iPhone Rules
Cupertino, CA — The following scene took place at lunchtime in a crowded Cupertino sushi bar.

Mighty Mouse: Waiter! Who’s that at my seat?

Waiter: Hey Mouse! That’s the new guy in town, that’s iPhone, with multi-touch.

Mighty Mouse: I’ve had that seat since 1983 when Steve hooked me up with Lisa.

Waiter: I know. You had a great ride. You were the King.

Mighty Mouse: WTF! I AM the King! I’m calling Steve right now!

Waiter: He has a new number, Mouse, he’s got an iPhone now.

Mighty Mouse: iPhone! Who cares about some friggin’ iPhone! I’m on hundreds of platforms — Windows, Linux, Ubuntu, every major operating system uses a mouse and pointer. Everyone rides the mouse train. I’m wireless, I’m Mighty. I lost my big ball, but I have a new one now — see here on top?

Waiter: That’s great, Mouse. It’s really cute. But the new guy, he doesn’t need a sidekick — no Arrow — he stands on his own.

Mighty Mouse: No Arrow! WTF! How do people know where they are pointing?

Waiter: That’s just it, Mouse, they just point and touch right on the iPhone screen. The Finger needs no arrow. Hey, you were the first direct manipulation user interface, the “people’s interface”, but The Finger’s got some tricks up his sleeve. You’re sliding on the desk, telling Arrow to do her stuff, but The Finger is already up there on the screen hiding behind each pixel, waiting to be flicked, tapped, and pinched. The Finger is just an infant right now, but he’s got papers, 200 patents in fact. The Finger redefines “direct manipulation.”

Mighty Mouse: Who are you kidding? You call that a screen? It’s tiny! Whose going to surf the web on that thing?

Waiter: Mouse, I hate to break it to you, but more iPhones will be sold today than all the Lisa’s ever made. At this pace, iPhone sales will top all Mac sales in 528 days. My sources tell me there’s a deal in the works for The Finger on the big screen too. Multi-touch is the real star today.

Mighty Mouse: No! This can’t be! You mean…ma…ma…mmaa…Mac?

Waiter: Oh yes, OS X “Leopard” is already running inside the iPhone. In October, the new machines may be running with multi-touch, and maybe even no Mouse in the box! Isn’t that Steve’s way? Look what he did to Mr. Floppy.

Mighty Mouse: No! I don’t believe this. This isn’t happening!

(Mighty Mouse sobs uncontrollably)

Waiter: I’ve got a nice quiet table in the back. It’ll be OK, I’ll get you some saki — on the house.

(Waiter takes the sobbing Mouse by the hand and walks him, to a dark corner of the restaurant where he joins a forlorn Flashing Green Cursor, aka “DOS prompt”.)

This column inspired by the talented John Gruber, whose UI anthropomorphications make me laugh out loud.
Photo courtesy, CreativeCommons Incase Designs

The iPhone’s multi-touch user interface heralds the day when the mouse, as we know it, follows the fate of the floppy disk. Here’s a video review by my old Yale colleague, David Pogue.

Jeff Han’s multi-touch demonstration at TED illustrates that natural interaction and direct manipulation are possible and desirable on workstations. Direct touch interfaces are a natural evolution of Doug Engelbart’s mouse/pointer GUI invented in 1968 and popularized by Macintosh in 1984.