Seen through devices

I’ve been musing on Mike Kuniavsky’s notes from his Microsoft Social Computing Symposium for a few days. While his focus is ostensibly on physical products and our focus remains very much on web products it’s a helpful read since that distinction is an increasingly flexible one.

because these things are now connected, their value moves from the device to the service it represents, and the actual objects become secondary. They become what I call service avatars. A camera becomes a really good appliance for taking photos for Flickr, while a TV becomes a nice place to run a high res Flickr widget, and a phone becomes a convenient way to take your Flickr widget on the road. People see “through” each device to the service it represents, devaluing the device to nearly nothing.


The upshot of all this is that we’re about to see a precambrian explosion of device-types that span uses, scales, and continents as we collectively stumble around and try to figure out what it means when many people have many devices and they’re telling many interwoven stories with them simultaneously. We’ll yearn for the clarity when all we had to do was figure out where the pixels went or how to make style sheets render correctly on two browsers.

That’s a pretty vital thing for those designing and making physical objects to bear in mind, but it’s also something those of us building web products need to bear in mind. The future’s a lot more than a set of websites that look good on an iPhone.

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