Tablets in the Enterprise: Still a Blank Slate

By Peter Eckert, TechNewsWorld
Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It’s about time to change the stereotypical tablet user from casual and hipster to high-management.

The post-PC world is now; tablets and other mobile devices are beginning to dominate the marketplace. An estimated 45 million tablets will be sold in 2011, three times the number sold in 2010, according to BMO. With that explosion in popularity, it is no surprise they are making their way into the enterprise environment.

From the emergency room to the boardroom, tablets and other mobile devices are decreasing paper-based processes, as well as improving communications, workflows and efficiencies. The linchpin to tablets’ future in the enterprise environment will be the incorporation of a tablet user interface.

In With the New
Filling a different niche than PCs do, tablets will be widely adopted in the enterprise environment in numerous verticals. Eighty percent of businesses will support a workforce using tablets by 2013, according to Gartner (NYSE: IT) Research.

The old computer paradigm of a massive box that takes up half a desk was a result of physical, size and weight limitations; the tablet has lifted these physical barriers, paving the way to excel in mobile and other environments.

Tablets are already used across a swath of sectors, including healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, real estate and retail. Hospitals are using tablets to facilitate information sharing. Instead of fumbling with a pile of charts or rushing back to a desktop, doctors can quickly access a patient’s records, check for medication interactions or view x-rays from anywhere in the hospital.

Financial institutions are leveraging these devices to streamline loan applications. Architects are bringing tablets to meetings to show blueprints and floor plans that can be updated on the fly; previously, mounds of printed plans would be out of date the second an alteration was made.

Retailers are implementing tablets to have roaming checkouts, price checks and inventory records. Airplane pilots use tablets for charts and other navigational tasks. These applications are just the tip of the iceberg — enterprise tablet uses will develop with the product itself.

Despite all the success stories, the tablet is not right for every environment — at least not today. It is all too trendy to look to the tablet for every business environment, but certain solutions are just too complex or oversaturated with features to be easily ported to the tablet.

Job functions that require heavy data entry and intricate document creation are currently too cumbersome to carry out on tablets. It is less about the tablet itself and more about the task the tablet is asked to perform.

This will change in the future, as the next five years will be dramatic in the progression of tablet capabilities. For example, actionable table functionality is expected to flourish through voice commands, advanced gestures and other methods.

What to Consider
While numerous businesses are finding improved efficiencies and communications since adopting tablets, others are trying to ascertain if they’re right for their organizations. Regardless of some of the tablet’s obvious limitations, however, they will continue to find their way into the enterprise environment.

Before an organization adopts a strategy to implement tablets, there are some things to consider. Understanding the role of the users and the functionality they require is critical to maximize the success of deploying the tablet in the enterprise environment. Companies with employees who work in the field, for example, will benefit greatly from tablets. Companies also need to evaluate the available applications in the market in order to best apply tablets in their daily operations.

Unfortunately, today’s application offerings are often ported from existing applications and do not translate smoothly to the tablet because they were created without much consideration for touch-enabled devices.

Furthermore, complex software applications for the enterprise include a number of features that do not lend themselves easily to the simpler and more intuitive application paradigm and input methods that the tablet platform supports. They will have to be restructured and deployed with a subset of functionality in order to be cohesive with tablets.

However, it is important to understand that tablets are still in an early development stage, and there are not many suitable applications available on iOS or Android to support an enterprise or productivity-focused company.

However, specialized workforces and mobile workforces can leverage existing tablet offerings to increase efficiency and streamline daily processes now. Once the kinks in the user interfaces of ERP-level applications are ironed out, tablet use in business will excel well beyond those specific workforces.

The Right Approach Going Forward
Improved user interface design will transform the way tablets are used in organizations and greatly increase the benefits of tablet implementation in businesses. Going forward, it will be paramount to design interfaces that will allow users different, customized applications that are tailored to their specific needs for a seamless experience.

