The world of design is getting flat.
The NYT reports on how Microsoft is leading the “flat design” brigade, with its insightful approach to design.
Truly original and prescient thinking.
It might sound audacious to think that Microsoft, the arbiter of uncool, was at the forefront of design a few years ago. But it was.
It turns out the company’s decision to focus on “flat design,” a type of visual scheme where everything has a smooth and even look, was a few years ahead of the rest of the technology and user interface industry.
While Microsoft was flattening its interfaces as if it were a child pushing down on a bulge of putty, its competitors – including Apple and Facebook — were focused on skeuomorphism, a type of look in which, say, a note-taking feature on a Web site or in an app would look like a spiral-bound notebook, a reference to the real world look of a notebook.
Now everyone seems to be following in those flat footsteps.
A heady and lethal cocktail– NYT reports on the increasing complexity of upcoming Internet-connected vehicle dashboards, which are likely to incorporate apps for social networking, reviews & recommendations, among many others.
The smartphone revolution is expanding into dangerous territory – one thing’s for sure, this ain’t a smart move.
Government regulators are concerned. In February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a 177-page set of proposed guidelines for in-car electronics. The report repeatedly mentions the complexity of dashboard displays and services that include Twitter posting in traffic, checking restaurant recommendations and buying tickets from behind the wheel.
Car manufacturers say the reality is that drivers are already using these features on their phones while driving. The goal, they argue, is to offer fewer distractions with built-in systems that use, for example, voice commands, buttons on the steering column and large touch screens.
Transforming lives – CNN reports on the key role of the phone, in the fight against poverty.
Leading the way is the evolution of new mobile banking and payment models, tailored to local needs.
“The cell phone is the single most transformative technology for development,” said Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of the 2005 book “The End of Poverty.”
“Poverty is almost equated with isolation in many places of the world. Poverty results from the lack of access to markets, to emergency health services, access to education, the ability to take advantage of government services and so on,” Sachs said. “What the mobile phone — and more generally IT technology — is ending is that kind of isolation in all its different varieties.”
Moreover, the profusion of payment services via cell phones puts places like Kenya and Uganda in the vanguard of mobile financial services. “You can walk in the middle of rural village in Rwanda and use a mobile phone to pay at a recharging station to recharge LED lights,” says Amanda Gardiner, acting program manager of Business Call to Action, a New York-based non-profit organization that is helping to bring more mobile phones to Africa’s rural poor.
The iPad and the Kindle Fire seem set to give a fresh boost to online shopping.
The WSJ reports that with in-store sales growth muted, and research suggesting that there’s a higher percentage of conversions among tablet users, retailers are modifying their online storefronts, and making them tablet-friendly.
Consumers tend to spend more time on the Web after buying a tablet, and nearly half shop from the device, according to a survey of more than 2,300 consumers by Forrester.
Many retailers also report that tablet users place bigger orders—in some cases adding 10% to 20% more to the tab—on average than shoppers using PCs or smartphones.
As mobile payment standards evolve, mainstream retailers are driving efforts to promote digital receipts even at their offline stores.
The NYT reports on the potential environmental benefits and cost savings that could be generated, as a result of these initiatives.
Green and clean.
To the rubbish pile that the Internet is creating, alongside the road maps, newspapers and music CDs, add one more artifact of consumer life, the paper receipt.
Major retailers, including Whole Foods Market, Nordstrom, Gap Inc. (which owns Old Navy and Banana Republic), Anthropologie, Patagonia, Sears and Kmart, have begun offering electronic versions of receipts, either e-mailed or uploaded to password-protected Web sites. And more and more customers, the retailers report, are opting for paperless.
From banking to education to healthcare, the ongoing economic revolution in Africa, is being boosted in no small measure, by rocketing adoption of mobile phones, and increasingly the mobile Web.
The Guardian reports on a pattern that seems to be ever more evident and replicating, across emerging markets.
A new day beckons, a day of empowerment.
In Africa, where a billion people use only 4% of the world’s electricity, many cannot afford to charge a computer, let alone buy one. This has led phone users and developers to be more resourceful, and African mobiles are being used to do things that the developed world is only now beginning to pick up on.
The most dramatic example of this is mobile banking. Four years ago, in neighbouring Kenya, the mobile network Safaricom introduced a service called M-Pesa which allows users to store money on their mobiles. If you want to pay a utilities bill or send money to a friend, you simply dispatch the amount by text and the recipient converts it into cash at their local M-Pesa office.
According to California-based mobile-banking innovator Carol Realini, executive chairman of Obopay: “Africa is the Silicon Valley of banking. The future of banking is being defined here… It’s going to change the world.”
Critically acclaimed and with around 500 features and enhancements included in the latest WP7 Mango update (version 7.5), the Windows Phone platform holds a lot of promise.
Also, industry insiders like Eldar Murtazin have indicated that the new WP7 design guidelines do not mandate hardware buttons.
Coupled with a strong discovery aspect for apps and a novel interface, it could well be a game changer.