Kindle for iPhone and Innovation
by Michael Hay on Aug 11, 2009
So I just finished Children of Dune and I have started God Emperor of Dune. However I was faced with a problem finding a bookstore which had the tome for sale in English. Okay well good luck with that being an easy task while in Japan. So I figured I would give Kindle for the iPhone a shot to see if that fit the bill. Well once I got my correct credit card information sorted out I was able to make the purchase. Note that I found Torley has a similar experience, but which his iTouch. I won’t go on to describe again what Torley has done but what I want to do is talk a it about innovation within the context of engineering.
Frequently when engineers make something that someone asked for or to scratch their own itch they don’t know what is needed to setup, control, or configure their thingy. By pointing out the Kindle for iPhone what I’ve found is that we can apply the law of subtraction which is powerful law indeed. You can see it in the simple things: no longer are bookmarks required or, because the iPhone is back lit a light a night to read is not required and of course there is the obvious space savings and “green-ness” of this approach. So it is about subtraction of features and items that I’m using the Kindle for iPhone to talk about. Essentially I think, as does Apple, that there is as much value in what is removed as what is added to something which is engineered and sold to a market. I suppose that some would call this a “less is more” mentality. However it is something that is often overlooked in our society and frankly I don’t even see it taught anywhere. I suppose that we could relegate this to something of creative expression and either comes from talent or experience. However I don’t find it much thought about and documented directly for engineers to take advantage of. So my question is where is the culture of subtraction in our engineering driven society?
Comments (2 )
I think that an appreciation of design is becoming more common and with this, I think that simplicity is becoming more appreciated.
Instead of concentrating on what something can do, there is more focus on what ‘I’ want it to do; there is no point in adding hundreds of features and paying for them if ‘I’ do not need or want them.
Lets take Google for example; before Google, the first page of any search engine was cluttered with options, pop-ups and the likes. Google came along with a simple search box which hid all of the complexity and it’s become a design classic and template for many to follow.
I can recommend books like ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ by Don Norman as a good grounding in the subject.
BTW, how are getting on with what I like to call ‘God Awful of Dune’; it is better on subsequent readings but is still one of the weakest of Dune series IMO.
Martin I think that your point is 100% spot on about design. One of the key the aspects of usability is simplicity and minimalism. Google and Apple have taken this to heart. I also think that on the back end within the server portion of a lot of software simplicity can yield tangible benefits. It makes it easier for engineers to understand what they are doing and it makes it easier for the QA folks to both author and execute test plans.
As to Dune and more specifically “God Emperor of Dune.” I think that Herbert is doing to the Reader with this book what Leto is doing to his people: enforced tranquility. In this you are longing to get to the next book, you are in effect feeling the frustration of the people leading up to the scattering. What I’ve also noticed, and if you’ve read the most recent series, is that Leto appears to be preparing Duncan for something down the road. Specifically when Leto integrated his ancestors under Harum it was because this ancestor represented a strong pharonic dynasty. In this way Duncan with his serial lives also represents a personal serial dynasty with a deep 3600 year sense of being himself through multiple lifetimes…