Personal computers were called “personal” in contrast to their large, mainframe, shared resource predecessors.
But personal computers – desktop computers – are fundamentally impersonal. They are big, standard, functional objects we keep in rooms hidden away.
Smartphones and mobile devices are personal. At launch, Steve Jobs described the iPad as intimate.
We touch the devices themselves, not a separate “input” device. We carry them on our persons.
Mobile devices are personal, intimate, and used in public – the whole package matters. And therefore how these devices make us feel, and what these devices say about you to others matter.
All this adds up to a new reality where fashion matters to a degree the technology industry couldn’t have imagined a decade or two ago.
Wearables (watches, glasses, whatever else comes next) will be even more about fashion as these things will be even more a part of how we present ourselves to others.
And this is interesting because as the technology becomes “good enough” to meet the baseline needs as an industry we can’t justify upgrade on function alone. The rapid acceleration of upgrade cycles on mobile devices has made reinvention every year or two a stronger part of the development cycle, and that’s a huge part of what excites people.
People want the new styles. They want fashion in their technology.
Apple’s 5C launch seemed like a first (though not particularly effective) foray into this reality – repackaging the iPhone 5 into a more “fashionable” package rather than just marketing it as “last year’s model” seems like an interesting move.
This new intersection between technology and fashion combined with the quicker release cycle is probably going to yield a lot of interesting developments in hardware and software over the next few years.
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