” he says.

“One of our key objectives was continuing to help our customers with the ability to have this content and application displayed on multiple devices. We’ve seen the explosion of smartphones and TV. It’s very exciting.”

“We’re delivering on our promise of enabling people to author once and deploy multiple times,” he says.

“It’s so early in the entire mobile revolution. People are going to use mobile devices to do more and more in terms of accessing content and applications on the web.

“Digital publishers are undergoing a massive transformation in terms of the business model and the emergence of the tablet devices as well as smartphones is a new opportunity for them to monetise their content.

“We’re a significant part of helping them make that transformation. Marketing firms around the world are all moving their businesses online.

“There have been so many naysayers about our ability to take Flash and all its power and make it run and sing on mobile devices and we’ve proved that can be done. We’re mission-critical to the companies we work with.”

“Around the world, when I tell people that I work for Adobe it’s amazing to see their faces light up when they talk about Photoshop and how it’s changed their world, or Acrobat and PDF and how they’ve helped them be more effective.”

(Adobe, I think, is a reasonable bet in all this… the company has had the good fortune to be oriented from its start around expanding the possibilities of human communication. Creative tooling has also sensitized Adobe early on to solving real human needs, and reconciling diverse desires. Adobe’s business is relatively transparent. I think it’s a trustworthy endeavor.)

Now’s The Time

I’d like to highlight a blogpost by Adobe staffer Mihai Corlan this week, “Unlocking the true potential of smartphones”… not for its answers, but for its questions.

Mihai starts by noting that “my first four computers were less powerful than the current smartphone I’m using these days”, and goes on to describe some things he’d like to do with it… controlling his television, house temperature, managing his music system, collaborating on to-do lists.

It makes sense. You’re carrying around a few ounces of electronics anyway. It should be able to communicate with other devices around you… should be, quite literally, “a control panel to the world”. It seems an inevitable future.

But it’s under-discussed. All the recent techblog psychodrama is just distraction. The reality is that there are entire new classes of affordable devices arriving this year. And unlike PCs or The Internet, these devices will be both globally adopted, and explosively adopted. The world in three years will be quite different from today.

We need to imagine now how people will want to use these personal, always-handy communication devices. A decade or two ago some sages surmised the potential of The Web, but even with its relatively slow growth we were all surprised by what we discovered we could do. Mobile potential was even more fragmented, but early adopters like Japan and Korea showed the potential, while texting showed the universal popularity. The next year will blow past those previous disruptions.

Please, take a minute, read Mihai’s post, see what problems he’s trying to address. Then visualize such scenarios in your own life, how such devices might be used, how they should be used.

We’re at a unique point in time right now — we can see the disruptive change ahead, even though we cannot readily see its form. But it’s too easy to turn away and let it fall upon us. I believe that the more we visualize and choose among possible futures now, the more quickly things will improve for everyone.

What kind of application would you use to control this, for instance…?

… and, after aftereffects, reality….

The biggest part of the problem described in my last post is that it distracts attention from reality. We’re on the cusp of something quite extraordinary here, of historical scale… nearly all humans will soon have pocket-sized communication and control screens. We need to think through these implications now.

Datapoint: “May 24 (Bloomberg) — Via Technologies Inc., the Taiwanese computer-processor company, expects $100 tablet devices containing its chips to reach the U.S. in the second half of 2010… About five different models, ranging in price from $100 to $150, will be available….”

The hardware is coming, complete with a predictable cross-device runtime. Creation tools have been rev’d to synch with this release. The network communications have already been explored. We’ve had a few years now of cloud-based experience. Humans quickly adopted the mobile phone, and so will likely flock to new, more fun devices.

All the pieces are in place. In three years everyone you know will be using handheld interfaces.

What will those interfaces accomplish… what techniques will work on-the-go… what surprising new types of uses will we find? The people who ask these questions now will be able to take faster advantage of these changes.

Of all the damage done by that branding-based baloney, those teasing techblog theatrics, the worst may be is that it distracts attention from what is truly going on. The brands are but a pimple on the trends.

