Touch screen UIs to kill the browser?

By September 2, 2010Apple, Twitter

image I got up this morning to find the world going crazy about the new Twitter iPad application – see this glowing Engadget review and the Techcrunch titled Twitter Just Killed Something Else: Their Own Website – the title gives a hint of where I’m going with this post. (Apologies for the fact this link is to the shortened post on TC – the full one seems to be currently unavailable).

So I installed the Twitter iPad app on the iPad I have in my kitchen at home, and  – I loved it too.  I won’t go into the features here (check out the Engadget review for that), but I will say that I got lost clicking around my timeline, user profiles and the tweet history of individuals in a way I haven’t done for a while.  Put simply, the Twitter iPad app is a much more engaging way to use the Twitter service than any other interface I’ve seen.

I feel the same way about Flipboard for looking at my Facebook.  Again I get lost browsing Facebook through Flipboard in a way I never do when I’m on the site itself.  In fact, post Flipboard the site feels a bit dull.

Finally – I love reading Techcrunch and The Guardian via the Pulse app.  It would be nice to have more flexibility to include the feeds I want, but it is a great experience for those two sites.

It is still early days for the iPad, and UI innovations are coming thick and fast – the Twitter app only just came out and Flipboard is only a month or two old – and already for media consumption the experience is getting way ahead of the browser.  Apple and Steve Jobs have copped some flak for describing the iPad as revolutionary, but I’m starting to think they might be right.

Regular readers will know that I’m no Apple fanboy, and I don’t think that it is the iPad in and of itself that is making the difference.  Rather I think it is richness and variety of touch screen navigation and the speed of the iPad apps that makes the experience so good – both features that can be replicated on other devices – e.g. these new Archos tablets.  That said, the iPad is a beautiful and brilliant machine and Apple is clearly way out in front here.

What I’m wondering is whether consuming content on touch screen tablets is going to become such a better experience to consuming it on desktop or laptop computers that it will start to change the way offices are set up.  As I said, we have an iPad in our kitchen at home, but I don’t have one in the office (yet) which is where I do the majority of catching up with blogs.

I’m also wondering if there might be a much better way read emails.  One of the nice things about the iPad Twitter app is that it makes it easy to read the content behind links and navigate back and forth to the original Tweet and your timeline.  By contrast Outlook forces me to open a browser and change application to look at a link (or any attachment for that matter).

If I’m even half right with the ideas in either of these last two paragraphs then revolution isn’t too strong a term for the changes the iPad is bringing.

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  • Nic

    Interesting stuff but….won’t developers and owners of websites and (to a lesser degree browser software) start to make their sites touch friendly? My argument runs that the number of different mobile/tablet platforms will mean that the creation of and maintenance of specific apps will become a burden. A common platform already exists and within the foreseeable future will offer the flexibility to reproduce the UI benefits currently found in touch screen apps. That platform is web based and already allows developers to create one-size-fits-all solutions.

    I’m pretty sure that I agree with the main thrust of your piece: the website that we have grown to know and love over the last 15-18 years will go. But I think that accessibility and commonality suggests that it is more likely to be replaced by increasingly flexible, widgitised web based alternatives than by content accessed through an ever growing and fragmenting range of brand specific tools. The content in those alternatives will be accessed through browsers not apps.

  • I agree that web standards based solutions should be more efficient – but browser standards and implementations will need to evolve considerably to keep up with the experience offered by apps

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