by Jimi Gonzalez
Coincidentally, Steve Jobs passed away during the same week that I decided to transition my personal computing to a MacBook. For my personal purposes, it was time for me to surrender to the inevitable. I’ve fully committed to the iPhone and the iPad but (perhaps intentionally) iTunes software runs like garbage on a Windows PC. I am also anxious to get back into home music recording and I’m tired of being the only guy on the planet who tries to use a PC.
So, as traditional and social media buzzed about the impact Steve Jobs had on technology, I was enjoying the Apple computing experience for the first time. When I opened the MacBook box, it was similar to the feeling you get when you open a new piece of hi-fi equipment. It’s the details; the plastic wrap that protects the laptop with adhesive in just the right places, the lack of superfluous documentation and not a hint of anti-virus software.
As I spent more time with the computer, I started thinking about how Apple has impacted the public’s expectations of technology. Although they are not the market share leader in smart phones or personal computers, Apple still sets the standard of what technology should deliver. Even without Steve Jobs, Apple will play by their own rules as they continue to write them.
As systems integrators, we can thank Apple for creating customers that are more engaged and interested in technology than ever. The simple interface of the iPhone set the standard for the (now) post-Blackberry world, and people who were once intimidated by technology can’t separate themselves from texting, e-mail and Angry Birds. Steve Jobs and Apple set the expectation that devices need to work intuitively and beautifully. Our industry should integrate this technology with the same style and vision.
Touch Screen Expectations
How many times have you seen a customer approach a control system touch screen and try to pinch the screen or slide their finger for a page flip? What about with digital signage way-finder screens located in casinos or malls? People now expect their interaction with a touch screen to be like a car; although it might perform a little differently, you should still be able to sit down and drive it.
While our industry doesn’t (currently) offer multi-touch or gesture based touch screen interaction, we still need to make sure our GUIs are simple and easy to use. Sometimes we pride ourselves on very elaborate systems that require hours of training for users. That’s fine, but when it comes to your touch screen, people should be able to learn it just as quickly as they can learn a $1.99 app. When designing your GUI, take cues from the best mobile apps. Use large icons consistently and with bold graphics rather than text. Whatever text you use should be brief and in a larger sized font. Navigation should be intuitive, with menus that aren’t too deep and an ever present button to return to the home page.
Design wins over compatibility
Wouldn’t it be great if every computer we connected to had VGA, DVI, and HDMI outputs? The Apple computer your customer will bring to the conference room looks beautiful, but it’s probably only going to have a single output.
The AppleTV? Just HDMI.
The new MacBook? Only Thunderbolt/Mini DisplayPort.
Apple’s devices favor aesthetics over compatibility. It’s our job to design quality digital systems that can adapt to future connectivity challenges.
Products you never realized you needed
Apple has a dedicated fan base just waiting to purchase whatever they release next. Even in our doom and gloom economy, customers still find money in their budgets to upgrade to the latest version of their products. With the iPad, Apple created a computer category that we didn’t even knew we needed. There are strong rumors as well as hints in Jobs’ biography that an Apple branded television is on the horizon. Although we are unaware of any details of the product, imagination and their past history should send your mind reeling with the possible changes this could bring to our industry. It’s guaranteed that our customers will want it, and we’ll adapt to integrate it.