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It’s the User Interface, Stupid

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The other day TrustedReviews editor Riyad and I had a conversation in which we were both in such complete agreement that I got a visual image of us like a pair of those nodding dogs you sometimes see on the back shelf of a car. Surreal. I suggest you try not to get a mental picture. Too late? OK, let’s move on.

Riyad and I were agreeing on something so blatantly fundamental, so starkly obvious, that it seems to me that the computer industry as a whole just needs to get a wiggle on and catch up with us. Then we can say 'we were right all along'. Not in that smug way some people do. Of course we won’t be smug. We’ll be pleased the industry has seen we were right. It’ll be a smile of joy.

Riyad and I were talking about user interfaces in a particular context, which I will get to shortly. But first, a digression on the same theme to show how important user interfaces are, and how much they can make - or break - a device or a whole class of devices.

I met up with some guys from a company called SurfKitchen the other day. You probably won't have heard of them, and that doesn’t really bother them a great deal. They don't exist to make a name for themselves (sorry guys, for mentioning you). What they do is help other companies get the user interface right, and they don’t mind if their efforts are branded by others.

SurfKirchen’s customers happen to be active in the mobile phone sector, and happen to be keen on selling a lot more than just voice conversation.

You'll know if you follow the mobile phone business that what matters is ARPU. ARPU stands for Average Revenue Per User. It relates to the fact that, to maximise profits, network operators need customers to buy ‘stuff’. The more ‘stuff’ you buy, the more profit the operator makes, the happier they are.

There’s a wide and growing array of different types of ‘stuff’ available to buy: ringtones, music downloads, games, images, video clips. And plenty more in the offing, with TV services, for example, looking like making a splash in 2006.

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