The reduced form factor of a tablet and the usage patterns of the end user require a special user experience that showcases just a fraction of the functionality of an enterprise-rich desktop application; tablets don’t have the capacity to offer everything a PC does, but they offer unique advantages.

Out of the box, the tablet is a great tool for specialized tasks in workforces. However, the integration of superior user interface designs will accelerate the tablet’s adoption in the enterprise environment — and that adoption will accelerate efficiency and productivity in myriad industries..

©2011 TechNewsWorld

Better UX Design Needed for Enterprise Tablet Adoption

By Peter Eckert
Originally published in UX Magazine, September 29, 2011

A May 2011 study shows that 78 percent of business and IT executives plan to officially deploy tablets by the end of 2013, yet only 51 percent have adopted a strategy for tablet use. The majority (83 percent) plans to deploy iPads, primarily because of its widespread popularity. As a result, Android-based tablets have begun to tout that they are designed for enterprise deployment in an attempt to differentiate their platform.

This choice of the iPad for business use remains consumer-driven. So far, most employees using iPads as part of their job are just trying them out; there is still a certain sense of novelty in this highly portable device. The great appeal of the iPad is its intuitive, user-friendly interface. A two-year-old can quickly learn to play iPad games and navigate the device.

The conventional computing paradigm for businesses, as well as for most homes, is a desktop computer, maybe a laptop for mobility, and a smartphone. To fully take advantage of the emerging paradigm that places tablets (primarily iPads) in the office, new software strategies are required. The fundamentally complex software served up on desktops and laptops is far too cumbersome in a tablet environment. Successful tablet deployment in the enterprise will require smaller, more specific touch-enabled solutions and tablet-tailored applications.

Not a Hardware Problem

Currently, any function where mobility is a requirement is a potential fit for tablet adoption. Reporting and information facilitation are obvious targets. The entire media industry is keen on monetizing this new platform. Newspapers have struggled online because of the click-through model rather than premium advertisement placement, and they are eager to change that.

Other industries see the tablet as just an extension to their current offering. There’s nothing wrong with that—until one of their competitors shows off a tablet-specific solution. Then you’ll see panic ensue.

Current tablet technology only allows for a subset of the computing power used in high-end desktops. For example, image processing of the kind professional UX designers work with is not possible yet on tablets. Other industries cannot switch to a tablet environment any time soon; for example, industries dependent on ERP or heavy data input, or purchasing and HR, must rely on keyboards or other input devices. The touch-based UI, which lets users perform tasks with just their fingertips, is the great appeal of tablets, but it would be too cumbersome for these data entry applications. Voice technology might bridge the gap some day.

Hardware, however, is not the primary problem keeping tablets from widespread adoption in the enterprise. A bigger obstacle is that most business software solutions (think Oracle) are simply too complex. The power of tablet computing is that it is simple and intuitive. Yet many enterprise solutions are so overloaded with features—some of them unnecessary or seldom used—that they cannot be easily ported to a tablet.

In short, blindly trying to adopt existing products and software to the tablet space will not succeed. Tablet technology will continue to be disruptive until feature-reduced solutions are widely available.

How to Spur Enterprise Adoption

In the same study mentioned earlier, 42 percent of IT respondents said that business stakeholders do not understand the need for additional development in order to successfully enable enterprise applications on iPads and tablets. This is where high-quality UX design could play a major role in boosting enterprise adoption of tablets.

Beginning in Q1 of 2011, Gartner added iPads and other tablets to its computing hardware spending estimates. Analysts forecast a spending increase on media tablets of an annual average rate of 52 percent through 2015.

The form factor of a tablet and the usage patterns of end users require a very tailored user experience, one that showcases just a fraction of the functionality of a rich desktop application or Web application. That makes them a powerful option because people already understand the applications and can easily adapt to a new format of an old solution. Again, it all comes back to good UX design.

Evaluate the types of tools you are using. If the productivity software or any other package you are using will be “just” ported and launched in a web browser, then you might want to stay away from adopting that application for tablet usage. So if you are in purchasing and you have an order entry system that relies on the user to enter orders through keyboard input, that will not work on the tablet efficiently.

