Skip to main content
September 1, 2008

Face-offs? Book versus phone and GUI versus command line (PLUS: Three, that’s three, bonus items!)

LONDON, UK – I’ve escaped Espoo to visit some folks in London. But that doesn’t necessarily keep me from havering about what’s happening out there.

I’ve been meaning to point to these interesting threads. But the main ones point back to the decisions we weigh, the comparisons that seem to polarize people and over-simplify how we want to interact with services and products. My take is that there usually is some continuum, some gradual shift from one mode to the other. And neither mode is the ultimate, but each has their place depending what we are trying to achieve.

Who wins? The book or the phone?

Let’s take the tour guide book. Lonely Planet make excellent and thorough guides. Nokia has announced that Lonely Planet is now available in Nokia Maps. What CJ points out (in a great review) is that 1) the guide on the phone is just a sub-set of the full guide book, and 2) each has their advantages.

That’s to be expected. You can’t expect to navigate the rich and detailed material from the guide book on a small screen device, but, done right, some of that info would be quite useful to have quick-access to on the phone.

I think too often we try to replicate something on a phone, without realizing that it’s not a simple one-to-one conversion. Also, folks try to force either one or the other. Why can’t the book and phone just work together here? Complementarity, not replacement. Indeed, I think that’s what CJ finds out.*

Who wins? The WIMP or the text?

WIMP stands for Windows-Icon-Mouse-Pointer, the main way we currently deal with computing devices. But, before that, interaction with computers was done via a command-line interface, where commands are typed in one line at a time, telling the computer what to do.

The interesting thing is that while the WIMP user interface dominates, lots of folks still interact with systems preferentially via a command line interface. Alfie Dennen, a mobile-head, has been noticing some of the services he interacts with in a command-line fashion. In a recent post, he muses if command lines are slowly entering more mainstream usage without folks really knowing they are using command-line like interface.

Also, a new Firefox plug-in has folks all a-twitter. Ubiquity provides not just a command-line interface to your web browser, but understands the commands a bit more than some stilted strict command language. I haven’t used it, so comments on what you think are welcome. But, I am a heavy user of Quicksilver, which adds a command-line interface to a Mac. And, in the scheme of things, I find myself using both the visual interface and the command-line interface depending on what I’m doing, what I want to achieve, and how I feel at the moment. And neither is excluding the other. I just get the benefit I want, when I want it.

Do you think a command-line interface would be useful on (and complement!) a mobile phone?

BONUS, the First: is getting bigger and better. The latest part of Ovi (a part I worked on a lot last year) has been released to the wild. Yay! Now, it was meant to be (shhh) a quiet release. But, of course, lots of folks picked up on it and started banging on it.

As with any new service, the Ovi team is looking for feedback on what works and doesn’t. So, if you see something not working, let the Ovi Care folks know.

BONUS, the Second:

Quick one. I posted a simple company overview on our SlideShare account. Gives you an overview of who we are, what we do, how we are doing, and so on. Good to fill in the more mundane details about Nokia that you can throw around in some trivia contest.

BONUS, the Third:

Years ago, I was part of a project around mobiles as musical instruments. It’s what got me interested in building apps and services. So, with a fond smile, I leave you the video below.

Image from gierszewski.

*Hm. What if the Lonely Planet guides had barcodes for Nokia Map users to download info to their phone? You’d have to already bought the Nokia Maps Lonely Planet guide (yeah, someone needs to make money). But, you’d be able to have whatever points of interest you would need when going out. Or how would you do it?