Is a Desktop still a Desktop on a Computer?
A while ago I was asked if the word desktop was still relevant for a computer. It is a good question. With all the differing forms of “computer” available: smartphone, tablet, laptop, e-reader, desktop…etc. does the word desktop still apply to a computer desktop or should it be changed to something else?
Here are my thoughts…
The desktop is a place where we place our belongings. We place the papers and files we are working on, the bills we must pay, photos of our family, and pictures that our kids have drawn. Over the years other things have shown up on our desktops, one of them being the computer. Whether it is a desktop or a laptop, for personal or business use, it has made it’s way to becoming a common fixture to a desktop. Computer users have adopted the term desktop. Once you boot up, the picture on the monitor in front of you is… the desktop. The computer desktop is based on the terminology of the desktop metaphor. I propose that with more and more people moving to the mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and the computer becoming less of a storage device and more of a window to the online world, the desktop metaphor is just as relevant as it was at inception, just less likely to be used.
The world is becoming more tech savvy. More and more people are using computers and are online. It is hard to think of someone that isn’t. In order to get people to feel familiar with the computer when it started moving into mainstream society, the desktop metaphor was implemented. This allowed people to accept the tool, encouraging user adoption. The term “desktop” was something they were familiar with… they weren’t going to turn on their computer to look at their operating system and determine what applications they were going to use. Instead, the user was going to turn on the machine, place items in their files and organize them on their desktop. The metaphor was extremely important to adoption. Large scale user adoption was encouraged by semiotics showing that metaphors are important to the field of human computer interaction. Everyone wants to be able to relate to something. A new tool is easier to use if the terminology surrounding it is something we are familiar and comfortable with. We can generate the relationship ourselves or we can have a marketing department do it for us. If you are hoping for wide acceptance of a message, the message must be coined in such a fashion that the mental image produced is familiar and easy to understand.
So, is the desktop metaphor still relevant? Yes, the desktop metaphor is still relevant because when you go to work and use a computer you are still accessing your desktop on your desktop (physical). You pay your bills online, for security sake, I hope on your computer and not on your wireless device. But, as we know mobile is the upcoming movement stepping on Web 2.0 and the web is evolving into the mobile web. Mobile activity is skyrocketing. Computer technology is not a scarce, hard-to-come-by product any longer. Computer technology is mainstream and easily accessible by at the least the majority of Americans. A very strong percentage of people carry computers in their pockets that are just as powerful or more so than anything anyone has on their desk. That being said, computer lingo and technological terms are more prevalent in colloquial speech. Everyone is updating to the latest operating system, downloading the latest applications, learning (or thinking about learning) code, and using “tags” to help file their products. The metaphor still applies to the usage of the computer terminal, but does it still apply to all the other methods of accessing computer technology? Perhaps, the mobile desktop. You are still doing things that you would have done from a desk, only you are able to do it on the move.
Technology is constantly advancing. Metaphors help people understand how to use the complicated devices placed in front of them. The desktop metaphor still applies. There maybe other ways to present the objects on the desktop, but the metaphor still applies. The computer is becoming just a portal, an access point to the web. The web is where the work is done. Papers, memos, presentations, spreadsheets are created and stored in the cloud. They are rarely on the actual device. Social networks attract our attention for personal and business means, and commerce is done with the tap of a finger. So maybe we can present the desktop in a different manner, maybe as a dashboard, but you will still be accessing your desktop to get to your files, to pay your bills, and review your papers.
- Desktops not leaving the enterprise anytime soon (lenovo.com)
- Virtual desktops can be a boon for businesses (lenovo.com)
- End User Computing (allcoveredboston.wordpress.com)