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Post PC and the disappearance of the GUI

Yesterday’s presentation proves that Apple is really serious about leaving the PC era behind

Author: Johannes Schardt
Date: 7. June 2011

Yesterday, Apple presented iOS5, the next version of OSX and a new service, iCloud. I have to admit, that I spent the entire night following the live coverage on various tech blogs, then watching the entire keynote and promotional videos on the Apple website and reading what the internet had to say about it. My wife called me a fanboy when I browsed countless discussion boards, and maybe there’s a little truth to it. But first and foremost, I’m interested in it as an interaction designer, because there are so many consequences for our work.

With the announced software products, Apple consolidated their strategy for the next decade. If you paid close attention to what they did in the last years, it wasn’t too much of a surprise. There were already a lot of efforts towards that direction, but now it’s official: Apple is really serious about their bet on a post PC world.

“We’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to be just a device”, Steve Jobs said during the keynote. The desktop computer is going to loose its privileged role as the digital hub. It’s not the centre of your device network anymore. And since it’s not necessary to manage your other devices with it, there will be more and more people not owing a desktop PC, but being very active users nevertheless. This is something we’ve been preaching to our clients for the last years – and our multiscreen patterns reflect this notion – but thanks to last night’s keynote, we have another weighty argument for coming discussions: If Apple is really serious about this, you should give it a thought.

Apple is also serious about getting rid of the file system. With iOS you can only access files within an app, but also iTunes, iPhoto and Aperture already hide the file structure of their media libraries. As we have seen in the presentation yesterday, the future of OSX will bring more of this.

And another thing that struck me while watching the keynote: Apple is really serious about gestures. They were constantly talking about swiping and pinching, even during the OSX presentation. Less clicking and tapping, less UI elements; gestures are now at every corner of the OS.

Because we are currently working on a project for tablet devices, we thought about gestures a lot. How much can we rely on them for navigation? Will people be comfortable about using gestures as the main (not only) way to move around within the app? Since this app probably won’t be released for another year, we assumed that people will get used to gestures. Yesterday’s presentation encouraged us to continue that road.

Of course it wasn’t just guess work. Before this presentation, there were already signs that Apple is pushing gestures. One of it was a developer feature hidden in iOS 4.3, that I discovered by chance and quickly became one of my favorites: multitask gestures. With a four or five finger pinch, you can “close” the app and bring up the home screen, and with a four or five finger swipe, you can switch between apps.

This feature will be default in iOS5 and I’m sure it will be a tremendous change in how you use your iPad. At least for me it was. I only use the home button to switch on the device. If you don’t want to wait until fall to use this feature, this instruction shows you how to enable multitask gestures.

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