A couple of week’s ago I finished work, poured a glass of wine and settled down to watch the livestream from Google Atmosphere which was just starting in Mountain View. Google host the annual event and invite leading CIO’s to understand what Google is up to, and to build credibility that this is not just a search engine – this is a serious enterprise technology company.
I had tuned in because I wanted to see Dave Girouard presenting. Dave is VP of Product Management and has been a driving force behind the Google Apps suite.
You can see the presentation below, but one comment really stuck with me – and that was about transparent technology. You can jump right to it at 10 minutes 20 seconds in. He relates a story of a carpenter doing some work in his kitchen. He’s chatting with the carpenter and asks him why he uses one tool over another.
The carpenter replies that with the better tool he’s only thinking about the wood, whereas with the worse tool he is thinking about what’s in his hand. Dave suggests that it should be the same with technology – you want a specific result, and any technology that you have to think about to get it is doing something wrong.
It got me thinking about technologies that I’ve experienced that have really done well at this:
MessageLabs: I spent 10 years working at MessageLabs, a pioneer in cloud based email security. The service has many millions of users on it and they all receive clean email into their inbox. As a user you have no interaction with the service which makes a massive improvement on having to update security software on your laptop every week.
Skype: My wife is South African and until we got Skype we’d have some pretty expensive phone calls for her to catch up with her mum every week. Then we moved onto Skype and got the double benefit of video and no call charges. It’s so easy to use that as far as we are concerned we’re just looking at a window into South Africa even though there is so much complexity in the background.
Amazon: How many times have you bought a book on Amazon even before you’ve really made your mind up?! One click ordering makes the purchasing process so simple, and combined with delivery to your Kindle you are reading in seconds from when you thought “I’m going to buy a book”
Google Chrome: This is my browser of choice, and primarily because there is nothing to it – it is so lightweight compared to my previous experiences of browsers – the focus is all on the content that you want to look at.
These are a few of my thoughts on transparent technologies. What technologies do you love because they are not visible? What products are the opposite and make you spend time working out how to use them rather than what your trying to achieve?
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