If we were to rethink the desktop, what should it be? This is a question I have often pondered about. NYTimes writes about Robb Beal’s Spring “to unite a broad range of Internet information and services behind a single interface” and “replaces icons for software applications and Web sites with representations of people, places, and things that can be connected.”
Mr. Beal sees Spring not as an all-inclusive computing environment, but as an interface for basic and frequent Internet activities like communication and shopping. On the screen, a Spring canvas, as the display is called, looks much like Apple’s current desktop, filled with large, cheery icons. Yet there are no icons for Mail or Microsoft Word. Instead, the icons (“objects” in Spring parlance) are small databases of hypertext information that describe people, places (New York City, say, or a favorite local bar) or things (most obviously, products and services for sale).
Objects can be created by the user or downloaded. To accomplish most tasks, the Spring user places a cursor over an icon, clicks a mouse button, then draws a line from one object to another. For example, to invite Todd and Ellen to the Monkey Club after work, one would draw a line from icons of their faces to one representing the club. Once a line is drawn to connect them, Spring offers a pop-up menu of options: do you want to invite them, send them directions, or create a new custom function?
Mr. Beal said that the initial onscreen action – connecting the people to the place – was an important conceptual change in the interface between human and computer.
With a desktop, he said, “your mind is thinking about which application to launch, whereas it should be thinking about the person you want to communicate with.”
For now, Spring runs on OS X. Another reason to buy an Apple.