Notion Ink

And we love it!

Posted in 1 by Rohan Shravan on December 19, 2009

Hello All!

We loved the response and appreciation we have got till now. But more is yet to come. Right from more than one product to be there at CES, to the recent patents we have filed, there are going to be more disclosures on the work we are doing. A special thanks to the open source community, nVidia and Pixel Qi, for supporting us and helping us make this into a reality. (Special thanks to slashgear for covering us.)

So, who are we? What do we do? When are we going to launch the product? I know you all have lots of questions.

We see ourselves as the usability firm, one which will always keep the user at the core and design everything. Right now the product which is to come at CES will showcase only Android. But was it not designed for smaller mobile phone? What about those full screen alert boxes? There are lots of issues for Android to be used on the big screen. We are going to fix it, but will not showcase in CES this time. There are going to be a lot of User Interface changes in the final product.

We believe that the ‘window’ concept is gone. The UI which we are using is some 4 decades old, but we are yet to get rid of the folders, hierarchy and drop down menus! All this is going to change. A lot of new user interface ideas are coming. One of the few one which we like are this and this. In fact, TIME’s project Manhattan is an early response to the same. The UI is going to change, because the needs have changed. Now we need our devices not only to browse internet, but also to read the books.

Some of the concept designs have made us smile in awe and in anger as well. Awe because they were able to solve a lot of problems, and anger, cos they were able to showcase it to the world before us. Yet, this new UI needs to evolve. And the community would play a very big role in the same. We are thinking of involving the community in a bigger way, where they get to choose which rules are to be adopted, what UI element makes a lot of sense and what compromises are to be made, if efficient usability is to be achieved.

iPod brought music to life, then videos as well. Soon internet and applications saw the surge. Amazon came out with Kindle. But what’s next? We believe its the media. Newspapers at go. Delivered every morning to your home screen.

We recently went to Taiwan. And to our understanding, and major ODM’s fear, we can definitely say, that Apple IS cooking up something. Even if one of the ODMs is their manufacturer, the fact that their other non-Apple group would suffer is a big burden for them. We talked to all. And we tried to explain them, that product is not going to win the next generation of computing device race. It’s the CONTENT. We tried our hard to make them realize, when Apple launches their product, they will have a very beautiful device, the best UI which a tablet can feature, and to support all that, one of the best content delivery systems (their recent acquisition are big hints). All this would again usher a big group of people making application for them. And then again the normal product manufacturers would be left.

We are not going to do to this mistake. That is why we have already made quite a few collaborations, and many more are in the pipeline. We would release our own SDK later next year for the bigger screen application development. We would help the open community as much as we can, so there is already lot of content there, before we hit the market. Designing on Android if way easier than on any other OSes.

We have a comments section on the website, would love to hear from you. And love to answer your queries. You can also mail us at info AT notionink.com

The Unbalanced World

Posted in 1 by Rohan Shravan on May 24, 2009

The Unbalanced World

World is unbalanced at many places. We see droughts and floods. Its same for the electronic industry as well. We see products around embedded with components which are far more powerful than what current consumers can make use of. We see 4GB of RAM in PCs now a days, and not one time you will notice system consuming more than 2GB. Yes there are application which can make use of this extra horse power, but how many of we actually use them?

What is the size of HDD installed in your PC? Are you running short of more space lately? No, probably. What about those dual and quad-core processors? That would roughly give you more than 4GHz and are you using these for running internet browsers and songs?

We call these configurations Hummers for City transportation. We all live in cities and not in rendering farm houses. And how is the software industry responding to this cult? By giving us more resource hopping applications. Even OSes would tell you “Your current configuration is not our OS capable”. But there is a change in this trend.

Netbooks, UMPCs and MIDs are on rise not because we are in recession (or were in?). But, people are realizing, they need bikes and scooters. They are choosing mobility and maneuverability over real life animation rendering capabilities and complex OSes. And yes, they are cheaper.

But these new trends are presenting us with very different questions. Since resources now have to be optimised, what is the perfect configuration? How much storage should I have? How many simultaneously running applications would make me happy? What is the perfect screen size for me? Do I need a keyboard sticking on to the screen? How much RAM, since I’m not using bloatwares? What if I get stuck somewhere because of the different resources I have at my disposal, can cloud computing be a solution for me then?

