Same old GUI

Same old GUI

Despite all the hoopla associated with user interfaces over the years, the sad truth is that GUI technology as a whole hasn't advanced all that much since the introduction of the Macintosh, which in turn was based on a concept that had languished at Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre until Steve Jobs and friends came along.

Since then, Microsoft has done a credible job of fine-tuning those concepts for personal computers. But fundamentally, PCs aren't much easier to use today than they were 10 years ago.

Money to burn

Because the Windows experience still leaves the average user cold, many people are flocking to browsers. Although browsers may not be sexy applications, they don't take rocket scientists to figure out how to use them.

The good news is that now that Netscape has your attention on the desktop, the company has plans to make the browser experience a lot more intuitive. That means incorporating a wide range of new GUI technology to make the browser a simple tool for accessing both local and remote resources.

With a great deal of luck, Netscape's push will force everyone in the computer industry to take a long-overdue look at developing a user interface that makes PCs productive for everyone from the very moment they sit down. There is still too much training required for users and far too many technical installation glitches to overcome.

And the most pathetic element of this situation is that computer companies have burned through millions of dollars worth of tests in usability labs that have only resulted in a few minor modifications, as engineers from Mars struggle to understand common users from Venus. That money probably would have been better spent on hiring programmers to at least get the convoluted software out on time for a change.

So can we only hope that developers will one day synchronise with the common person, or is there some cultural breakthrough on the horizon that will fundamentally improve the human-machine interface?

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