“If you see a stylus, it means they failed.” – Steve Jobs discussing Microsoft’s next smartphone.
Microsoft pulled its new smartphone (the Kin) off the shelves this month after just 45 days. In D.C. yesterday, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer said, “In the case of phones, I’ve said this many times before: We missed.”
Here’s where I think they missed the target: the Kin has buttons, not a touch screen. I know many people love buttons on a device, but here’s the problem with buttons: you need to learn what the buttons do. Then, after you’ve learned what the buttons do, you need to learn what happens on the screen when you touch the buttons. These are two distinct things, and for lots of people, it is very frustrating to learn devices like this. Contrast that with a high quality touch screen: all you need to learn is what happens when you touch the screen. On a device like a phone or a computer, the difference between one layer of complexity (a touch screen) and two layers of complexity (buttons and a user-interface) is staggering.
The goal of both hardware and software is to make the user experience completely intuitive and natural. Microsoft should take a page from Apple and ditch buttons on their next product, just like they ditched the stylus.
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Will Marlow is a digital strategist/online marketing consultant. He’s the co-creator of AlumniFidelity, which is a Web 2.0 fundraising platform for colleges, nonprofits and secondary schools. He’s working with clients such as UVA, the College of William & Mary, the University of Oklahoma, and Bowling Green State University and he loves nothing better than a thorny marketing challenge. He would love to help you market your business on the Internet, boost the fundraising numbers for your school or nonprofit, or sellout your next big event. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.