Everyone you meet will soon communicate with the world, even control parts of their world, from a device they can hold right in their hand. What do you want this world to become?

Not just “What can I code?”, but “What are the real needs, and how best to satisfy them?”

In three years people will be famous and successful for having asked these questions early. You can join them, by imagining this future now.

Bi Sheng’s Big Night

“During the reign of Chingli, about the year 1040 of the Common Era, Bi Sheng of Bianliang, a man of unofficial position, invented moveable type…

“His method was as follows: he took sticky clay and cut in it characters, as thin as the edge of a coin. Each character formed, as it were, a single type. He baked them in the fire to make them hard.

“He had previously prepared an iron plate and he had covered his plate with a mixture of pine resin, wax, and paper ashes.

“When he wished to print, he took an iron frame and set it on the iron plate. In this he placed the types, set close together.

“When the frame was full, the whole made one solid block of type. He then placed it near the fire to warm it. When the paste at the back was slightly melted, he took a smooth board and pressed it over the surface, so that the block of type became as even as a whetstone.

“For each character there were several types, and for certain common characters there were twenty or more types each, in order to be prepared for the repetition of characters on the same page.

“When the characters were not in use he had them arranged with paper labels, one label for each rhyme-group, and kept them in wooden cases….”

— via Wikipedia, via Shen Kuo

One night, just shy of a thousand years ago, one of us had an idea. A complex, multi-step idea. An audacious idea that he would carry out the next day. Would it work? There were so many steps, all untried. Would people accept it? People misunderstood when he tried to tell them about it. Would it make a difference? Even though Bi Sheng had belief in his work, he must have thought this over and over, wrestling with anticipation, that whole night through.

It’s a similar night tonight. Except there are more of us now. Bi Sheng’s work let any printer compose any book without the need for custom woodblocks. Now we’re on the verge of any creative person being able to reach nearly any device.

Any person, any experience, any screen.

I bet Bi Sheng was excited, on that last night before his first real test. I know I sure am. There’s tons more work yet to do, but it’s truly exhilarating to see the first results.

The Road To The Pocket (or: Vive Flash Lite!)

Been thinking about posts last week from Dan Rayburn and Matt Voerman. I saw parts of that history too, and don’t agree with all of the views expressed (particularly those from anonymous accounts ;-) but the blogposts made me think.

Big takeaway: A road may not always be straight and linear, but it does tend to bring you to the destination.

Lots of bright minds at lots of firms have been working toward personal connected interactivity for well over a decade. The path has not been straight, but what matters now is that we have nearly arrived — a world full of new economical devices, with a common presentation layer, and with a new set of tooling for today’s design/development tasks. Most importantly, we have already seen strong consumer receptivity to such new devices.

Tinder and kindling, awaiting a spark… the dawn of a new design.

Adobe Creative Suite 5, the Flex 4 ecology, and the cross-device Adobe Flash Player 10.1 will all help many more designers and developers reach these new devices more easily… sort of like when railroads first united frontier towns. But I believe the domain knowledge acquired over the past few years by the pioneers — Flash Lite developers — will give them a unique edge in this upcoming surge of growth.

Flash Lite developers know about smaller interfaces and more constrained devices viscerally, first-hand… they have experiential knowledge which Device Central alone cannot convey. Flash Lite developers are also experienced in figuring out how to create a business serving device owners — the hustle and scuffle of making things work in novel arrangement. They’ve also watched more, learned more from the experiments of others. For these new devices, Flash Lite developers will have more knowledge, richer context.

And, of course, atop those skills applied to newer smartphones and tablets, there’s also the entire population of existing devices, and new non-smartphone sales… those existing code skills will remain valuable for a good while to come. In a world where selling 50,000,000 of a particular device is considered revolutionary, an audience of 1,200,000,000 isn’t really inconsequential either.

Here’s my point: Creative Suite 5 and Player 10.1 make it easier for more people to reach this new generation of devices. I think it will really open the floodgates. But the early innovators who have grown Flash Lite skills over the decade — they have an intangible edge. They have great domain knowledge, they know how to make things work.