But any type of software that has been specifically designed for tablet space will be a good fit for enterprise adoption. We will soon see an increase in workflows that are perfectly suited for the tablet environment—ones that are simple, intuitive and have only a few features per solution.

Peter Eckert, co-founder of projekt202 and chief creative officer, is regarded as one of the leading UI design visionaries in the U.S. Peter has helped many Fortune 500, and leading-edge emerging companies, to implement meaningful software user interface design strategies to transform their organizations into user-centric organizations and produce simple and intuitive products.

Designing Technology’s Future

By Peter Eckert, TechNewsWorld
Published: Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Over the next decade or more, the disparate user interface conventions and approaches will force consolidation and a standard set of protocols. When a standard set of protocols emerges, consumers will benefit from a new era of simplicity in technology that will dramatically improve the totality of the experience.

User interfaces will not necessarily change the way we live — the technology will. However, for technology to work and be embraced by new consumers and emerging populations around the world, user interface design is crucial; it enables people to access and use the advancements in technology.

Without simple and intuitive interfaces, end-users are not able to consume the myriad of new technologies that come out every day. Leading companies increasingly recognize that their success and the adoption of their breakthroughs are tied to a product’s ease-of-use.

‘The Jetsons’
User interface is all about convergence, which is an old word with a new meaning. Today, “convergence” is defined as the seamless intersection and interaction of technology and life. Think of “The Jetsons,” where even life’s most ordinary undertakings — like showering and cooking — are suddenly automated through technology.

In the Jetsons’ world of TV-Land comedy, a series of hyper-responsive and mischievous robots became the ultimate cliché for a culture infused with technology. Yet, the vision it encapsulates — technology embedded in all undertakings — is not simply a futuristic series of errors.

Looking forward, the real land of “The Jetsons” will be represented by intuitive and easy-to-use technologies that are responsive in managing and increasing the efficiency of all kinds of things — from complex business analytics to surfing the Internet.

Looking Ahead
Imagine a world where mobile phones exchange information with one’s television. The tablet supplements daily experiences and is a multifaceted device for on-demand entertainment, information exchange and work.

Appliances are connected, communicating and able to be controlled remotely — all to create an interactive and technologically responsive environment that can be easily manipulated by the end-user. Imagine a world without paper currency where a flick of the wrist runs a transaction.
Large consumer product companies have started looking at true convergence among their own products. In the future, however, the drive for intra-device communications will lead to the establishment of protocols across all consumer electronics.

For this to truly work, all touchpoints will have to be aligned with a meaningful “life flow” that is designed to be responsive in human interaction.

As in the home, everything in the work environment will be able to interact seamlessly. Accessing work files on the go, running software on any operating system or browser, and communicating globally in real-time through video conferencing will soon become simple and cost pennies.

Operating systems will automatically align and sync; the mind-numbing lack of incapability will fade from memory.

UX Today
While convergence is on the horizon, end-users are still in for much chaos. Today, processes are being translated differently. One may not realize it, but end-users are increasingly being overwhelmed with the number of user interfaces they have to deal with and figure out.

For example, look at the enormous number of mobile phone handsets in the world market. There are countless iterations and modifications between handsets and often between handsets from the same manufacturer. This forces users to constantly relearn interface conventions. What’s more, the cognitive load of today’s world on device users is poised to increase exponentially.

Relief will not come in the near term. Today, companies are working in their individual silos to carve-out a market leading position. However, over the next decade or more, the disparate conventions and approaches will force consolidation and a standard set of protocols.

When a standard set of protocols for all types of user interfaces emerges, consumers will benefit from a new era of simplicity in technology that will dramatically improve the totality of the experience.

It’s Happening
Consumer electronics continue to lead in the advancement of technology. The new tablet has ushered in a paradigm shift forcing companies to rethink their product offerings. It has disruptively shone a light on the power of seemingly simplistic technology design and accessibility.

