08 May 2010

iPad, There for I Yam What I Yam

The Apple vs. Flash situation has led to many threads on many sites asserting many points of view as What It All Means. I follow Seeking Alpha, came across this one. Which led me to concoct a reply, which is below, although I'd recommend reading the whole thread, as there are some insights in the comments.

[A commenter] got close to the root issue: the iPad (generically) means a complete semantic shift for applications, which shift came (but was largely ignored) with the first GUI. Those GUI's re-implemented the Menu Interface of VT-100/*nix/database applications (think, Progress, Unify, etc.). It was just pixels rather than characters. Most GUI users who use applications deeply switch to Hot Key navigation anyway, skipping the mouse.

What a true GUI demands is that all input is Pickable. This means that No Keyboard is the rule. This, in turn, requires a complete re-thinking of data semantics. The application data must be sliced and diced into bite sized pieces which can be iconized and presented to the user. The user must not be required to *produce input*, only choose input. This is a major shift. Given that GUI developers didn't do much to the semantics of applications during The Era of the Mouse, they've got a lot of territory to cross. The alternative is, as some have suggested, that legacy applications (and it's worth remembering that lots of Fortune X00 applications remain COBOL/VSAM mainframe ports, some with data transferred to RDBMS) will continue in the Corporation, just because "it still works". Whether anyone in the CTO/CIO offices will have the gonads to start over is a question, almost certainly, NO.

The relevance to this endeavour is as I have said many times before: the database controls the data, while the "terminal" just paints a pretty picture and takes input. An iPad-centric application must have easily pickable data, not dependent on keyboard (which is the way mouse-centric GUI's should have been defined in the first place) typing. This sounds, to me at least, to be a perfect fit for a BCNF database. Nicely sliced and diced into bite size morsels. I find it supremely ironic that a GUI device should be the final impetus for intelligent data design.

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