07 Apr The age of human computing?
A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a group of PR account executives when one woman asked a question that she really didn’t mean to ask. In phrasing her question, seeking my opinion on the proliferation of mobile devices, she asked if computers were going to take over our lives. I get that question a lot, in one form or another, but on this day her question struck me quite differently.
We are at the very earliest days of a new age of computing, I responded, an age that in the past I have called “device computing.” I’ve never really liked the term “device computing,” but just as past generations of technology have been known for the size of the computer – mainframe, mini, PC – it seemed logical to name this new period for the myriad devices in which computing and communications technology are embedded. In this new era of computing, technology will wend its way into all aspects of our lives, and in time, it will be virtually invisible.
But, I continued, addressing the unintended question in the account exec’s question, we have to ask whether all this computing technology will make us more – or less – human. Will the ability to communicate via voice or text messaging virtually anytime from anywhere do more to connect or disenfranchise individuals? Will sensors that instantly deliver data about our surroundings make us more, or less, aware of our environment? Will services that provide a constant stream of news bits make us better informed? The jury, I concluded, is still out.
Since that meeting, I’ve encountered the question “will the proliferation of computing makes us more or less human?” at every turn. And it wasn’t until I met last Friday with Rafi Holtzman, CEO of Luidia, that the question took on a new form. Some readers may remember Rafi from DEMO 2000 where he led the team from Electronics for Imaging (EFI) that launched the eBeam whiteboard capture system. Last summer, EFI spun the technology out and Rafi raised the financing to launch Luidia, license eBeam, and continue his research on new human-computer interfaces.
“We are talking about human computing,” he said. I understood instantly what he meant. As technology becomes more and more pervasive, we ought to be liberated to be more human in our interactions. Rafi would argue, I think, that the human-computer interface must make a dramatic shift to the human side of the equation, and that that shift is beginning to occur.
It is not enough to make computers easier to use; they must become transparent to drive order of magnitude growth in adoption of new technology-enabled devices. In effect, technology will not become fully pervasive until it becomes fully invisible. Today, technology is a barrier as much as it is a conduit between individuals. In the next generation of “human computing,” human interaction will be supported by technology, but not distracted by it.
This may be a big idea to wrap your head around, but in the past few weeks I’ve seen a number of new interface designs that begin to approach that ideal. As these designs push their way to market reality, you can be sure they’ll have the spotlight in this column, and at DEMO.
How does the old saying go? Legal foes make for strange bedfellows? Well, if you were Sun Microsystems, you might think differently. The software maker announced the end of all litigation with rival Microsoft and the start of a 10-year cooperation agreement. The agreement is aimed at making their products work well together. Sun CEO Scott McNealy said, “Our customers have been telling us that they need peace. They have Microsoft products and they have Sun products and they need them to work together. This puts peace on the table in a big time and positive way.” Sun is taking the opportunity to rejigger its operations. Solaris and Java expert Jonathan Schwartz will be taking over as president and chief operating officer. At the same time, the company expects to shave off 3,300 jobs… Computer Associates picked a new executive out of the pool of former Hewlett-Packard honchos. Jeff Clarke joins CA as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Clarke was a longtime Compaq veteran, but resigned a year after the merger . . . IBM announced plans to snatch up Candle Corp. to shore up its DB2, Lotus, Rational, Tivoli, and WebSphere product offerings. Candle, known best as a maker of mainframe systems management and analysis software, is a weathered veteran of the industry. The company was founded in 1976 and has often been an IBM partner.
Are you ready to launch at DEMOmobile 2004?
The search is under way to find the 50 products that will launch at DEMOmobile 2004, September 8-10, 2004, in La Jolla, California. DEMOmobile is a high-visibility launch platform that will set your company on the path to success. It’s the best venue for positioning new mobile and wireless products and establishing strategic relationships with the players who will lead you to success. DEMOmobile 2003 demonstrators benefited from more than 162 million media impressions before, during, and long after the event. Visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demonstrate/tour/index-demo2.html to learn more and complete an online application.
Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld’s DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at email@example.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the #1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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