If you look closely, you can draw a similarity between Oil and computer industry. First, if you make lot of oil available, you get lot of cars in the market. Lot of oil gives these car manufacturers freedom to make more powerful cars and hence consuming more fuel. And what would more demand would do the the oil prices?

Same is with the application writers. If you get freedom to use more resources, you would concentrate on how to use it, and not on how to use less of it to do the same work. In the end you get application which demand more, and we give them a systems which in the end are just, More.

And solution as we ponder upon is, Simple. :)

Ideas and Communication

Posted in Misc by Rohan Shravan on May 19, 2009
Features which are there in word, excel andpowerpointeditor are available everywhere.. So if you are writing me en email through safari, you can still send me rich formats.. you don’t need to open any application to write CV quality letters. And adding more features to the system is not installing application.. In other words, to add a different capability to the system, we don’t need to write a specialized application, with its specialized command structure, but rather leverage the commands that already exist and add any news ones that might be required. its just adding one more command to the system. Say for example, our computers don’t have application to keep windows on top.. either we can install some software to do that.. or what this guy is saying “OS is powerful enough to give this feature. Add this as a command and user will just press “Ctrl + Alt + T” to keep the windows on top.
Zooming will also be the inherent part of our system. The hardware and software will be capable of handling such features. What problem is highlighted in above paragraph is “understanding how can zooming be used for more than just viewing pictures! It’s a challenging question.. few solution can be making interface such that zooming takes you to certain areas which otherwise will not be accessible. But one thing we must realize.. zooming in and out is fun only for the first half and hour.. then it becomes cumbersome. So design should be such that system zooms in for more data.. not the user.
You might have seen “geek” who neverteldto use mouse.. specially those who are working withlinux.. for everything they will open theirconcoles.. and type in command there.. WhatJefis saying here is. Archy was designed to be addictive. It grows onto you. Especially when you realize that you are saving a lot of time and the system is giving you much higher degree of control.. In general Control means lot of commands, which would mean cluttered menu icons. Archy was language based. So if you remember the commands, you can take those icons away. But here comes the problem, how can I expect a normal user to remember those commands. Here we wish to solve this problem by giving the user minimal set of features through menus and icons and other set is either hidden oracceblethrough Ubiquity kind of system. To understand what I mean by Ubiquity, you need to go through this link http://labs.mozilla.com/2008/08/introducing-ubiquity/ I would suggest installing latestfirefoxand have a bit of understanding how it works
Here is an example.. a research found out that we all have a reading pattern of “F” We glance through the text from left to right and then quickly move down on the left edge to see what else is interesting. So, would that mean, if I keep interesting links on the left side of the page, there is a higher chance that user might actually go through it? The study suggested yes. Now this result came from the statistical analysis of movement of eyes of people while they are reading text. This is Quantitative analysis.
One more example would be to figure out what is the minimum dimension of icon which a user can click using his fingers. This is also experiment based. And a very important study for us. So, do you really think that those people who are developing applications foriphoneare actually doing these studies and experiment before they make anything? My guess would be, they are not. And this is whatAzais saying. People who are designing application are not figuring out human psychology and information theory to design user interfaces.
I don’t know what he told you. But this is what I told him. Our system is going to be a mix of GUI andLUI(language user interface) Now we don’t expect user to learn the language commands, so we want to introduce a tool which will help him either learn, or present “options” to do a task. Again here, the idea of ubiquity comes to my mind. Suppose I want to stop the wireless on my device and I have not given any physical key. The command user will think is simple “Stop Wireless” Ubiquity (now on we will call this system GEN) can take inputs in the form of text. So when we type Stop on Ubiquity (GEN) it suggests you with the available options. And as soon as we type W in the box, GEN (ubiquity) will suggest options starting with W and there we go.
Now GEN has to be intelligent enough to understand that if a user is going through the same process for a task for a number of times, the way of achieving that task should be made easier. Solution? What about wireless now coming on top of the ‘W’ list. Or what about giving it a finger gesture which user can choose? Now here comes what we discussed in the earlier box. Doing experiments (Quantitative analysis) to understand what suits the user (human psychology) better.
People have done a lot of research in figuring out better ways of visualizing the information. But none of the new platform is being accepted by the general mass.. and still we are stuck with the normal page views.
There is something interesting here. Every patent has a life. We don’t own patents for long. In general all the patents which were there with big companies like MS, Adobe, Apple have been outdated. And there are better ways to implement same ideas. We patent the way of accomplishing that idea, not the ideas itself. Its like making the cure for AIDS. We cannot patent the idea that there can be a cure for AIDS. There are lot of open source application which without getting into the patent issues have come up with either same or better solution.. GIMP is a goodlinuxphoto editing software example. Its available for windows as well now.
Open source wave is going to help us a lot. Nearly everything has (in some cases better) its clone in Linux which is completely open. But what we need to do here is focus in what should be given to user as minimal set (though rich) of features. And then force our programmers to enable them.
“bloatware???
Bloatware is a software which is packed with excessive controls and consumes a lot of space.. WindowsXPis a perfect example. You remember the ideal office I was talking about in my presentation.. that’sbloadware.. you have every control with you, but you don’t know what to do with it.