From home to work, people have a new idea of how technology should respond to their needs. With Baby Boomers trickling out of the workforce in larger and larger numbers, a new generation of leaders — Gen-X — is adopting and adapting to new technologies.

Yet, for all the tablets Gen-X is bringing into the home and workplace, it is nothing compared to how Gen-Y will interact with technology.

The next big leap for user interfaces remains the seismic shift of the tablet paradigm. Many industries want to leverage the platform. Because the tablet has its limits from a computing standpoint, for the first time, companies are leading with user-centric design to improve functionality in order to create a touch-enabled environment for their applications.

Not all industries will be able to do that with ease. Companies themselves need to stay on their toes and understand that success increasingly relies on their ability to create solutions and products within the context of the new tablet environment.

The consumer electronic nirvana is ease of use and engagement for end-users. The way companies will get there is by understanding their users and what motivates them.

For now, user interface design is driving innovation — to both the benefit and the burden of the consumer. The road ahead will be filled with chaos in design as companies, entire industries and consumers try to untangle and leverage new concepts in convergence.

©2011 TechNewsWorld

2011 Tech Trends — What’s Next for Today’s Tablets?

By Peter Eckert
Originally published in Product: Design & Development, May 2, 2011

Technology never remains stagnate. Consumer and business applications, along with hardware, are constantly changing to create and satisfy the public’s demand for advanced computing. For the past 20 years, we have seen a staggering adoption of technology worldwide and greater access to information than ever before.

We hardly notice the vast transformations until we step back and reflect as each of these technologies has become increasingly integrated into our lives. It is difficult to remember what we did before Google, and few of us can imagine going back to static maps to find our destinations.

Today we see planet Earth instantly, zooming into a particular address in Wisconsin effortlessly. And we can send a single email or text or post a message accessible to millions with about the same amount of effort. Each incremental advance offers us new possibilities.

So, to look at 2011 with its technology trends, is also to see we are part of a vast evolution with different facets making advances simultaneously. The process is chaotic and advancements are driven to meet various needs.

But, the net-result is often inflection points where we rapidly integrate technology into our lives at a new level. And, in the next couple of years, we are continuing to do so as the market brings us compelling solutions as well as entertaining options.

Technology advancements are as much about the power of a processor as they are about how that information is interconnected to other data sources. However, advancement also lies in how that technology is accessible to the end user.

It’s common knowledge that our processing capacity far exceeds its application in our lives at this point in history. It will take many decades, experts predict, for us to fully tap into the computational power we have created.

A key hurdle in the ongoing technology evolution is the process of translating computational power into usable applications via intuitive user interface design that enables the end user. Simply put, the easier it is for end users to access features, make decisions, analyze data and/or interact with technology, the more we are actually leveraging the computation power we have available.

Setting the Table with Tablets
2011 may be known best as “The Year of the Tablet.” The iPad is part of a growing transformation in computing: mobility, ease-of-use and a depth of functionality at our fingertips. But, stepping back and looking at the 20-foot view, the tablet’s mobility and engaging user interface is part of the much broader evolution and transformation in computing.

On the surface, the tablet is a light weight, sleek portable computer. Those qualities alone do not make the tablet in and of itself a breakthrough in computing. A key facet of the innovation lies in what Apple did with the iPhone and transposed on the iPad; an intuitive user interface design, access to engaging apps, elegant graphic and hardware design with an easy-to-use touch screen.

Since the 1990s, the tablet itself has been around in various formats. The breakthrough in the new decade is in the way computing functionality and form has transformed it.

The tablet is an important part of personal computing and has literally carved out a market through its design, even though it cannot and is not designed to replace the workhorse data entry capabilities of a laptop or desktop, or the convenience and size of today’s smart phones.

Simply put, these devices are a new instrument of technology that is capturing the imagination of consumers and businesses alike based on what it does offer.

