Some thoughts about iphone & openmoko

Fabien fleutot+openmoko at
Tue Jun 5 19:14:42 CEST 2007

Open source software hasn't exactly a great record, when it comes to GUI
usability. The only graphic OSS application with outstanding usability I can
think of is Firefox, and it took them a couple of netscapes and mozillas and
forks and rewrites, all in all a decade, to get there. When you ask better
interface ergonomics to OSS developers, they tend to understand "cramming
even more features" or "put more transparent, 3D bells & whistles". I know I
know, some hugely successful software companies don't know much better...

OTOH, usability of phones is dreadful even when compared to PC applications.
Apple is clearly going to shake the whole industry by at last giving to
usability the central importance it deserves, for an object we use so
casually. And all other clueless commercial vendors are going to copy the
wrong stuff, thinking it's all about having a black grid of gleaming buttons
on a touchscreen :)

There will be attempts to rip off the iPhone's user experience on openmoko,
and  99%+ of these experiments will be as huge a failure as their commercial
counterparts. But I hope people will realize there are much more interesting
stuff to do than copycat Apple, trying to beat it at its own game.

There's a good reason why most hackers suck at GUI design: it doesn't
scratch an hitch of theirs. They rather stick to their beloved command line
interfaces: they've a steeper learning curve, but once mastered they're
faster and more powerful. But it won't do the trick on a phone: no keyboard,
tougher usage environment, not the same kinds of interactions... I hope that
such a harder to learn, but eventually faster and more powerful UI will
emerge from openmoko, and I'm really curious to discover what it'll be like.
Apple is seldom beaten when it comes to intuitive UIs, and that's not what I
demand from my phone; both devices don't and shouldn't address the same
market niche.
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