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The Failure of Empathy

empathy

I went back for a second helping of Avatar this Sunday. There’s a scene early on in the movie where one of the scientists walks across the lab carrying the “mobile computer slab of the future.” We’ve seen one of these in almost every sci-fi movie of the last 50 years. It comes free with a jetpack, I suppose. Except this time, one month later, my 12 year old son turns to me and whispers “Look Dad, it’s an iPad.”

As many others have noted, the release of the iPad might be the cannonball into the consumer device pool the iPhone dipped its toes in. It’s also been referred to as a thing that sits between that iPhone and your laptop. I see it as more of a fork in the road. It’s the thing many people will get INSTEAD of a laptop.

The iPad isn’t the future of computing; it’s a replacement for computing.

It’s the payoff to all the work done by multiple industries over the last 20–30 years. It’s the subtraction of 20lbs of textbooks in my son’s backpack, and the device I finally feel comfortable buying my parents.

That’s why I was surprised by the reaction the iPad got the day it launched. Following along on Twitter I was seeing things like ‘underwhelming’, ‘meh’ , ’it’s not open’, ‘it’s just a big iPhone’, etc. And most of this stuff was coming from people who design and

build interactive experiences. As designers, and technologists we’re very much aware that the interfaces we build are for people who are “not us,’ but we still haven’t made that leap about the concept of “computing.”

The people don’t want “tablet computers” with Ubuntu and OpenID (worst name ever for a product attempting broad acceptance). They could honestly give a shit whether it’s a closed or open system. And, let’s be really honest, they probably care as much about DRM as they do about baseball players juicing; by which I mean not very much at all. They want things to work most of the time, and be easy to fix when they don’t. And if the process by which it happens is “magic” they are totally cool with that.

They want the thing in the movies.

As an industry, we need to understand that not wanting root access doesn’t make you stupid. It simply means you do not want root access. Failing to comprehend this is not only a failure of empathy, but a failure of service.

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Mule creates delightful interfaces, strong identities, and clear voices for useful systems and nice people.
Also, We are funnier than all other designers.

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