I’m currently sitting in front of a TouchSmart PC from a half decade ago. Back then this was on the bleeding edge, pioneering desktop touch innovation. It was bold, daring, and in the most part, completely useless. Despite this it still managed to become HP’s poster child, a product they could be proud of. A huge segment quickly emerged for kitchen worktop computing devices which nicely coincided with Microsoft’s push into their Windows Media Centre for digital TV watching.
Despite its many flaws – awful boot time, bulky design, poor screen resolution, terrible viewing angles, and resistive touch technology – I still love this thing. It was different, and different takes guts. For the most part, it worked. I could quickly watch a DVD before school (assuming it wasn’t from a cold start up), catch up with the news on BBC breakfast via digital, and even stream digital content straight from a flash enabled web browser.
A few days back the very same company that pushed for such invention announced this, a product that has a remarkable resemblance to another Cupertino based company’s work:
But was this demise into ubiquity inevitable? Did Apple, in true troll fashion, get to glass and aluminium first and the rest were just late to the game? It’s hard to say. The materials lend themselves brilliantly to such devices but Nokia have shown that there are real alternatives in industrial design. The near identical touchpad and chiclet keyboard seem a step too far.
Apple pushed the mantra of controlling both the hardware and software, with others like Microsoft with Surface, Amazon with Kindle, and Google with Nexus now following suit. Over the next half decade I think we’ll see a continuation of this shift. Fewer companies will be able to compete through a lack of in-house software excellence and a rich media ecosystem. Microsoft’s once one-OS-for-every-PC strategy will shortly be over.
As a side note, Apples new spaceship themed campus is being built atop the remnants of the former home of Hewlett Packard, the very same company that gave Apples co-founder his first job in the industry. Despite recent failed efforts with WebOS, another once great consumer electronics company has slipped into the hands of the enterprise sector.
We don’t do printers, monitors, Windows installs or anything to do with IT for that matter. Mostly, we work as Developers writing software. You probably live in a bliss, ignorant bubble where software, native or web based, just works. You might imagine that building software is much the same as designing a PowerPoint slideshow, drag and drop and all that, but it isn’t.
All computers - your iPad, iPhone, that ATM machine on the High Street, and even your dishwasher - at the lowest hardware level only interpret binary commands; 1’s and 0’s.
Writing such code, known as machine code, would make our lives very difficult. We have drastic layers of abstraction from this basic language to a more human readable, friendly and accessible development environment. Some languages are more abstracted than others depending on their purpose and when they were designed.
In a Computer Science degree, the primary focus is to ensure graduates think in a logical, efficient manner. We’re taught dozens of programming and scripting languages, but fashion and rapid innovation mean most are irrelevant by the time we graduate. This taught mentality of problem based thinking therefore ensures we can adapt to new languages with little friction.
It’s an extensive field. Some spend their time writing the back end of web applications, like Facebook or Google, some design AI algorithms for use in the aerospace industry, and others work for Banks ensuring the safe transactions of billions of pounds. These things have little relation to what many people think of as IT.
If you want help with your printer, ask tech support.
As a side note, I’m not your typical Computer Science student or programmer. I don’t say this in a vain or arrogant way, but in a matter-of-fact way. I love developing software but am also extremely passionate about the design, the usability and the core concept of a product. I enjoy programming because it’s extremely empowering. I have ideas and I can build them.
Some people delude hope and trust and love and happiness. You run and leap and jump for some people, but it’s no use. They’ll never change.
They’re all the same, these people. When realised you’ll be free to bound over them. And bound I will.
When the iPad was unveiled back in January 2010, the media were underwhelmed, but consumers still queued in line. It’s success has been unprecedented, but for me it’ll always be an evolution next to the iPhone. As I sit here in a station waiting for a train, everyone around me is using their phone. Not T9 dumb phones, but touchscreen smart phones. People are playing Angry Birds, reading Tweets, and checking the news.
5 years ago browsing the internet on your phone was so intolerable that even the most savvy of users didn’t go near it. In 2012, Americans spend more time browsing Facebook from their phone than from their desktop PC. Despite what the media say, the successor for the PC won’t be the tablet.
It’s already been superseded by the smartphone.
Last November I had a business idea, an idea at the time which needed refining, but didn’t appear to have too many barriers to it achieving success. It was simple, a site that recommended one venue or event to it’s users each day, along with exclusive offers for that venue or event. A GroupOn of sorts, but only for one bar or club at any given time. The service, dubbed ‘wheree’ (the extra ‘e’ plagued me), aimed to solve the common question ‘where to go out tonight?’. Current promoters earn around £1 per name for every customer they bring into a venue. The goal with wheree was to become a completely digital promotions company, one that had far lower overheads than traditional promoters and one that could significantly undercut this £1 per person price point.
As an 18 year old student working out of a dorm room, with a ‘business’ that had nothing to show for itself (bar from a few screenshots of an unfinished site), convincing bars and clubs to take part in trial nights wasn’t easy, but after speaking to over 30 venues, I managed to book 3. I couldn’t of wished for these consecutive nights going any better; wheree was a big success. We got over 2000 unique visitors to the site during these 3 nights, and ended up bringing in an extra 500 customers for the 3 bars and clubs. This was down to unbelievable support from my friends and family on the nights and during the weeks leading up to them - I can’t thank you all enough.
I learnt a lot from this experience, not just technically (teaching myself PHP, MySQL and jQuery in a weekend) or how to handle myself when speaking to clients, but about myself, and about what I want to achieve in my life. This process was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever undertaken, but this doesn’t stop the concept of wheree from not aligning with my skill set or ambitions. The idea is sound, and is still perfectly feasible, but because of it’s nature, it being filled by the company, rather than it’s users, it isn’t a project I want to continue to be a part of. If I’m going to invest as much time into a project, I want to spend it building and creating a product that can be enjoyed and filled by its users, rather than one that involves constant selling to clients.
Up until a few weeks ago, wheree was going to be bought by someone who would of carried the business forward, but unfortunately this deal fell through. I’m still in the process of talking to potential buyers, but I feel that now is the right time to announce my next venture, one that is completely separate and different from wheree, GuestSort. Something I learnt time and time again from my experience with wheree is that club’s and bars are now very much into promoting themselves through social networks rather than outsourcing this process. Guest lists are increasingly becoming the go-to-method of drumming up publicity for an event on Facebook.
The problem is that Facebook doesn’t offer anything like a guest list system. It provides basic event pages for, you’ve guessed it, events, but these have to be bodged into becoming guest lists by using the comment section. GuestSort is going to change that, in a very big and exciting way, not just for promoters, but for those that add themselves and their friends to guest lists. The end goal is to make joining guest lists much easier and more intuitive for you, the user, but to also dramatically increase the events presence on Facebook, helping promoters. The core product to all of this, LiveList’s, is a month into it’s development and is nearly ready to be unveiled. I can’t wait to be able to show it off to you, but until then thank you all for your continued support.