Above is a screenshot of gameplay in Hearthstone. Those six bubbles are the entire world of communication in the game. No matter how angry, upset, excited, or happy you are — the entire social interaction you will ever have with the person you are playing will be confined to just those six preset options. There is no direct messaging unless you’ve added them to your friends list. There is no audio. There is no chat.
When Nintendo Switch was first revealed in October 2016, there were mostly two crowds that reacted. One group had been following the rumors for years and scoffed at the Switch’s graphics power and hardware capability. Another group absolutely adored the puppy-ear resemblance and hailed the system as an innovation in the physical multiplay space.
Both crowds are right, and the reason is because they aren’t the same user demographic. One sees the Switch as an Xbox-PlayStation status quo contender that has some portable gimmicks. The other group sees the console as a console-class handheld that supports TV output. With a product poised to be both a living room and handheld console, Nintendo is targeting an extremely lucrative and strong market as well as an anemic and declining segment at the same time. This dying category, of course, is the handheld market — the once glorious group of culture icons that has been experiencing a steady YoY decline of sales in the past decade.
There’s been a lot of chatter on the market about the Nintendo Switch. So far, gamers, investors, and analysts alike haven’t been impressed — as shown by the downward push on NTDOY’s stock price every time they release new information. The critics are clamoring about how the entire product has been a mistake— its size, its lack of pure hardware power compared to its Sony and Microsoft rivals, and the shrinking size of the console market in general. They’ve lambasted the company for being so late to go into mobile, the largest growing games market. Then punished it heavily when Super Mario Run didn’t repeat the same success of Pokemon GO.
Notifications are treated equally by default, but not all notifications are created equal. The OS assumes that each app takes responsibility in determining when we should divert our attention to it, but that’s right in a conflict of interest with the OS’s goal to ensure a wholesome and zen-like user experience. A flashlight app developer thinks you need to drop your conversation with a friend and look at a new promotional in-app purchase that allows you to adjust flashlight brightness. The same notification alert and style also reminds you that an important crash has happened on your host server.
They are simply not the same. Not every app on your phone is worthy of your attention. And even for those apps that are important, not every event within the app deserves it.
The current paradigm of information organization centers around the medium via which they are transferred. Everything goes in and out of apps. Want to share a web page with your best friend? Pick a messaging app first in the sharing dialog. You really care about this one friend and her snaps, but don’t really want to see all other Snapchat notifications? Too bad.
The flaw in this organization framework is that new information is not organized by where they come from or how useful they are, but rather who delivered them. If my mom sends me a message asking me when I will come home for Thanksgiving, I don’t care if it comes through iMessage, Messenger, WeChat, Line, or Email, I want to hear an alert sound and respond to it. But if Verizon sends me a new promotional blurb, whether via text, email, or call, I don’t want to be distracted by it.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what this week’s most important announcements are. Apple, Google, and Microsoft, the three towering tech giants dropped a series of gadgets that are well positioned to change the future of PC. There is a clear trend among them: each is designed for a special subset of professionals, which is reflective of the industry as a whole: traditional PC’s are fading from average households and becoming specialized professional tools.