Herbert Marshall McLuhan, the late, great philosper, who is known for coining powerful expressions, such as “the medium is the message,” had one quote in particular that has stuck with me for a long time, namely:
“The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
This became known as the rear-view mirror effect.
“We march backwards into the future” Wow. Very powerful stuff indeed.
I believe this helps us understand what we are seeing today in this new era of mobile computing. It’s human nature to hold on to principles we feel comfortable with, as we tackle new paradigm shifts. I’m seeing this everywhere in eLearning and mLearning, including how tool vendors scramble to figure out how to get their users from eLearning to mLearning.
And I saw this effect again yesterday as I watched Microsoft unveiled their upcoming Tablet called Surface.
I admire the fact that in designing and manufacturing a Tablet, Microsoft chose not to “copycat” the iPad and instead took a chance with a bold new approach to Tablet computing.
Having said that, I’m not sure I agree with their approach as compared to Apple with their iPad.
In fact I think Microsoft’s latest move epitomizes what Mr. McLuhan meant by the rear-view mirror effect. Microsoft is holding on to everything they know about the PC as they figure out how to compete in a mobile, Post-PC era.
While watching the Keynote video, I noticed Steven Sinofsky from Microsoft described Microsoft’s vision of the tablet as follows:
“We have a vision for reimagining the Tablet, we see a Tablet that has been designed the way Windows has been designed. We see a Tablet that represents a unique vision for the seamless expression of entertainment and creativity. A Tablet that works and play that way that you want to. A tablet that’s a great PC. A PC that’s a great Tablet.”
I was right there with him until he said “A Tablet that’s a great PC. A PC that’s a great Tablet.”
And then I heard another thing that made me think that Microsoft doesn’t really understand mobile. This one is from Steve Ballmer himself
“If you use your PC to design and create things, this is for you. Imagine if we built this so we could use all the apps you’re familiar with.”
In seeing the demos in the video, it’s clear to me that Microsoft really looks at a Tablet as a traditional PC. The Surface even comes with a USB port, so does mean users will be able to attach a mouse? What about the beauty of touch computing? They also showed a full blown version of Word running on the Tablet. They are literally taking everything in Windows in “shrinking” it down for the 10″ tablet display.
Imagine if Adobe would have decided to port the behemoth Photoshop software to the iPad instead of developing Photoshop Touch? I think it would have a disaster. Or imagine if Avid Studios would have done the same with their desktop software instead of developing a unique Tablet experience as they did with Avid Studio, their iPad app?
I’m sure there are lots of people, who will argue that we do in fact need all the PC apps to run on a Tablet, but I disagree, I think Mobile presents new opportunities and as such we need experiences uniquely designed for mobile, without a mouse and certainly without full-blown MS Office applications.
This is how I think about eLearning vs. mLearning. We have an opportunity in the Industry to revolutionize learning with a “less is more” attitude and whatever we do, we should not simply convert our desktop eLearning to HTML5 and call it mobile learning.
How very True this is with every new era in computing “We march backwards into the future” Marshall McLuhan #mobile
— RJ Jacquez (@rjacquez) June 20, 2012
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