Away with Applications: The Death of the Desktop

Google Tech Talks May 4, 2007 ABSTRACT The computer desktop metaphor is ubiquitous, but how much work do we get done there? None! Time is entirely wasted navigating or shuffling content to the application in which we can finally work. What lessons can we learn from designing interfaces without the desktop and without applications? Is it even possible? And how does this apply to the Web? Currently, Web applications are often more usable than their desktop-based counterparts because each one does one thing and does it well. Desktop applications used to be the same way, but over time — as applications grew to support the the users in the long tail — each became a complex portmanteau of all possible features. If we are not careful, our Web apps will suffer the same conglomerated fate. Mashups and services help to solve the problem on the development end by freeing functionality from any particular application. But, there is currently no way to offer that wealth of possible functionality to users in a scalable way. Would it be nice to embed a dynamic map into your Gmail message? Sure. A Flickr slideshow? Sure. But for Google to offer those in addition to the hundreds of other possible options, would clutter the interface beyond usability. What’s needed is a universal method of accessing functionality: a way of harnessing the power of services without the need for application developers to explicitly support them. I’ll be demonstrating such a method. The talk demonstrates that a ZUI plus a universal method of accessing functionality spells the death of the application-centric computing model and the desktop-design paradigms

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