Early in 2011, technocrats and industry gurus began the debate about the iPad’s viable competitors. A key facet necessary for a successful rival includes creating an interface that serves up compelling apps intuitively and matches the iPad with its sleek and attractive portability.

Much debate, sizzle, rumor and likely criticism, will encircle competitors of the iPad. Technocrats speculate who will rise to the top and who will and who will sink with new tablet offerings. And many of the world’s technology leaders are rushing to market with their version of the tablet experience.

Apple may have the hearts of the consumer, but the business user is also at stake as more and more organizations around the globe, and in vastly different sectors, examine how mobile computing can increase their productivity and enable their workforces. Apple won the consumer; it may not win the tablet war with business.

In business, organizations must translate their process to the tablet for it to have a meaningful impact on their day-today operations — unlike consumer adoption which is built with an avalanche of enthusiasm and excitement, business tablet users are slower to adopt as it is evaluated for its functionality in the workforce.

Nevertheless, leading organizations are already looking to integrate the tablet into their practices. With an increasingly mobile workforce, many leading companies want to offer their own business-to-business software applications in a form that aligns with the tablet as a benefit to their clients.

They envision making a version of their software — like workforce management applications — more accessible to clients through a mobile device. For others, however, they have staff working in environments where desktop computing is less accessible, such as deployed workforces based in or frequently visiting industrial and/or other sites.

They would benefit by being able to enter information while working versus having to stop and enter data and/or retrieve information from a computer located elsewhere.

While the tablet’s potential is vast, it is not limitless. Tablets and other mobile devices are not built for the kind of data entry inherent to laptops or desktops. Also, it is not a simple process to create an “app” version of complex enterprise software.

In some cases, to do so, would require numerous apps that breakdown the software into so many components the convenience would be eliminated. One might see 25 apps to equal one ERP implementation.

Each organization who identifies a potential synergy with offering app versions of their software should evaluate the potential outcomes and limitations. In many cases, porting a software application to a mobile environment will decrease the functionality and change the application.

Decisions related to functionality and features will have to be considered closely. That said, the tablet itself offers new opportunities for leading companies and many will look for these synergies throughout 2011.

Tablets Keep Evolving
As tablets and smart phones continue to penetrate all facets of the mobile market, in 2011, leading innovative companies will take them further by offering apps and solutions that literally begin to replace processes within our daily lives.

An area that appears to be drawing new interest is natural human behaviors like gestures — meaningful gestures that can create a communication on or between devices. One is example is the iPhone finger scroll or pinch to expand images. Another one discussed in the past is bumping cell phones together to exchange contact information.

Imagine reading a newspaper and being able to circle with a finger a coupon and it goes into a folder nice and orderly. Or, by simply placing a tablet under your arm — like you would a newspaper — it shuts off. Simple sounding, but each convention and/or gesture must be designed for the specific user type and the context that those users will be in.

It’s like taking the most ordinary of movements and integrating them into a computing environment that responds to human directives. These simplistic responses are foundational and symbolize the start of a next generation of computing — one that begins to absorb and take over or support many small and large daily processes.

Technology must get simple and seamless on a lot of fronts. There are real market drivers at play; namely an emerging middle class in China predicated to be twice that of US’s in coming years. In emerging markets around the world, new middle classes are surging and technology companies are seeking to offer these populations solutions that align with their needs.

In China, India and South America, iterative technologies have been skipped and, thus, the populations require totally intuitive applications to meet their needs. The tablet — its simplicity — offers an interesting solution or component in worldwide mobile computing.

Technology will take some interesting turns in 2011 and throughout the next decade.

Mobile in general is shifting the computing environment in many significant ways and leading companies want in on it for a host of reasons. Their challenge is ensuring their objectives and the tablet environment align for a successful and useful adaptation. For all the innovation of the tablet, people still need computing tools that support heavy data entry.

The tablet itself embodies far more than a new piece of sleek hardware. Apple’s focus on customer-centric usability sets a new paradigm in computing. It also demonstrates a worldwide demand for simplicity in computing.

