A “toaster refrigerator” or “peanut butter and jelly” ?
I was very intrigued after hearing the response of Apple’s Tim Cook concerning the possibility of a notebook and a tablet combined into one. According to the BBC, Tim Cook stated that such a device would be a “compromised product” and equated it to a “toaster refrigerator”. My initial response was of course to consider, “Why would anyone need a toaster and a refrigerator in one?” I then thought, “What would the user interface design look like?” These are questions we can ask about the user interface design of the notebook-tablet.
The notebook tablet – a case of mixed user interface design
MSN Money posted an article on April 26, that Intel is designing a notebook-tablet called “Letexo” and describes the device as a “a super-thin notebook computer that’s also a touch-screen tablet.” The user can open the device and interact with it as a normal laptop. It can then be transformed into a tablet by closing the lid of the device. While the OS plays a very important role in this user interface design, some believe that the Windows 8 OS might be a good match for a notebook-tablet based on its new OS which looks like it merged the user interface designs of both of these devices in their new OS. I think Apple is still skeptical for this very reason, since merging a device means merging the user interface design and ultimately the two functions of the devices. Thus, the notebook-tablet mix would not be so much a compromised product as a compromised user interface design. This could be an irreconcilable difference or perhaps a complementing juxtaposition, like “peanut butter and jelly”.
What is User Interface Design?
User interface design includes the various elements concerning the appearance and “feel” of a user interface. The intention with user interface design is to provide a product with an appealing appearance, and a pleasing “feel”. A user interface design may include standard design conventions as a guideline (e.g. a website might have a logo at the top left hand corner and a navigation at the top of the page.) or maintain standard keyboard shortcuts in a software program.
So what is the problem with the user interface design?
With a merged user interface design, one might think that one receives the “best of both worlds”, however Tim Cook expressed concern in the article that there would be trade-offs in such a device and with much compromise, much dissatisfaction. To combine opposing user interface designs may split the audience to the point where there is not just a Laptop vs. Desktop, Mac vs. PC, Tablet vs. Laptop battle, but there is then also a Tablet Laptop vs. Laptop or only Tablet battle.
Looking forward with user interface designs
The implications of this combined device would be first and foremost profitability. If the price of such a device could be brought within the range of elasticity for the audience (this elasticity would of course be influenced by the usability of the user interface design and other factors such as brand prestige). I think as we see more companies considering a merged laptop-tablet, user interface design conventions may begin to change, but let’s always hope the user remains the focus in the creation of these new devices and new user interface designs.
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