Device fatigue and the next connected device form factor

A pile of devices
Photo: Wikimedia

I suffer from device fatigue.

Not just the kind where I cannot deal with the sheer number of connected devices, gadgets and gizmos being released every day – but the kind where I am overwhelmed with the number of devices that I actually already own.

I have a Macbook Air, a Sony Vaio running Windows 8, a Surface Pro tablet, a Nokia Lumia 920, a first-generation iPad and a Kindle, and in my living room I also have an XBOX 360.

And that’s not counting devices that I have temporarily for testing or benchmarking… the iPads, the Galaxies, the Kindle Fires…

Now, I like devices, and I work for a device company and my job is building device software, so i’m trying to build them into my life… but I just cannot deal with having so many different devices. The basket under the bookshelf where I put old devices is overflowing with dead, partially working or even fully functional devices that I just can’t find a good reason to carry anymore.

They all have their specific use cases and particular strong points: the MacBook’s power and good quality hard keyboard; the tablet’s big screen but relative portability; the smartphone’s ultra-portability and LTE connection… But the real problem is that there is maybe 80% crossover in the use cases and usage contexts of the different form factors, and this is frustrating and tiring.

I want one device that does everything – but I don’t want to trade the specific benefits of particular form factors, like the portability of my Lumia 920 and its amazing camera, or the stylus/drawing input of the tablet, or the physical keyboard and relative horsepower of my Macbook.

One of the greatest challenge now facing connected device manufacturers I think is the next form factor. The form factor that truly converges the fragmented connected device space.

While the last 5 years or so since tablets started their meteoric blast into consumers’ living rooms the focus has been on device divergence – building devices of every conceivable form factor, with increasing household incomes (in first-world markets) driving a huge increase multi-device ownership.

The next 5 years will be about device convergence. The search for the next form factor that unites your devices into a single, adaptable and flexible touchpoint.

Windows 8.1 will evolve… and respond to consumer feedback

The Financial Times reported today:

“Microsoft is preparing to reverse course over key elements of its Windows 8 operating system, marking one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago.”

One of the most prominent admissions of failure since New Coke? What gratuitous hyperbole.

Of course key elements will be changed in the upcoming release. That’s what upcoming releases are for, in any software development: to evolve, respond to consumer and market feedback and innovate.

The claim comes from a Financial Times interview with Tammy Reller, head of marketing and finance for the Windows business. The only actual quote from the interview they include was this:

“The learning curve is definitely real.”

Apparently this statement means Microsoft will be making a U-turn on their strategy of making touch a key input paradigm for both tablets and laptop/desktop form factors, and bringing these form factors together into a consistent user experience.

And if Microsoft takes moves to either simplify the user experience to lessen the learning curve, or provide support for users to make learning easier – does this really represent a massive “admission of failure”?

Even if Microsoft replaced the ‘Start’ button, does that really represent such a massive admission of failure? Really?

Tech media is seemingly enjoying dumping on Redmond lately; even going so far as to blame Microsoft alone for the recent slump in PC sales, although this sales slump also coincides with recent economic downturn.

We knew there were lots of problem areas with Windows 8; particularly the awkward relationship between the Metro-style interface and the old desktop. If Windows 8.1 (Blue) addresses this challenge and makes the relationship somehow clearer or easier to understand, this can only be a positive evolution along their current strategy.

Although the current leaked developer preview of Windows Blue doesn’t reveal much other than a few customisation options, I think it’s far too early to herald the downfall of Windows.