Mobile devices are integrating into our daily lives in big, compelling ways as well as simple ways. Collectively, the evolution of computing is chaotic yet creating an exciting new foundation that goes beyond a new device but illustrates a future where we seamless interact.

Peter Eckert, co-founder of projekt202 and chief creative officer, is regarded as one of the leading UI design visionaries in the U.S. Peter has helped many fortune 500 companies implement a meaningful UI design process into their organizations. He has directed efforts for SAP, Charles Schwab, Sabre Airlines, Motorola, Microsoft, Agresso, Thompson Financials, Vignette, Buffalo Technologies, LeGrand, Logitech, Tektronix, Deloitte and many more.

User Interface: The Next Five Years

By Peter Eckert CXO projekt202

By Peter Eckert

Originally published in Innovation Journal, Spring 2011

Looking back, user-interface design has undergone a rapid evolution. It first emerged in the 1950s as engineers began to evaluate data on monitors. For decades, user-interface design was simplistic and focused on basic information display or sets of data for engineers to interpret. With the Internet revolution, however, user-interface interaction moved from the backstage to the forefront as designers sought to create an engaging experience for end users. Social media, smart phones, an increasing proliferation of embedded environments and the convergence of the Internet and television require usability for diverse populations.

Like never before, user-interface design is now poised to transform how global populations interact and leverage technology. As companies strive to appeal to a broader array of demographics worldwide, technology must become increasingly easier to use and understand. Leading companies are recognizing that the user experience is essential to gaining market share and consumer loyalty. In the next five years, engaging user interfaces will rapidly become an increasing priority for companies as people—from consumers to business users—seek out solutions that offer as much intuitiveness and simplicity as they do function.

Convergence Remains Distant
The dust from the information and technology explosion of recent decades will not settle in a matter of years; we are overwhelmed with functionality and underwhelmed with the ability to intuitively access it. The role of interface design will only increase in importance as companies compete. This trend is not limited to the consumer market; simultaneously, leading business-to-business software companies are seeking to bring the ease and functionality of consumer products to their business customers.

Many business-to-business players may take a giant leap forward in coming years, but a gulf between what’s available to consumers and what’s available in the business world will continue to exist. Presently, the gap is vast between the usability available to consumers and business-to-business applications.

For example, take the iPhone and iPad, which are elegant, intuitive and easy-to-use consumer products. Contrast these consumer technologies with the kinds of software leveraged by many leading corporations, like an ERP software platform. ERP systems deal with many complex aspects of an enterprise, thus, processes can be lengthy and difficult to understand. Traditionally, these platforms have had user interfaces that are very difficult to understand. However, business users who regularly track data via ERPs have grown accustomed to their particular computing conventions. Many enterprise software companies understand that a more intuitive user interface would cut the learning curve for new users. Despite the inherent complexity of the software, access to information and input of information can be designed for greater simplicity.

In the consumer market, ease of use is essential to winning hearts, minds and market share. In the business market, an intuitive product is a differentiator that enables organizations to be more productive. As a result of these benefits, a surge of redesign and new design will come from companies serving both businesses and consumers.

What’s worse are industries that remain totally burdened with paper processes and antiquated software—such as subsets of the public sector, education and health care. These professionals are going to feel an even greater chasm than ever before. It may require decades before they catch up and reap the benefits of greater usability.

If you look at the software that social services organizations use to track, for example, child abuse, those user interfaces are way behind the private marketplace. These more customized, highly time-intensive implementations, to a large extent, are literally 10 years or more behind the overall usability trends in the private sector. The end-user base in the social services sector, in many cases, struggles daily with very rudimentary and archaic user-interface design that are far more complex to use than traditional enterprise software.

Consumers and business users alike are going to see rapid advances in user-interface design, but the transformation will be uneven and chaotic. More and more, companies are working autonomously to build out suites and interrelated products with new user interfaces. With all this innovative design happening in silos, users will continue to bounce from device to appliance without a universal norm of any kind. Each interaction, while simpler, will have to be learned and individuals will find they are learning the quirks and standards of more and more technologies just to get the functionality they seek.

