We’re certainly seeing a lot of discussion these days about user interaction with computers, a good deal of it centered on multi-touch, but regardless of the specific technology it all comes down to what Bill Gates and Microsoft calls the Natural Human Interface. That includes everything from touch and multi-touch to voice, to the pen, to interesting thoughts about controlling computers with brain reading devices. Mike Elgan at Datamation writes an interesting article looking at this called “The Mouse is Dead,” where he agrees with a Gartner analyst who says that within 2 to 4 years we’ll see the dominance of the mouse fade.
He points to Apple’s advances on both the iPhone(and other handhelds) and multi-touch on its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, as well as advancement in gaming devices as evidence.
I think Mike is on to something, but timing is everything, and I think we’re probably further out before the mouse becomes a second class interface citizen. There’s no question we’re seeing advances in how we interact with our computers, but we’re also seeing reactions against these advances from some who, for whatever reason, aren’t embracing change in its early forms. Certainly the mobile set will lead this wave (unless you’re talking about Microsoft’s Surface Table or Touch Wall) but even on the mobile front, with the current race to create a winner in the low cost ultra-mini-sub-net-low cost portable class, we’re not seeing touch or multi-touch as a major push just yet. The priorities at the moment in that space are different. But that too will begin to shift, most likely as Windows 7 approaches.
In my opinion, I think the evolution will happen similarly to what’s happening with email. So many of the younger set don’t use email, according to the data that keeps pouring forth, opting instead for text messaging of some sort or the other, but then you’ve got an entrenched set who couldn’t imagine letting go of their email addiction. Of course the big key on when any evolution begins is going to have to deal with point of sale. These Natural Human Interface developments are all about touching, feeling, speaking, etc… If consumers can’t get “hands-on” with them, it will push the adoption rate out further along the time line.
An intriguing side read to this is James Kendrick’s recent piece where he says “Forget mult-touch, it’s time for the Instinctive Interface.”
So, what do you think GBM readers? How soon before the Mouse becomes a second class interface citizen?