Neptune Suite: Reshuffling Personal Devices

Neptune Suite is making waves (or trying to) with a slick new set of devices that are not phone centric. Hooray! I’ve been going mad with all the lazy design that is basically just adding on to your phone.

At the time when Apple and everyone else is presenting new watches and other devices (e.g., a belt) which are basically peripherals to the phone, Neptune inverts this, making the watch the main node, with a phone, screen, or other peripherals for alternative interfaces to the watch.

Part of the splash is due to the sexy design, which is nice to see.

They also tout their supposedly radical approach, though as a veteran builder of distributed systems, it doesn’t seem so radical to me. The dominant smart phone centric designs are basically a “mainframe in your pocket”, and Neptune is “a PC on your wrist”. A good idea, but scarcely shatteringly original.

The technology as described sounds solid. They use high speed wireless among devices, and the device runs Android Lollipop. These are pretty good choices, at least for today.

I have no experience with Lollipop per se, though I have programmed precursor systems. I expect that it is going to be difficult to create good software for this architecture, though Lollipop certainly works hard to make it as easy as possible. (You haven’t lived until you try to debug a crazy timing bug somewhere among a bunch of real time components on tiny devices.)

One could wonder just how secure the wireless channels are. My guess is that they are no more secure than any other wireless, which is to say, not especially secure. So, are we going to see tiny drones and bugs attaching to your body like burrs to hack into you body network and your home?  (Yes.)

Despite the rhetoric about how radical Neptune may be, the video shows basically the same interaction as currently done with phone or tablet, only on a rather large wrist device. Ick!

The biggest problem with small screens, IMO, is when designers are still trying to jam in large screen interactions, which basically suck. This takes that mistake to the next level, trying to emulate a small screen on a smaller screen. (All the smart watches are doing this.)

Set mode = grumpy old guy.

Hey, designers! I can’t even see the small screen, let along interact with it. You may have great vision and manual dexterity today, but you won’t for very long.

Let’s get clever and try to come up with less demanding interactions.

End grumpy mode

This all looks interesting and pretty, but is it “A Taste of What Computing Should Be in 2025”, as Cliff Kuang says at   No way.

First of all, by 2025, devices will be very, very much smaller, more like tattoos or printed on fabric. Second, interfaces will be projected, so the keyboard and screens will be virtual. And there won’t be any wires at all.

In fact, Neptune isn’t so much 2025 as 2015. