About the Author

Geoffrey Moore

Managing Director, TCG Advisors Venture Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures

Geoffrey Moore is a best-selling author, a Managing Director at TCG Advisors and a venture partner at MDV.  More...

November 2008

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« Beyond “Innovation” | Main | Cisco, Linksys One, and Scientific Atlanta: Gorilla At Work »

Renovating

Maybe it’s age, but I am getting increasingly attracted to the notion of renovation as opposed to innovation.  Renovation is simply innovation adapted to mature markets.  Mostly we think of it as a tame undertaking, like painting a back bedroom, but it doesn’t have to be.  Indeed, the renovation I am thinking of could shake things up quite a bit.

We need a new UI.  God bless the GUI—it has changed my life more than any other technology—but we are both suffering from the same deficit: a deterioration in our multi-tasking capabilities.  Young people and young systems want to run many threads at once.  Definitely be on the net, but watch TV at the same time, keep your eye on the IM list, check your email, oh, and do your homework.  No problem.

Except that the UI on our PCs is not constructed to optimize this mental landscape.  It is too single-state oriented.  It reminds me of, well, me.  These days I like doing things in single-threaded fashion.  I think of it as becoming more Zen.  My wife and children, on the other hand, think of it as, “Don’t talk to Dad when he is driving.”  Be that as it may, I am certainly not the target demographic for the next PC.

The current UI is still tied indirectly to the PC’s original root metaphor, a typewriter.  It needs to transition to another—the stock trader’s workstation on Wall Street.  It needs to recast itself as a media machine, with many concurrent feeds that enable traders to scan for information, detect trends, and transact, all very rapidly.  Switching between states, foregrounding one without losing the context of the others in background, is the technical requirement.  Picture-within-picture on a TV is a crude example.  I think we can do much better.

In the new UI there should be designated ad space.  That’s how most everything will get paid for in the end, so rather than have billboards all over our highways, let’s apply zoning principles and contain them to a certain section of real estate.  The same principle applies to other recurrent processes—an email space, an IM space, a video feed, and the like.  And then there’s the issue of getting around.  The mouse is getting old too.  We need to supplement it with key stroke conventions that speed our ability to do context switching. 

In short, we need to recognize that the role of the user has shifted from passive consumer to active director, someone continually choosing from among multiple feeds to construct the desired experience, and reconstruct the UI to serve that new end.   

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» Moore's Torrential PC and Information Overflow from BrentBlog
I like Geoffrey Moore's call for a new metaphor for the PC UI that embraces multi-threaded information streams to appease our increasing demand for data:The current UI is still tied indirectly to the PC’s original root metaphor, a typewriter. It [Read More]

» Geoffrey Moore on Becoming More Zen from b.cognosco
Highly-regarded technology market and business strategy consultant Geoffrey Moore, of Crossing the Chasm and Gorilla Game fame, has started a blog. It's good. I'm subscribed. Here he talks about the need for better UIs to support genuine multitasking. ... [Read More]

» Geoffrey Moore on Becoming More Zen from b.cognosco
Highly-regarded technology market and business strategy consultant Geoffrey Moore, of Crossing the Chasm and Gorilla Game fame, has started a blog . It's good. I'm subscribed. Here he talks about the need for better UIs to support genuine multitasking. I [Read More]

Comments

Chris Church

Geoff - parts of the context threading/switching PC (if that's what we'll be calling them) are available today. For example, the keystroke context switching is available via ActiveWords (Buzz Bruggerman is a great guy - did you meet him at the Cyberposium?). The multi-channel, concurrent feed functionality is partially supported by RSS and similar stuff.

It will be interesting to see what radical, new user interfaces pop up not just in computing devices, but all over our social and technology landscapes. The next 10 or 20 years should be an interesting time!

Chris
http://blahgkarma.blogspot.com

Geoff Moore

Chris - I don't think I mentioned anything technically that is very far away. The real inertia here is social convention - kind of like changing the pedals on an automobile. It's going to require either a charismatic leader or a power in place to bring this off. Google is the current obvious choice for the former, Microsoft for the latter. Apple, I think, is now more focused on consumer appliances, so I would be surprised to see them weigh in, although they certainly have the world's permission to do so.

Chris Church

Point well taken. Its about a mindset shift on the production and consumption sides as much as (or maybe more than) the technology.

Chris
http://blahgkarma.blogspot.com

Tom Kosnik

Geoff,

I am with you on the need for a new UI, yet somehow think the UI needs to morph when we go mobile. Let's trade in mice and even keyboards for voice commands that allow us multithread in motion. Or perhaps a digital pen that can double as a Harry-Potter like magic wand, or a Bond-like personal security device...

Geoff Moore

Good point. I am so PC-centric in my thinking and the world is so mobile. Meaning I am so out of it.

Rektide

Great post. Nail, head, bang. I really cannot wait to read more sir.