Do you really think the features which MS office or Excel provide needs special software? Think how is the text managed when you see title bars, task bars, when you get error screens, when you get notifications for updates. Everything is already built into the system. But. Not enabled. Just to sell one more software. Now if you keep doing that, you are increasing redundancy. Increased memory space (2-3softwaresfor what is already built in OS), more time consuming (since now each software developer has to come up with neverUIfor his software, menus, ways of interacting with OS, etc).
What would the other system which we are designing would do? It would reduce the redundancy, reduce the memory space consumed, increase usability and reliability. Agreed?
I think we cannot do away with the menus. But for now, we can hide them. If you have downloaded and usingTextFlowsoftware, they have a very cool alternative of menu bar. But yes they do have menu, its just different. Its only accessible when you need it. And that what I think is important.
The problem of adoption is the solution itself. If the solution we provide is in the endcomples, andun-intuitive, people are not going to adopt. By separating ourselves from saying we are making computers, we take away the user’s expectancy of giving a windowsXPas OS. WhichEEEPC does. But does it really solve the problem of mobility?
What is mobility? For us mobility is being able to use it anywhere, and everywhere. For as long as we want. Our hardware gives us this feature. It can run for days, not hours. And we believe in the form-factor we are providing is a better solution for mobility clause. You cannot use laptops when you are standing. We want Adam to be used as a notepad. As a book. You can read the novel, which you might have written. We don’t want you to go out to laptops and PC to do editing of that same novel. You might be travelling in metro reading and figuring out, oops.. there is an error, you edit it right there. If you wait till you go back home, half the ideas will be lost.
Its a huge challenge for the established players to bring changes for which they need to re-adjust. Re-adjusting is risky, costly and leads to unknown futures. Quite understandable. And if you prevent these changes, that’s called monopoly. This is what is going on since long time. How many players were there in 2005 for editing documents? MS Word, that’s it. Its changing. We are not the only one who is going to change it. There are others. But we don’t know who is destined to succeed in achieving. And hence yes it’s a risk, but a risk if gets paid off, there is quite a possibility that our discussions are mentioned in history.
May beRaskinis talking about us. If you search theinternet, you wont find people working on this exact concept. Cos its difficult. Even we wont apply this concept to the fullest. There will be applications on ADAM. Raskin’s system is monopolistic. With which I don’t agree. Windows 7 is out and so is newer Mac OS X. Have you seen any soft of integration of applications with them? No. Why not? Same reason. It will take out the profit that are making using other applications likeiworks.
For us what is more important is bring in the change. Telling people that what they were using since long wasn’t exactly the way they should have been. We will tell them that the concept of OS was flawed. But in our case, intuitiveness is the main solution for adoption. Intuitiveness is just the conformity from the user’s perspective that the device has more potential than what he thought before. Other word for intuitiveness would be assumptions. If users have right assumptions for ADAM, we will get what we are seeking.
Following is the conversation between 2 of our friends while doing some research on Interface.
It’s a conversation, and parts of it, so expect break in flow of ideas and unexpected topics being discussed.
Features which are there in word, excel and powerpoint editor are available everywhere.. So if you are writing me an email through safari, you can still send me rich formats.. you don’t need to open any application to write CV quality letters. And adding more features to the system is not installing application.. In other words, to add a different capability to the system, we don’t need to write a specialized application, with its specialized command structure, but rather leverage the commands that already exist and add any news ones that might be required.  its just adding one more command to the system. Say for example, our computers don’t have application to keep windows on top.. either we can install some software to do that.. or what this guy is saying “OS is powerful enough to give this feature. Add this as a command and user will just press “Ctrl + Alt + T” to keep the windows on top.
Zooming will also be the inherent part of our system. The hardware and software will be capable of handling such features. What problem is highlighted here is “understanding how can zooming be used for more than just viewing pictures! It’s a challenging question.. few solution can be, making interface such that zooming takes you to certain areas which otherwise will not be accessible. But one thing we must realize.. zooming in and out is fun only for the first half and hour.. then it becomes cumbersome. So design should be such that system zooms in for more data.. not the user.
You might have seen “geek”  who never use mouse.. specially those who are working with linux.. for everything they will open their consoles.. and type in command there.. What Jef is saying here is. Archy was designed to be addictive. It grows onto you. Especially when you realize that you are saving a lot of time and the system is giving you much higher degree of control.. In general Control means lot of commands, which would mean cluttered menu icons. Archy was language based. So if you remember the commands, you can take those icons away. But here comes the problem, how can I expect a normal user to remember those commands. Here we wish to solve this problem by giving the user minimal set of features through menus and icons and other set is either hidden or accessible through Ubiquity kind of system. To understand what I mean by Ubiquity, you need to go through this link http://labs.mozilla.com/2008/08/introducing-ubiquity/ I would suggest installing latest firefoxand have a bit of understanding how it works
Here is an example.. a research found out that we all have a reading pattern of “F” We glance through the text from left to right and then quickly move down on the left edge to see what else is interesting. So, would that mean, if I keep interesting links on the left side of the page, there is a higher chance that user might actually go through it? The study suggested yes.  Now this result came from the statistical analysis of movement of eyes of people while they are reading text. This is Quantitative analysis.
One more example would be to figure out what is the minimum dimension of icon which a user can click using his fingers. This is also experiment based. And a very important study for us. So, do you really think that those people who are developing applications for iPhone are actually doing these studies and experiment before they make anything? My guess would be, they are not. And this is what Aza is saying. People who are designing application are not figuring out human psychology and information theory to design user interfaces.

