After writing my apology on behalf of the IT industry, I’ve been thinking about what our next steps need to be. What does the industry need to do to make computing easier for the home user who doesn’t have an IT staff? I might not have all the answers but I do have some suggestions.
First off, we have to admit that home users don’t need to have as much power as business users. There’s no reason to believe that Ms. Alice Olivia Livingstone has to have the same setup at home as she does at work where there’s a team of people who’s responsible to tune her machine and her network. This is like saying that homes need professional level kitchens to cook dinner for a family of 4.
We need to reexamine the myth that people need to have the same hardware, capabilities and experience at home as they do at work. There are truck drivers who drive Honda Civics at home. Does the paradigm shift effect them? Why do we think that computer users are any different?
We should really review the flexibility people have on their home boxen. It’s one of those axioms: “Flexibility, Simplicity and Security choose any 2”. MS has been trying provide all three and failing miserably because it’s not possible. Linux and BSD have mostly gone the Security and Flexibility route and it has worked for them. On the whole, Mac has gone with Simplicity and Security.
Although it’s rather criticized, one of the reasons for the success of the iPhone is the locked down nature of the device. By having a gate keeper for any software loaded on the device you protect less educated users. Where I understand why it’s necessary to allow businesses, power users and hobbyists the ability to install what they want on their machines, 80% of home users don’t care about it. They would be more then happy to go a trusted source for all their software. In an ideal world these users won’t be able to get software from another source.
For home users I’m a big fan of “big button” computing. When you turn on the computer, there are just big simple buttons for the functions you need like e-mail, web browser, word processing, spreadsheet, etc. There’s also a “add software button” which gives you the ability to download software from only approved sources. This is the default way a number of the linux based netbooks work. This would be the first step towards moving away from traditional computers and towards “appliance computing”.
Now, at the users risk you should be able to load a different OS on these boxes. This way the hobbyists, experts and psuedo-experts can go ahead and do what they want to.
I have more thoughts coming but that’s enough for part 2.