Oct 29, 2004

The future is KISS

Heed the wise words, especially when they are free. Current The Economist edition is free till next Thursday (that's the 4th) and it contains very interesting Technology Survey on information technology.

It starts with pointing the Big Evil in today's technology: it is way to complex! And I agree. Let's consider Linux, for example: a beautiful thing, a great idea...and way too complex for most people to use. Make it simple!

Today some 70% of the world's population are “analogues”, who are “terrified by technology”, and for whom the pain of technology “is not just the time it takes to figure out new gadgets but the pain of feeling stupid at each moment along the way”. Another 15% are “digital immigrants”, typically thirty-somethings who adopted technology as young adults; and the other 15% are “digital natives”, teenagers and young adults who have never known and cannot imagine life without IM (instant messaging, in case you are an analogue). But a decade from now, Mr Coburn says, virtually the entire population will be digital natives or immigrants, as the ageing analogues convert to avoid social isolation. Once again, the needs of these converts point to a hugely increased demand for simplicity.

Can it be done? I always said that one should look at the history to see what is coming in the future. Not for details, but for overall thrends, obviously. And The Economist is wise enough to listen to me. Now you see it, now you don't takes a look at old technologies - clocks, sewing presses, cars...they all started like computers: big, inefficient, way too complex. And over the years, they changed into those small usefull things we can master in few hours (or days, at worst).

So in the early days of any technological revolution the engineers are in charge, and their customers are the early adopters. But the mass market is the late adopters.

The economy is simple: software will have to get simpler. There is no other choice - to quote the Economist again: t
he struggle between complexity and simplicity is binary: Either it will all blow up, or it will simplify. It started with the dot com crash, which weeded out the most useless and inefficient companies. Now, if it is not useful, it is not going to happen.

Gottla love the 'mom test' idea. It is brillian:
“WITH e-mail, it wasn't till my mom could use it that it became ubiquitous. The real test is always the mom test,” says Brad Treat, the boss of SightSpeed, an internet video company. “If my mother flips over to some Skype thing...,” begins Michael Powell, America's media and telecoms regulator, answering a question about internet telephony. “If my mother is going to use it...,” starts Ray Lane, a venture capitalist, asked whether this or that technology has a future.

The more KISS the thing is, the more used (and more profitable) it is. Google is simple. iPod is simple. Wikipedia is simple. Can you see the trend?

Oh yes. The survey also spells Microsoft death. Can you say *sweeeet*? Or 'disruptive technology'?


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