Friday, October 25, 2013

The Importance of 2 + ε Dimensions: Flat is the Name of the Game

In a 2010 email, I wrote the following about Steve Jobs:
Sent: Mon, May 31, 2010 5:02:32 PM
Subject: Why Jobs has been vindicated on quality

Observation: Jobs has finally been vindicated on his stand over high quality (and premium price, although not as premium as it used to be). Why?

Theory: Jobs has made the computer 2-dimensional.

Data: From the earliest days of the Mac, Jobs preached quality (there's even a video clip with him slagging Gates for failing to understood quality). For 2 decades Jobs was proven wrong, in the sense that customers were not willing to pay a premium for quality, so Apple never garnered more than 4-5% of the PC market.

With the migration from Mac OS to Mac OS X and the arrival of the ipod/iphone, that's all changed. The Macbook presence has blossomed overnight. Almost everyone in my recent GCaP class had a Macbook. And the iPad is selling like hotcakes (2 million since launch, according to Apple).

So, Apple now has a common, clean, universal OS on the S/W side and a convergent touch-based interface on the H/W side. As I said before, the keyboard is all but dead and netbooks are history. Just give it a while.

But the clincher is this. Other than the Mac Pro (tower) and Xserve, all Apple products are 2+ε dimensional. Even the Pro and Xserver could be made more blade-like, but Apple's focus is on commodity computing at the moment.

The main thing that distinguishes all Apple commodity computers from each another is their area, not their volume. (i.e., screen area)

I'm taking it as read that the iPod, iPad and iPhone are computers. I've stated elsewhere that, in my view, Jobs was really the first person to have this vision of quality commodity computing and execute it.

He got there by going to 2+ε dimensions.

My main point was, and still is, that Apple gained market share by physically compressing computers into 2+ε dimensions, i.e., flat and very thin. The 2 dimensions refers to the screen area while ε refers to the thickness or thinness, more accurately. The trend is to make ε as close to zero as physically possible thereby making it very difficult for Apple's competition to follow suit without a corresponding loss of functional quality. Steve Jobs' dream.

The latest example of this trend is the iPad Air, which is half as thin again (7.5 mm) as the first generation iPad (13 mm).

More evidence for this conclusion comes from the "flat" icons that appeared with the release of iOS 7. See How Flat Design Is Preparing iOS For The Gadgets Of Tomorrow for more about this development. Flat icons will be very important for devices that are not only extremely thin but also flexible.

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