Old skool habits die hard because we fear looking like idiots

NY Times wrote an article about how Blackberry users are ashamed of their phones. The piece spread virally really quickly, causing, for example, the outspoken twitterist Piers Morgan to reply that he isn’t.

Anyhow, the catchy headlines aside, the article could equally have been about the users of Nokia E72 or E7 or any other old skool QWERTY workhorses. Or some older user interface paradigm that people use, even if they could afford the new shiny thing.

The moral of the story, after all, was that people stick to the old QWERTY devices they master, because they don’t want to look like idiots with the touch screen. But yet they end up looking like idiots, because their device is missing out so much of modern functionality.

I wrote in my smartphone megapost about how people’s reluctance to hop to the technology adoption cycle creates some inevitable segmentation, even if the direction of the industry is clear.

Think it this way. The learning curve for PC mouse could be done safely at home, the mobile user interface you end up learning in front of your friends and colleagues. As a result, the market is always somewhat segmented against the technology adoption cycle, even though in the view of the 3-5-years, the segments tend to come and go.

I don’t think the fear for change will stop here. It will be something we will see across every user interface paradigm shift.

Now people are overcoming the fear of swiping the screen three times and the calendar prompt still not going off. Or the crazy effort it takes just to type “I will get back to you” to an urgent SMS. That is, assuming, of course, that the autocorrect lets you get away with that simple of words.

Next people will fear voice dialing mistakes, exposing our not-so-perfect articulation of words. Or the gestures enabled by wearable computing being misinterpreted.

When you drive home all alone and your Bluetooth car kit decides to call the pizza takeaway place instead of your wife, that’s kind of funny. It is also funny when the Xbox Kinect follows the gestures of your 8-year old daughter like a shadow, but refuses to acknowledge that you too are jumping. Not high, but definitively jumping. All this is less funny when it happens in public places with your mobile, and everyone is looking at you. Unless you’re an early adopter, of course. Then you think it’s totally cool.

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