Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What the iPad Means for Interactive Application Developers

When it comes to interactivity, the idea of 'less is more' is proved yet again by iPad. It remains to be seen whether it lives up to its promise of delivering the best browsing experience ever. Yet, what impresses me is the elegance of its design - the largest touchscreen device ever designed by Apple is remarkably clutter free.

In one of my earlier posts, I laid out ten new trends in interactivity. It is remarkable to see how some of them are playing out with iPad and its native applications. Here are some illustrations drawn at random.

  1. The sea change in input mechanisms is evident in the increasing use of multi-touch and device orientation while keeping the keyboard as a soft popup.
  2. The way photo albums are presented and rendered indicates a paradigm shift away from interfaces to interactivity. You see a world map, click on a city to see clusters of pictures you took there. Hover your pointer on any cluster to get a sort of preview of what's in there, and finally pick one that you like and render it in an engaging origami-like presentation where pictures unfold in myriad ways.
  3. The breadth of platform support required of interactive applications keeps increasing. Now web pages should play on iPad optimally as well. If designing web pages for multiple viewing devices was a challenge already, now it gets even more interesting with iPad in the mix.

Every time there is a platform shift, application developers have an opportunity to exploit the new capabilities it offers. It will be interesting to see how app developers render richer applications for iPad - it is almost certain that they will be different from laptop browser apps and smartphone apps. There is a new unlearning and learning curve waiting here for app developers. They need to take advantage of the larger size and touch capabilities while reducing the dependence on keyboard.