Changing The Way We Use Computers (AestOS: Prelude)

Note: This is yet another teaser for the AestOS series because it is taking forever to write. (The first part ‘Virtual Assistant’ is running about 30 pages long.)

Humans are creatures of habit so once a pattern has been engrained it is hard to change. However, I think it is time to try and shift computing away from what it has become:

  • On the desktop, people use apps and the web browser
  • On mobile, people use apps.

That’s a simplification of what a person does on a computer but it’s the majority of what the average person uses.

The problem with this is the siloed nature between the applications, how it lowers the chance of a person using the best app instead of defaulting to the most popular and how it lowers a users chance of using lots of different apps. Thus making it possible for more developers to make a living off the app store. (Less developers, less apps, less innovation)

So how is this fixed? I think we need to re-examine how operating systems are designed and build them more around developers making data available to the system rather than developers making apps. (I’m not saying we get rid of apps though.)

Dashboard

Traditional computers have the ‘Desktop’, mobile computers have the ‘Home Screen’. For most people, it is a place to store files and/or app shortcuts. It’s not terrible but what if your Desktop/Home Screen was a live widget that showed a user things currently relevant to their life? This allows a user to add functionality to their system but instead of requiring them to use apps, they are shown the data if it’s relevant. The goal is to have the user spend time and have their activities all tied to the dashboard.

I will go into this is much more detail in a later post in the series.

How An Average Person Uses Their Devices (Using Specific Purposes)

Shopping

Desktop

You open up your web browser, go to your favourite site and browse.

Mobile

You open your favourite shopping app and browse.

Entertainment

Desktop

You open up your web browser, go to your favourite site.

Mobile

You open your favourite entertainment app and browse.

You may have a couple sites or a couple apps that you like for a given purpose but I would guess the number is no more than 3.

What’s Wrong With Always Going To The Same 3 Things?

The problem is there are a plethora of options out there, some you may like even more than what you use. Rather than requiring a user to remember 10 different things, why not just let them search for what they want and get results from a number of services? This can’t be like a Google Search though, it has to take things you will want to see from a variety of services an package them up in a cohesive manner that makes sense for the type of query.

Everything Box

The biggest change to the way a person uses their computers is what I’m calling the ‘Everything Box’. Instead of going to an app or site, a user goes to the box and types what they want. this can be as simple as a question with an answer. (“How tall is the Empire State Building?”) Or it can be something that requires data from a number of apps/sites. (“I want to buy a new sweater.”)

This is tied closely with the virtual assistant, so a user could just say, “I want to buy a sweater.” out loud and get the result.

Cards

The ‘Cards’ UI motif is a perfect example of how this could work. Developers make their data available as cards and these are shown when putting the data from several apps together. They can be branded with the app/site but shown in one place.

Getting To Know You

Having companies track your data is a big concern these days. People don’t like that everything they do is being tracked and sold to anyone with cash. That being said I think tracking your data is absolutely a good thing when it is used for your benefit. Imagine if when you typed ‘Buy sweater’ your device knew your style and preferences, chose sweaters that matched that criteria and showed those to you first. You could still browse other styles but it would try and narrow down exactly what you wanted first.

Other Types Of Results

‘I’m Bored’

Rather than just browsing Reddit until your eyes bleed it shows you posts from Reddit, videos from 5by, articles from Feedly, etc. Pulling in data from all the entertainment apps you use.

This Allows A User To Add All The Sources They Want Without Any Mental Burden

Using the sweater example, if I wanted to buy a sweater online right now, I’d go to what was familiar to me. I wouldn’t go to the cool clothing store app I downloaded 6 months ago and forgot about. This allows a user to add as many sources they want without having to use each app individually.

Final Words

Apps aren’t bad but I think how insular they are, is. Yes security is an issue but if the OS itself is pulling the data out of the apps it would be less of a problem. I think it is time that both OS manufacturers and developers looked at how apps are built and make some concrete changes. These are some of the features/core tenants of AestOS. (A hypothetical OS that I would build.)


Agree? Disagree? Comment Below.

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