eComm Part 3: FrogDesign and the Singularity

Mark Ralston of Frog Design gave an excellent talk, with beautiful slides, at eComm last week. I’d heard of Frog Design before – their reputation precedes them.

He had a couple of key things to say, the chief of which I think is this: we may have just witnessed, with the iPhone, a “Windows 95” moment. That is, a moment when a shift occurred, and there’s “no going back”. In the case of Windows 95, this was “no going back to non-Windows-based computing, command lines, etc” and where perhaps the appeal of the PC was irrevocably broadened and shifted for good.

In the case of phones, it’s possibly about what a phone actually is any more. When you use it to email, surf, play music, IM, take photos, check stocks, check weather, play chess, games, and a zillion other stoopid and entertaining things, and, oh yeah, make phone calls, is it really a phone (as we used to know it), or is it something we still call a phone, but now irrevocably different? Discuss 🙂

Validation for his perspective comes from many places, including the fact that Nokia, the leading phone manufacturer in the world, has been telling anyone who’ll listen that it’s a computer company now.

I think what Mark was getting at is that the “it” – phone, communicator, tiny-computer-that-fits-in-my-shirt-pocket or whatever-you’re-having-yourself has now firmly stepped away (for good) from its roots as “phone” – a thing I make calls with. And that has consequences, not just in the design and conceptual area where Mark operates.

I’ve heard many carriers/operators discuss the iPhone as a “game changer” and use phrases like “raising the bar” and so on. In their own way I think, this is what they’re getting at: there’s no going back to phones as “just phones”, or phones as “primarily a phone, that can also surf”.

Another talk well worth checking out when the video is up there on the eComm site.


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