As a result, we are only going to see more diversity and incongruence in design overall. For global companies, this is the time to put their best solutions forward and integrate the user interfaces and functionalities of their own product sets—spanning consumer appliances and televisions to enterprise software suites.

In short, convergence of technologies is becoming more of a priority, but it stops within companies. In the near term, devices, Web applications, software and appliances developed across separate companies will not interact any better than they do today. Many companies will continue to work autonomously to develop their own concepts related to user experience; they perceive it as an extension of their marketing and brand identity. It is reminiscent of the advent of the Web and its impact on extending the brand and offering a meaningful virtual experience. This is not surprising to most people because that lack of integration and the individuality of interfaces are so ingrained into our daily lives.

Because we are in the middle of an evolution, we are barely cognizant that it is possible to have greater uniformity. However, looking toward the future—perhaps several decades from now—this lack of congruence will likely fade entirely. One day our technologies will be able to interact and respond far more seamlessly, but that will require another evolution or revolution altogether.

Worldwide Rush
Increasing the usability of a wide range of technologies is more than a trend; it’s a gold rush. While much advancement in user-interface design is happening in the US, it is a global challenge. Over the next several decades the growing middle classes across China and India and beyond will surge. Companies are asking themselves how can they support the technology needs of these populations. With many pockets of fast-growing populations having little exposure to technology as a part of their daily lives, and companies looking to market consumer technologies to this new group, it’s critical that the solutions be highly intuitive in order to successfully navigate this abrupt transition.

Without the iterative layers, some populations will skip many of the steps those of us in the US and Western Europe have experienced in the computing age. As some countries have gone directly from no phones to cell phones, no television to satellite television and Internet and no computers to powerful portable computers, they will also skip ahead a few steps with user-interface design.

Those facts are highlighted by such rapidly growing countries as China, India, Russia and Brazil. These countries have enormous populations beginning to leverage computing, many of whom did not grow up exposed to computers outside of cell phones and are unfamiliar with even basic computing conventions. However, these markets have a potential 400 to 600 million new users—an incredible opportunity for leading consumer electronics companies.

In making these new technology products, leading consumer technology companies will be delving into a new pocket of user-interface design and will need to think through language and cultural cues to create meaningful solutions. The cultural meanings behind colors and symbols play an important role in creating a user-centric product or application. It is also imperative to recognize how specific cultures truly interact with technology.

For example, in India a large majority of businesspeople have servants with little education who are frequently charged with setting up the computers. The users of the computer will not know anything about what an OS is or how to install applications; therefore, new user interfaces and conventions need to be established before those users can actually do computing.

Or think about China operating under communist leadership with political and social norms that are very different than in the West. For example, in China people read from top to bottom, not left to right, demonstrating that each new user demographic will bring a new set of requirements in regard to user interfaces.

Racing to market with greater levels of functionality is not the only answer: the technologies must offer users an intuitive and tailored user interface to fully enjoy and access those features within the context of their cultural experience. This is a new challenge that is rapidly unfolding as more solutions are offered to emerging populations around the globe.

A Seamless Future
Technology is destined to become increasingly seamless, and the line between activity, life and our interaction with it will fade. New, improved user interfaces are a stepping stone to a transformation where technology and the physical environment blend more intuitively.So, while today every device must be handled and manipulated separately with disconnected protocols to garner the desired functionality, the lack of interoperability will slowly shift.

The seeds of this transformation are being sowed now, and many leading companies are turning to user-interface design experts to create real solutions for more convergent experiences. The next generation of technology will seek to dazzle users with its simplicity and power while reducing boundaries between products and functionality.

For emerging populations around the world, leading consumer companies will seek to capture market share. We may find in five years that millions or billions more people have access to technology that exposes them to more information than ever before. We may find that user-interface design allows for even greater global communication and builds a connection to populations that have yet to experience the vast technology revolution of the last two decades.