Future is not impossible

Posted in Technology by Rohan Shravan on May 2, 2009

One of the most important application of the Operating Systems was organizing and displaying data. And the failure in doing so is represented by the number of the softwares  installed to do so on our computers. Picasa being one of the better examples (for photo viewing /editing). People have different idea of what suits them in context of music players and libraries, and use it. And again here, in the context of the storing, organizing and using the multimedia content, OSes have lost the battle. And finally an ares which we intend to solve on a bigger scale, managing documents, there is not even a 3rd party software catering to our needs.

Today we have moved beyond OSes. We run applications for hours. Read with them and sleep with them. We have been using them so much, that what OS you are working on will not matter a thing if in the end it displays the content you are familiar with or prefer. Recent switching of people towards Mac is an example. Millions of net books are being released in the market with pre-installed ubuntu OS, after careful tweaks. The cloud computing is still 2-3 years away from solving the “problem of adoption”, and the Hype Cycle predicts the same.

Everyone on the subconscious level would agree that the significance of ‘kind’ of OS has vanished, or vanishing. The limits on what OS could do have already been breached. What remains next is the innovation in the way data is transferred, wireless. We are not far from reaching this stage as well. The notion that you just have a screen in your hands and everything is being done on ‘clouds’ is a strict function of the wireless capabilities and the related economics. But still future is not impossible, its just not completely predictable.

Comments Off

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,720 other followers