Gaming Legend Says 'Spectacular Usability' Can Open New Markets
Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins says gesture, not touch, was the real breakthrough for the iPhone.
The Apple iPhone is widely credited with sparking the smartphone revolution. But according to a gaming industry legend and early Apple employee the now familiar touch screen wasn't the key to the success of the iPhone.
"The real breakthrough on the iPhone wasn't touch, it was swipe - that's a gesture," said Trip Hawkins, who is perhaps best known as the founder of Electronic Arts. Hawkins, who was at Apple in the pre-Macintosh days, also founded video game development company Digital Chocolate.
Recently, Hawkins appeared at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. in conversation with John Markoff of the New York Times. The appearance was part of the museum's Revolutionaries series sponsored by Intel.
While onstage, Hawkins revealed the name of this latest venture: If You Can. The name of the educational-games startup was inspired by a Rudyard Kipling poem. The company will launch its first game in November for the 6-12 age bracket, he said.
It was in an interview after the event that Hawkins commented on the iPhone user interface, which he traces back to an earlier device.
"I really believe that the iPhone user experience is a descendent of the Newton," said Hawkins. "Look at how many years went by and that set of ideas got refined and refined. There's a certain flow you get from a swiping experience that's such a profound breakthrough that every human being on Earth wanted to have one."
Hawkins, who is on the board of Extreme Reality, an Israeli-based motion control software company, sees computing performance as integral to new interface modes.
"I think we're finally crossing some of these thresholds in performance for applications where you can do some pretty fabulous things in software," said Hawkins. "You can have the performance with true consumer usability at the same time. Obviously, with Moore's Law fundamental computing power is just going to keep getting better and the more things you can push to be solved in software the better."
According to Hawkins, superior hardware performance creates opportunities for new experiences.
"What I'm doing right now (with If You Can) is taking advantage of devices like today's tablets where there's a lot more power," said Hawkins. "To open up a new market the usability of a device has to be really spectacular. That's already happening with smartphones and tablets as young children have figured out how to use them - a lot of hardware performance went into making that happen."