Simplifying Technology

Curbing the complexity

The timeworn adage reads: less is more. Perhaps there is more merit to this dusty old proverb than once originally thought. The fact is, with the rapid pace that tech is moving, chances are, it’s briskly sauntered right past a vast number of consumers. Up until recent years, feature-laden devices were canonized as a sign of progress. These days, it seems that the focus of a superior product is measured by usability, not merely which company has a longer list of convoluted features.

The bells and whistles

The name of the game isolating features that, while impressive, lack real merit. If it only serves to impress the competition, it is probably due for an evaluation. Apple, for example, has set a precedent in the field of paired down devices geared more towards simplicity and function. Late last October, Apple’s head of software, Craig Federighi, stated that Apple opposed a touch screen interface on their computers, stating that the company felt it was not the right direction for the Mac line.

Similarly, another feature not found on iOS devices is hands-free gestures. Apple’s portable device archrival Samsung, on the other hand, has invested heavily in technology such as eye detection and swiping. On certain models, the device can stop or start content by detecting if the user is looking directly at the screen. Likewise, the user passing his or her hand across the screen can activate certain Samsung devices. Apple still prefers press button interface. While there will always be arguments as to the advantages and pitfalls of features such as these, the question of “is it really necessary” has never been more in the forefront. When you consider the amount of extra software and in some cases, hardware needed to run these extra ‘goodies’, along with the inherent increased risk of failure each added feature brings, is it worth it?

Removing the frustration

A good indicator of how simplicity has become paramount is comparing the old with the new. Microsoft’s then revolutionary operating system, Windows XP, was heralded as a technological achievement upon its inception. Compared to Redmond’s current offerings, the old operating system seems counterintuitive, redundant and almost vindictive to the technologically disinclined. While it seems easy to poke fun at Microsoft, anyone who had a computer that ended in the suffix- ‘intosh’ will recall the lonely, isolated experience that made PCs of the same era feel wide-open. To own Today, thanks to the transition to Intel processors from the old- Motorola/ Power PC processors used prior , modern Macs can juggle files and media nearly as smoothly as the monolithic Washington based rival. Indeed, Cupertino has moved into a more natural and intuitive direction as well.

Increased reliability

Aside from trying to make products that don’t intimidate and infuriate seniors the way they used to, the tech market has also adopted another mindset that has many users breathing a bit easier. The less there is, the less there is to break. The same philosophy that has many consumers opting for solid-state technology in place of traditional spindle drives. The simple fact is, fewer parts, fewer problems.

Moving forward

What might tech look like if the trend of simplification continues to hold sway over design and function? How long before phones are comprised of fewer pieces than we have cards in our wallets? Organism-inspired operating systems that make the old command based interface of yesterday seem outrageous? Only time will tell. We’re in an era where the only thing constant is change.