“The end of an era,” a colleague of mine tweeted during the recent CES conference. Amidst the promises for 2011, which include advances in tablet computing, connected cars, Internet-enabled television and next-gen smartphones, one thing was made clear: desktop computing is giving way to new forms of digital interactivity.
Next generation services are built across contexts, colonizing an emerging ecosystem of screens. Startups like Netflix and Hulu stream video across mobile phone, tablet, and TV. Pandora replaces radio online and in-car. Last.fm supports Kinect and Instapaper does iPad. Depending on where I am, social search engine Aardvark decides whether to ping me via Google Chat or iOS app. These are all examples of ubiquitous service in action.
Supporting this reality is the emergence of reliable touch, voice and gesture-controlled interfaces. In the past two months, Microsoft sold eight million Kinect controllers. Consumer expectations have been reset. This is just the beginning, as application designers are beginning to take into account contextual shifts between interfaces. A mobile navigation app could be designed for touch, but automatically switch to voice-based input if operated while driving.
For those hoping to better serve consumers, understanding this new reality is mandatory. Mapping out user behavior within this ecosystem will reveal opportunities for meaningful engagement. Implementing the most effective interface for emerging “post-desktop” behavior will be rewarded.
Caleb Kramer is an engagement planner at MobileBehavior, a Tribal DDB Company, in New York City.