TL;DR: Beyond Mobile

by Luke Wroblewski March 29, 2012

In his Beyond Mobile presentation at TL;DR Conference in San Francisco CA, Scott Jenson made the case for moving beyond mobile applications and illustrated what a future without apps could be. Here’s my notes from his talk:

  • The history of mobile phones has been copying the desktop and then realizing it just doesn’t work right.
  • Apps are a holdover from the desktop.
  • There are a number of trends that highlight how we can move beyond apps on mobile.
  • App Glut: are we going to have an app for every store, product, or Web site we use? It’s not sustainable. What happens when you have too many apps? The user is becoming the bottleneck for apps. We now have to “garden our phones” by deleting and managing our apps.
  • The core rule of all user experience design: value must be greater than pain. As designers we think about pain. A good designer is an insurance policy. If you get pain down to zero, value can go down to zero too –why not?
  • Size and cost reduction: the zombie apocalypse of smart devices is coming. How does an Internet of things impact us?
  • Fixed cluster: the set of devices that are connected to each other in our home. Most of these today are big & expensive devices. The cost of adding computing and connectivity is getting close to zero. So even if value is pretty low, I might still do it. Example: smart toaster might do small trivial things but since it is so cheap, you might still get one.
  • Fixed cluster devices don’t connect to the cloud. They talk to their own cloud. We need them to talk to each other.
  • Personal cluster: the things around my body as I move around my day. Smart devices exist here too: phone, glasses, personal trainer. But there are lots of dumb objects we’ll wear as well. Perhaps only with RFID tags.
  • Opportunistic cluster: devices in our environment. These are most likely to happen soon but it won’t happen with apps. We want to walk up to a device, use it, and then lose it. These just in time interactions need a lot of work. We don’t have the systems to support them yet.
  • Cheap devices will leverage other devices to for display and control.
  • More apps won’t be good long term. Size and cost reductions are giving us to a lot more devices that require more apps. This model will hold us back.
  • Yahoo! was a hierarchical list of functions on the Web, then Google introduced a indexing and ranking algorithm that brought relevant things to you as you needed them.
  • We need a new discovery protocol to enable us to locate and interact with things that are relevant to us in the real world. This service needs to be on demand –it can’t be pushing to you all the time.
  • Cheaper and dumber devices need less interactivity than most people think they do.
  • This future requires an ecosystem of devices to broadcast identities out and a set of devices to read that information.
  • Handsets are just the beginning. We have many clusters of smart devices coming. We need to crowd source this infrastructure so someone doesn’t crowd source it for us.