Doesn’t matter how we got here, how you’d do things differently with hindsight. What matters now is that humankind is finally at the point of being able to carry around a connected, interactive screen through daily life.

And you will be the person to design, develop, deliver that screen.

This is where we’re at right now. Doesn’t matter how we got here. What really matters is the road ahead.

I think it’ll be fun, fun, fun. :)

[Comments: Software wars elsewhere, and please “own your words”, thanks.]

Questions about 2012

Trying to think through some trends, would appreciate your thoughts, thanks.

I believe we’re on the verge of tremendous changepocket screens, universal, all communicating… tooling, already familiar, tuned to the change… the Dawn of a New Design.

The first screen was custom-fitted to its content… a book, a painting, another artifact… moveable type and desktop publishing, movie screens and recordings, all kept lowering the costs to make new artifacts to hold new content.

The second screen was dynamic, the PC which could display any content, even content which did not previously exist elsewhere. The third screen was when these PCs could communicate with each other, the Internet and its most familiar application, the World Wide Web.

Now we’re on the verge of the biggest of them all, the ever-handy personal screen of nearly every human, and the larger social screens these personal devices can control. It’s coming, massive as a freight train, faster adoption than print or PCs or Web.

By 2012 we won’t have seen the full scope of this change, but we will have much clearer evidence of its directions. What do you think we might have seen by then?

Adoption

It’s a safe bet these screens will become part of daily life quicker than PCs did, quicker than the WWW did. They’re far less expensive and will reach far more people. We’ve already seen how explosively people in any region adopt pocket voice or pocket text. And pocket screens are simply better toys.

But what will “adoption” mean? It can’t mean just “smartphone or featurephone”, because different brands and lines will have different abilities… that’s too simplistic a metric. Should we measure audience support by particular features, such as multitouch or device orientation (GPS, magnetometer, accelerometer)? But what then when two machines of similar capability are on different networks, and are permitted different experiences?

Illusions of inevitability aside, just how will this whole ecology grow?

How will we measure “adoption”? And how fast do you think people will carry around good, functional pocket screens? How are you planning on making decisions in this area… what will be the trigger for you? Thanks in advance for any anecdotes, perspectives.

Regionalism

PCs started in affluent pockets of North America and other urban centers. The Web started from more locations, but was still centered early-on in North America and Europe. Mobile voice and text, on the other hand, grew up in Japan, Korea, Australia, Norway, while North America was the laggard.

But this next generation of devices… it’s not just a local thing. Capability will be available everywhere in the world where the economies and networks can support them. Some even think it will grow much faster in depressed economies such as Africa, because phone-sharing can unite neighborhoods of people with the world. We’ll deal with global markets much sooner than we did with PCs or the Internet and Web.

How do you think you’ll approach strictly local markets, or multiple local markets, or global markets? Will you make more use of imagery and video, less of text and audio? Will you make your projects with external language assets which can be readily translated into other languages later, or just hardcode English into the app? Will regional development styles emerge?

What are you thinking about how regional, how global, your future work will be? If you looked back to today from the year 2012, what type of advice do you think you might be giving yourself?

Cost per action

What makes a project worthwhile to do? Usually how much it costs, compared to how much it accomplishes.

Every communication has a goal, whether to persuade someone to push the “Order” button, or to seek out a certain brand in a store or election, or even just to watch the next episode of a creative work. Audience reach is an important metric, but the real key is audience conversion, getting them to do the thing that you hope to persuade them to do.

(That’s one of the reasons “rich media interactivity” works… it has a higher conversion rate than just text.)

So… to get one desired action to occur, how much does it cost you? It’s not just initial development costs, “I coded that in only 20 hours”. There are also support costs, maintainence costs, and, at the end of a project’s lifecycle, the migration costs to get the data and user habits into a more modern setting. Smarter projects use analytics of some sort, to test and refine how well the project works for its intended audience. The total cost of development is much bigger than just the cost to develop.

