Like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs generally doesn’t invent new products, but has a real penchant for defining them. The Apple I, Macintosh, iPod and iPhone weren’t first, yet have proven to be definitive. Now the iPad’s doing the same in the tablet space, but that’s only part of the story.
The iPhone wasn’t the first natural user interface (NUI) device, but it was the first to take the concept mainstream and Apple has already sold hundreds of millions. However, because of its small display, it didn’t really allow full expression of NUI.
According to Oracle’s John Cartan (user experience architect, applications user experience), the first full flowering of NUI is the iPad.
The iPad’s screen size makes all the difference. It allows a much fuller expression of NUI interactions with innovations like popovers and orientation-sensitive split screens not possible on a pocket-sized device. The result is that many common tasks currently performed on a desktop or laptop can be done more efficiently and more pleasantly on an iPad.
So, does this mean the end of the command line interface (CLI) and graphic user interface (GUI) paradigms? For some people, yes — NUI is all they will need. And, no, because CLI and GUI are superior for specific task subsets, like programming and administration for CLI, and media design and production for GUI, all three will continue to have their niches, often within a single lifestyle.
Cars, trucks and bulldozers
In my daily (blogging) workflow, iPad is the ultimate news tasting and story set up device. That is, I find and set up (copy-paste and get pictures) stories that I will later complete on my Mac.
Yes, I can and often do perform the whole process on iPad, but it’s optimal role is content discovery, consumption and parsing. The defining app for this process is Dropbox, which ties all of my widgets together and makes work possible anywhere on any of my devices (Mac, iPad and iPod touch).
My workflow skews to the GUI, though NUI is playing a larger and larger role and, yes, I even dabble from time-to-time in CLI work and basic programming.
The important thing to note here is that whatever you do for a living, your life and workflow are being actively redefined around these three interfaces and Apple’s the primary force doing that.
Is the NUI-based iPad defining the desktop out of your life?