21 March 2008

It's just like a real table!

I've seen dozens of videos now on Microsoft Surface. First, I think Surface could be very cool, I love multitouch interfaces. Second, I think right now Surface looks useless. As far as I can tell, a personal Surface table can do exactly four things:

  1. Show really big maps. This is pretty neat; personally, I would get tired of manually dragging a map around instead of just entering an address and going there, but I can see the use for it

  2. Transfer files (well, really just pictures and music in the clips I've seen) between devices. This is useless for me, but cool for other people, so this one is good

  3. Take the nice, organized photos stored on a device and explode them into a mass of disorganized thumbnails that you can spin and resize for no reason

  4. Make little bubbles shoot out from a glass when you set one on the table

Now, the one that really annoys me is apparently Surface's big feature: allowing you to, and I quote from more than one video, "organize your photos". For some reason, Surface's definition of "organize your photos" is to take all the photos on your device, ignore any organization they may have like folders named "Vacation" and "Work", and spread thumbnails of them all over the table haphazardly. Sure enough, I check the Wikipedia article and there it is:

Apparently this is somehow a good thing. If I wanted my photos to be like this, I would take print photographs and spread them all over my much cheaper analog table. Why would you want this?



I made up those picture folders on the spot because I don't take pictures, but still. I really don't understand why you would want to use the method of organizing photos that computers replaced forever ago, that's exactly the wrong way to be going about this. We should be designing new interfaces that are even easier to use than the ones we have now, not ones that very accurately simulate stuff we've already gotten rid of. Somebody should write a Surface app that lets you play music by dragging an LP over to a record player and then dragging the needle onto the record. Not that people ever actually do anything with the photos but spin them around and resize them over and over again; it's actually very much like people who enable the desktop cube in compiz for the first time:

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