For some of us these calculations are easy — a developer for hire just needs one client to sign a contract, and they’re good to go. But what makes the client sign the contract? Some don’t think of one or the other of the above costs, but most savvy ones do.

Some clients will be satisfied with a small attractive market which requires custom coding. Other clients, like governments, will need to satisfy diverse audiences. Different equations will fit different situations.

How are you looking at your full development costs, the total costs of a project, compared to how many people it reaches, and how well it reaches them? If you could put yourself in your 2012 shoes for a moment, what type of advice might you give your self of today?

Broader effects

This is the fun one… imagining the unexpected. ;-)

I’m already keen on ARAs, BSIs, VEAs… whether you’re in Vegas or Beijing you can already see stupefyingly big shared screens, which could handle interactivity from pocket screens just as well as they can handle today’s linear video. And using handhelds as, not just a “window to the world” with remote experiences, but a “mirror to the world” with location-aware interactions… don’t get me started, it’s very exciting.

If you would, I’d appreciate hearing outlandish visions you may have, of how we just might be using these devices in 2012. If this transition is as rapid as logic seems to dictate, then what types of surprises might we, somehow, quite reasonably expect…?

If I could ask you to daydream for a moment, and try to put yourself in 2012 looking back, what types of things do you think might be good for us 2010-lings to know? Silly question, I know, but what types of things come to mind for you…?

[Comments: Software wars elsewhere, thanks.]

Driving towards tablets

Whatever you may think of Apple, they accomplished something significant for us all this week.

It’s one thing to touch a small circle of tech bloggers, but another to reach a larger portion of the general population… on their morning news, in their TV entertainment, from their favorite celebrities.

In working towards increasing desire for their own version of a lap tablet, Apple PR has also prepared the ground for any manufacturer of a lap tablet, any manufacturer of a pocket tablet. Thanks to Apple’s publicity, everyday people are now exposed to the concept of digital interaction away from the workstation.

The tablet is no longer strange.

These new devices are emerging into an exceptionally competitive market. It’s difficult to compete on merit, so it’s understandable to compete on allure. Expect more irrational dismissals of technology not invented in Cupertino. Nothing personal; just business… a requirement of the branding strategy.

It’s easy enough to differ with Apple’s ethics or rhetoric (where not supporting HTML’s standard EMBED/OBJECT is “supporting W3C standards”?), but they accomplished something substantial for us all this week — they brought to public attention this entire class of new devices, and drove home that we’re at the dawn of a new design.

I’d probably say “Thanks, Steve!”, if only I wasn’t so lazy….. ;-)

Update: For an example of how Adobe sees this revolution playing out, watch this new video on YouTube, “One Web. Any Screen”.

“… the fundamental things apply….”

Some recent commentary on Twitter sounded worrisome… “If I read one more piece of FUD my brain will explode!” and such. Online debate has indeed been pretty tempestuous the past few months. But even accounting for surprising disruptions, the basic realities will still play out in predictable patterns, as time goes by.

Adobe’s business drivers and corporate culture revolve around helping creative communicators reach their audiences, no matter where they may be. Adobe has a history of investing in bedrock “platform” technology to create new markets, and also has a history of cooperation and inclusiveness with other businesses in the field. In the words of John Nack, “Adobe makes nearly all its money selling authoring tools that target great runtimes.” We’re making one ourselves, but Dreamweaver traditionally outsold Flash. The goal is to enable publishing.

There’s really no “HTML vs Flash” war. There are sure people inciting to create such a war, and individual developers may have strong practical reasons to choose one technology over another, but at corporate levels that drive strategy, all delivery channels are important Adobe territory, whether SWF or HTML or video or documents or paper or ebook or e-mag or film or packaging or whatever. Adobe profits by making it easier for creatives to reach their audiences.