I'd say the biggest goal is taking the machine aspect out of the machine. The desktop metaphor is twice crippling; first, as you point out, it limits the active working set. It also limits the horizon that the working set can encompass. You have only one desktop. All collaboration between desktops involves bundling up what you've done into a "file" and transfering that bundle to another desktop where you unbind the package and start over. What kind of spatio-temporal non-sense is that? Concurrent isnt just about streaming in data, thats just multicast; we need real concurrency: cross systems behavior.

I usually get laughed at for mentioning this, but what happens when everyone has a smartphone, a laptop and a home entertainment system. Are we still to expect that every system will act in isolation? Will we need an application patch every disconnection we want to bridge? I really think we need some good ole fashioned DIS-convergence here.

Of course, trying to accomplish this in the current parad^H^H^H^ system^H^H^H^H UI is pretty hopeless. But thats what we're tryign to change right? You start talking about renovation-- to me that implies a large scope of evolution-over-revolution, but speaking as one of the first of a new generation of feed-burning task-switching system-abusing techno-socialites, the truth is blisteringly clear: we need a systems revolution for the PC. The only thing Sun got wrong with "the network is the computer" is the same mistake everyone else has made since the myth of the "personal" computer got started; they built the damned thing for buisnesses & IT, not people. We need a personal UI. One which empowers us to become active directors [and aids us in socially collaborating that direction...]

----

My general plan is a REST-ified Smalltalk-alike sort of concoction. Modifiable, live, software. Dataware.

PS: please make this comment box wider.

Rektide

Great post. Nail, head, bang. I really cannot wait to read more sir.

I'd say the biggest goal is taking the machine aspect out of the machine. The desktop metaphor is twice crippling; first, as you point out, it limits the active working set. It also limits the horizon that the working set can encompass. You have only one desktop. All collaboration between desktops involves bundling up what you've done into a "file" and transfering that bundle to another desktop where you unbind the package and start over. What kind of spatio-temporal non-sense is that? Concurrent isnt just about streaming in data, thats just multicast; we need real concurrency: cross systems behavior.

I usually get laughed at for mentioning this, but what happens when everyone has a smartphone, a laptop and a home entertainment system. Are we still to expect that every system will act in isolation? Will we need an application patch every disconnection we want to bridge? I really think we need some good ole fashioned DIS-convergence here.

Of course, trying to accomplish this in the current parad^H^H^H^ system^H^H^H^H UI is pretty hopeless. But thats what we're tryign to change right? You start talking about renovation-- to me that implies a large scope of evolution-over-revolution, but speaking as one of the first of a new generation of feed-burning task-switching system-abusing techno-socialites, the truth is blisteringly clear: we need a systems revolution for the PC. The only thing Sun got wrong with "the network is the computer" is the same mistake everyone else has made since the myth of the "personal" computer got started; they built the damned thing for buisnesses & IT, not people. We need a personal UI. One which empowers us to become active directors [and aids us in socially collaborating that direction...]

----

My general plan is a REST-ified Smalltalk-alike sort of concoction. Modifiable, live, software. Dataware.

PS: please make this comment box wider.

Geoff Moore

Great comment. Question for anyone who knows anything about TypePad--how would I make the comment box wider?

Rektide

Yeah I thought it would be pretty good. I did not, however, expect it to be so good that it would appear twice. I suspect that was a wetware error; problem exists between keyboard and chair. My bad.

After reading up on your background more and listening to your various IT conversation tapes, I am fairly suprised you decided to start blogging. Was there anything in particular which moved you to it?

Geoff Moore

To be fair, I think the first inspiration was to flog rather than blog--I have a new book coming out. But like many things in life, the experience itself is very different from what I expected. Rapid feedback, as we see in self-organizing systems, creates outcomes that "intelligent design" never anticipates.

David Klein

Geoff,

There's plenty of ideas out there for new UI but the problem is everything has to be perfectly integrated into the system, which means Microsoft has to do it and antitrust lawyers are watching them ;-)

Articifial Intelligence as we know it, is still trying to replicate the single-threaded fashion, still a lot to do!!

David from Paris, France

Paul Cubbage

We are looking at the world through the wrong end of the telescope. The PC display is too small and limiting. If you've ever run a project in a "war room" where you can write on the walls, you know what I mean.

There is a brief shot of a trader's workstation in the movie Wall Street. I think I once counted twelve displays on a trader workstation and they were not all single function! The war room display in Doctor Strangelove is a good example of a "real" display. I've seen the AT&T long distance network display and it was amazing.

Jef Raskin's book, "The Humane Interface" gives an excellent view on cognitive issues and interfaces. The major one is that people can only actively concentrate on one thing at a time. His solution was a zooming interface and I think that would improve a PC but takes different thinking. Jef designed the original Mac and passed away last year, a real loss.

I think a war room display where you can quickly scan and redirect your focus is ideal but might be a little impractical. It would fit the youth of today just fine!

Dmitry Mikhailov

Geoff, could not agree more! We at Flowfinity have done some innovation for multi-tasking on BlackBerry handhelds and have deployed this multi-tasking UI to over 150 enterprises doing mobile work like audits, service management, approvals, etc. Now we are bringing these concepts to Windows Vista and researching it further to take advantage of the extra pixels, especially on the wide screen displays. First results of this effort will be downloadable soon...

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