The Death of the Desktop

Monday, 12 March 2007 @ 1700

Aza Raskin, Pres, Humanized

Presentation (or facsimile):

GOMS modeling: allows you to take an interface and figure out how long it will take a user to use an interface.
Information efficiency: how much info put into a system vs. how much is minimally needed.

Interface: The way you accomplish tasks with a product

To a user, the interface is the product. Beautiful and clever solutions under the hood mean nothing without an elegant user interface.

I don’t know what percentage of our time on any computer-based project is spent getting the equipment to work right, but if I had a gardener who spent as much of her time fixing her shovel as we spend fooling with our computers, I’d buy her a good shovel. – Erasmus Smums

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. – Albert Einstein

The problem is that applications are like isolated cities.
Word <-> Photoshop <-> Mathematica example of the application centric model

What does an interface do?

  • Create content
  • Navigate content
  • Select content
  • Transform content

Everything is an outgrowth of these four basic transformations.

Just like Asimov’s laws of robotics:

  1. An interface shall not harm your content or, through inaction, allow your content to come to harm.
  2. An interface shall not waste you time or require you to do more work than is strictly neccesary
  3. An interface shall not allow itself to get into a state where it cannot manipulate content.

Content is Everything
The desktop is not about content.

How does the web have better examples?
Language has untapped power.

What does the desktop do?
It lets you create a state to enter content

  • command line interfaces
  • the URL bar
  • Spotlight/Google Desktop searching
  • Humanized’s Enso Launcher


  • Tags and search undermine forced hierarchy on the web already


  • Let content be content
  • Let search be search – don’t force people to categorize too much
  • Let 2D content be 2D content (windows are 3D)
  • Let the user’s structure be (do not force hierarchies upon them)

huge 2D desktop: enso