Interface Object

Adam Greenfield has a lovely essay dissecting Nokia’s current problem as he understands it from his experiences with the company. In the middle of it, discussing how Nokia was essentially blind-sided by the iPhone revolution, he notes:

These are precisely the skills you need if you’re interested in dominating a global market in commodity communication devices, as Nokia did for the fourteen years of the Jorma Ollila era. But the company utterly failed to anticipate, understand or organize itself to deal with the critical thing that happened at the cusp of the Ollila-Kalasvuo transition. This was that you could no longer think of mobile phones as communication devices. You had to conceive of them as interface objects through which users would experience content and command functionality that ultimately lived on the network. (That grandeur and disproprotionate benefit would accrue to those who did understand this shift was underlined by Apple’s launch of its astonishingly successful iPhone in late June of 2007, just over a year after Kallasvuo ascended to the CEOship.)

The notion of an interface object grabbed my attention. The idea that one interacts through such an object with information, data, etc. is fascinating. I don’t think it’s true that the objects have to live on the network: a lot of the data I manipulate/access on my iPhone is not on the network per se but synced from the network onto my phone: addresses, appointments, e-mail, books, etc.

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