Not long after I got my Blackberry Tour, I handed it to my wife so she would be properly impressed. She instinctively touched the screen to access an application. "No, no, it's not a touch screen, " I say. I grabbed it back and showed her how to use the little trackball to coax the cursor over the icon, then click on it. But the moment was lost. I realized my new toy was already yesterday's technology. Thanks a lot, Apple!
In the blink of an eye, a UI transformation is complete. Apple was a genius 20 years ago when it came out with a little white one button mouse and it's a genius again for throwing the mouse away. To use a touchscreen just once is enough to forever alter your expectation of an interface.
In our industry, SpaceClaim is right there. They're the first to use touchscreen technology as a CAD interface. Blake Courter, SpaceClaim's cofounder, is giving me a demo. He is using GoToMeeting, so I have to imagine his fingers using the touchscreen... a little wierd. I play the old skeptic. "But are many CAD users using touchscreens?" I ask, forcing Blake to admit that, no, they are not. SpaceClaim is ahead of demand for this technology. But I should be commending SpaceClaim for having the guts go boldly where no man has gone before -- in CAD, anyway. Build it and they will come. Isn't that what Apple did? Companies can keep making safe little incremental changes -- or take big steps, go for paradigm shifts, singularities... whatever the business bestsellers are calling it these days.
There may have been many missteps and wrong paths in innovation, or even good ideas badly implemented. But the future belongs to companies who are not afraid to try and keep trying.
Minority Report - totally cool UI but most CAD operators cannot wave their hands in front of them for 8 hrs a day.
In all honesty, I can't see designers and engineers all using tablet laptops with touchscreens. For one thing, they are too expensive. For another, they don't have the workstation-type horsepower MCAD needs. Even if there is a desktop monitor with a touchscreen (Blake says he has one), I think I'd get really tired of holding my arms out in front of me trying to touch it.
But how about a big touch screen in front of me, slightly tilted, like small desk, or the way old drafting tables were? Moving models around on that, mating parts, zooming panning... it would be a breeze. I could rest my arms. Can you picture that? Any one like Apple in the audience?