sphere interface?

I thought the MS Surface table computer prototype was pretty laughable, but they’ve managed to take the awkwardness up a notch with the Sphere prototype. All of the wonderful distortion of a spherical projection, combined with the limited shared visible space around the sphere to impede collaboration. Wonderful. So now I can view a distorted photograph, but the person next to me sees an oblique partially obscured view of the same photograph – unless they’re on the other side of the sphere, then they see nothing. And vice versa.

try to collaborate with one of these. i dare you.

It’s surprising, because there is some seriously cool technology under the hood, using the projector lens to detect multitouch control gestures. But they just don’t seem to get what a touch interface can really do. It’s not about flinging photographs around. It’s about providing an adaptable interface that conforms itself to what you need to do at that moment. MS seems to get hung up on the metaphor of the projection device – flat == table, curved == sphere – rather than focusing on what a truly dynamic touch interface can do.

on Yahoo + Microsoft

So MSFT is trying to spend $45 BILLION dollars to buy Yahoo. Rumour has it that the borg want Yahoo’s search and advertising stuff, which would be a little odd – I can’t remember the last time I searched using Yahoo, or saw a Yahoo-powered ad. Whatever.


But, Yahoo does own two resources that I care a great deal about. del.icio.us and Flickr. It’s pretty safe to say that neither of those are worth $45 BILLION, so it’s likely that they aren’t the direct targets of the acquisition attempt.

The first reaction of a vocal group of Flickr users is “cheque please. outta here.” They’re saying that they’ll pull up and move if Redmond is able to sign on the dotted line.

Again, whatever.

Yes, I could very easily host my own photographs (using Gallery2, or even just a simple photoblog – I’ve done both) but the real value of Flickr (and also of del.icio.us) isn’t in the software or the service provided. It’s in the community. Taking my ball and going home would be the wrong thing to do. It’s not about who owns the ball, it’s about playing the game. If I dump Flickr or del.icio.us just because some company bought the company that bought the company that built the playing field, it just isn’t a rational reaction. This isn’t a religious crusade, it’s a community.

Now the risk I see is that MSFT might scare all of the cool out of Flickr and del.icio.us. That’s probably the biggest risk – engineers, designers, UI folks, etc… Will they bail because the borg is coming? If they stay, will they still be able to do cool stuff, or will they have to work on Windows Live Photo Publisher™ integration or somesuch nonsense? I’d hope not. Microsoft IS able to let effective business units keep doing their cool stuff. Bungie kept pumping out the Halo, and the MacBU keeps pumping out their version of Office, which consistently kicks the crap out of the Windows versions. I’m hoping that Balmer has the sense to run the Flickr and del.icio.us units at an arm’s length (or at least not to throw any chairs at them) so they can keep going.

My data is all safe – my photos all live happily in Aperture, and I don’t use Flickr as a repository – it’s strictly a sharing service and community for me. What concerns me most is all of the images I’ve got in the 134 posts on my blog that use Flickr for hosting – any switch will cause a LOT of grief in updating all of those.

I’m willing to wait and see. Microsoft would have to do something pretty stupid to make it worth leaving Flickr or del.icio.us.