We’re on the verge of a disruptive change that, I think, will dwarf that of the World Wide Web fifteen years ago. It was great back then when any wealthy person with a workstation in a wired environment could easily reach any creative’s webpage. With these cheaper devices we’ll be reaching far more people, and with pocket devices we’ll be reaching them throughout the day instead of just when “logged-on”. The WWW was merely a pale precursor of the excitement we’re going to see, I think.

For online discussion, I’ve seen a big change in techblog commentary since then last US presidential election — the types of arguments make less sense than before, and there are ‘way too many personal comments made by pseudonymous accounts with the same list of flawed talking points. Original reporting has a harder time finding funding, and meantime tabloid sensationalism does pull in the clicks. It would be interesting to know how many stories on Techmeme are not deliberately placed there by marketing campaigns. If reading techblogs sometimes seem nuts, it’s often because it is nuts… the dynamics in online debate are very different than three years ago. Don’t let it get you down.

The reality is that many, many manufacturers are bringing many, many new types of communication devices to market. They’re (almost) unanimously insisting on Flash support in order to entice the creative innovators who have been delivering with it over the past decade, as well as to satisfy the audiences that love this content. The birth of the PC proved what digital communications could do, but we’re about to hurtle past that, as we start to develop for a continuously connected worldful of people.

Technology is important, but so is developing sustainable business models. The WWW had a contingent of people insisting “content must be free”, who left creative incentive to the side, as T-shirt sales and such. But since then we’ve seen that the public will indeed compensate creators for music and application delivery to their device. I think we need to develop a variety of possible contracts between creators and their audiences, so that each business service can find terms acceptable to both parties. The technology understructure has almost reached delivery, but now comes the more complicated work of making it easy to develop successful businesses atop that technology.

I’m rambling among topics here, but I hope you see what I’m trying to get across… the dramas we’re told to believe in are not the dramas that really matter. We’re near the end of the beginning, and will now start to really work with “digital design for the hand”.

To get an idea of Adobe’s role in this, here’s Charles Geschke, co-founder of Adobe:

“One of the things I talk a lot about is the necessity to juggle all of the constituencies that have an interest in the business: shareholders, customers, employees, vendors, and the communities in which we operate. Those constituencies are all mildly in conflict with one another in terms of what’s best for them. Your job as a leader in a company is to find an appropriate way to juggle those conflicting interests so everybody feels like they’re getting a fair deal, without letting any one dominate the others because they’ll drag your company down.”

Finding ways for differing groups to get along, work together, achieve new goals… that’s Adobe’s corporate DNA. That’s why I’m confident of Flash’s future, excited about it, despite whatever Internet Inexactitude may occur along the way.

Please don’t let your brain explode… it’s messy to clean up, and you’re needed to help design, develop this big revolution now…. ;-)

(Title comes from the tune “As Time Goes By” in the 1942 film “Casablanca”: “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.” Always seemed to emphasize the inevitabilities of things, even when facing apparent chaos. Bet Herman Hupfeld and Dooley Wilson couldn’t have predicted such a future…! ;-)

Dawn of a new design

Summary: Website design was a big area of growth fifteen years ago. I suspect evolution in mobile screen design will be dramatically more explosive. And, as RIAs were the poster-child for communication between smart servers and smart clients, I suspect experiences like ARAs, BSIs, and VEAs will be areas of startling growth.

We’ve seen a lot of video this week, of recent builds of Adobe Flash Player 10.1 on various recent devices…. see James Ward, Thibault Imbert, Michael Chaize, Aaron Filner among others. Performance looks shockingly good, as does power.

We’ve also heard of commitments to AIR on pocket devices, the shortest path to making native apps.

Seeing such innovation is more convincing than hearing announcements about it. Using such tools will be more convincing still. And once we’re creating upon such a platform, well….

Fifteen years ago the world went through a revolution in interface design, after a website made it easy to quickly reach anyone with up-to-date information. The page-browsing model has stayed popular as more people could afford computers and connectivity.

But these new pocket devices will reach many times more people, many times more economically, and for many more interactions during daily life. They will become more important, faster, than Internet-enabled computers ever did.

