2007: User Generated Devices

Time Magazine made "you" the person of the year, largely on the basis of what is happening on the web – blogging, social networking, YouTube, wikipedia, etc. This is from the Time column I just linked to:

It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen
before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the
million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis
MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping
one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world,
but also change the way the world changes.

Yes, the web has brought this power of the user to the forefront of our society, enough to make us the person of the year. That’s cool.

But what is cooler is that this is part of a larger revolution in information technology that started back in the early 90s with Linux. It’s the open source movement and it’s about opening up technology so that anyone and everyone can contribute to the collective good.

And I believe its time for this revolution in information technology to move into the hardware space. It’s time for user generated devices.

I have a broken Canon SD 550 with me on our family trip to Italy. The screen is cracked so I can’t see the photos after I take them. I can’t even control the flash or anything else via the user interface. Why don’t I get a new camera? Well I will when I get back, but this camera lists for $400. It’s not a disposable camera, it’s an expensive piece of electronics.

What I’d really like is a new screen to snap into the back of my camera to replace the one that cracked. That’s the only thing wrong with it. It still takes great photos as you can see on my flickr page.

And as long as I am talking about what I’d like, I’d also like to be able to snap on a wifi module so the best photos can be automatically uploaded to Flickr in real time, not hours later.

But the existing consumer electronics manufacturers aren’t interested in modularity and giving the user more control over their devices. Their desire to tightly control the user experience will lead to a movement much like what has happened on the web.

Users are going to take control of their devices and I think 2007 is the year we will start to see it happen.