Tuesday, January 09, 2007

CES Apple and Design

What a great time of year this is. The Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas is in full swing and we are just a couple of hours away from the Steve Jobs keynote at Macworld. I, of course, am at neither of them (although I was thinking about using that as an excuse for not posting yesterday, but I really just got busy and didn't have time). Even though I am not at either event, I do follow them with several levels of interest.

First and foremost I am a consumer. Much to my wife's displeasure, I am the guy the ad companies love, because I am the guy the ads work on. I love new things, a result of my undiagnosed adult ADD I am sure. I love flashy, shiny things that do more than I could ever need or use. I like the wow factor and I like playing with new things. At heart I am just a kid and these types of shows are a giant indoor playground for me. Secondly, I am a technology geek. I am always amazed by the transformation of the idea into a product. Many of us have ideas although few of us will ever produce anything. Last but not least, I am an architect and designs of all types peek my interest. I like to think about the process that went into the design, how they came to the conclusions they came to and how they managed risk and return on investment.

I know what you are thinking, what does being a database architect have to do with the design of an iPod or some similar product. The answer is simply nothing and everything. It isn't so much about the end result as it is the thought process and thinking that goes into it. It is about being able to figure out new ways of looking at things and always questioning conventional wisdom. The people and companies at these shows have put those thoughts into action and have put the results out there for all to see. Some of those products will be loved and adored, while others are shunned like an ice cream vendor at a polar plunge (sorry, it's a Wisconsin thing). The point is these people took some information based on some research and came to the conclusion that this is what we needed. The thing that I wonder most about is where the balance between information and innovation exists.

Where did research end and speculation start. Where did the things I know I needed end and the things I didn't know I needed start. That is what it's all about. Sure you can go to the user and ask them what they need and give it to them. That is a great approach and you will seldom go wrong. By that same token though, you have to be able to give them what they didn't know they needed in order to be innovative and stay strong. Until Steve Jobs and Apple came out with the iPod, I didn't know I needed one. Had they asked me what I wanted, I might have said it would be great if my Mac would allow me to copy mp3's to eight track tapes so I can play them in my Gremlin.

Architecture is much the same. Create and design for what people know they need, but more importantly, for things they didn't know they needed.

Have a great day!

"First you're an unknown, then you write one book and you move up to obscurity."
-Martin Myers

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