And instead of sitting and reading pages, we’ll more likely use pocket devices to accomplish tasks while out and about, doing other things. Doing, not just looking. The interface priorities must evolve.

That’s why I think the next five years will bring very rapid changes to interface design — quick adoption of a new class of displays, combined with usage requirements quite different from previous interaction models.

I believe the fast growth of websites fifteen years ago will soon be dramatically surpassed, by an era of even-faster growth in interaction design for mobile screens. We’re at the start of a new age for design.

How might usage expectations evolve?

Think back eight years ago, when Rich Internet Applications combined ColdFusion’s easy server programmability with Flash’s rich interactive displays. There has been an incredible amount of evolution since then, but even in 2002 RIAs signified a sharp break from classic web apps serving static pages.

I suspect we’ll soon see ARAs, or Augmented Reality Applications. These would bear the same relation to augmented-reality displays as a JPEG photo bears to an interactive application, or a video stream bears to a an interactive video application. The device will draw on remote data and locally enrich the world around you. You’ll want to know if your friends are around. You might want to know how old that building is.

An ARA wouldn’t be just an AR display. It would be a software tool that can query the local environment, and perhaps even control the local environment. It may use AR display techniques, just as you might use a JPEG. But it’s a tool, a handheld control panel, for the world around us.

BSIs are Big Screen Interactivity — shared screens with individual controls. We’re already comfortable with console gameplay, whether in the same room or remote. What happens when you apply that to a movie theatre, to a concert, to a shopping mall kiosk, to a sporting event, to the ads in a subway?

These new mobile screens are not just a small screen in isolation… they are small screens in communication with nearby screens, whether another personal screen or a room-sized screen.

VEAs are Video-Enhanced Applications. From the broadcast/movietheatre era we’re used to “video” as one big linear stream. This influenced the last five years’ rapid growth of video websites. But video isn’t one special format as much as it is a basic way we see — we humans are accomplished at rapidly resolving the meaning of big sequential image displays. Video is a more direct story-telling medium than text. New devices will make it easier to capture and transmit live video data too. I think we’ll continue to see movie-style video, but will also be increasingly using video captures as just another media element in the page, a “first-class citizen” of the full screen experience.

The social sphere will become a bigger component of any on-screen experience. We’ve seen how humans adapt to talking or texting while walking down the street or driving. We haven’t yet seen common use of live outbound feeds, so that a friend can accompany you vicariously.

Today we’ve got social websites we visit, each with their own interface, each a different way of following your friends. But when you’re out on the town and trying to catch up with people, it would be better if the device just let you communicate directly, in your current context, without fiddling across interfaces. A good mobile interface will integrate pertinent aspects of your social sphere, instead of leaving those interactions for another webpage to provide.

Interface customization seems like it will increase too. Webpages served up a similar interface to all visitors, with personalized data flowing into interface templates. That makes sense when you’re serving the interface to each visitor, as well as their data. But native applications offer lower transmission costs by using their own presentation and interaction layers, stored locally, only calling the server for data requests. It’s your interface, not theirs.

This opens the door for interfaces which skin and refactor remote services in various ways. Interfaces will vary with different device form-factors, and seem like they’ll vary by individual sense of style and individual task-requirements as well. When it’s as easy to use a native app as a webpage app, we’ll likely see increased sensitivity to different audience needs by offering greater customization of interfaces.

Will the webpage go away? No, it’s a proven medium, one that new devices must support. But just as Usenet or Email isn’t the only way to use the Internet, neither is the World Wide Web. With new types of devices and usage requirements, we’ll need to add new experiences to the mix.

Sometimes we’ll be using these personal portable screens for presentations. Sometimes for interactions. Sometimes for communications.

The screen shouldn’t be a page, shouldn’t be an application… the screen should be an experience, something well-integrated with user’s current world and habits.

The handset will become the interface to, not just the infosphere, not just the socialsphere, but also the nearby physical environment. We need to develop patterns which abstract the nearby world, so that our devices can question and influence the world.

The new devices will be, literally, a control panel to the world. It’s a time for new design.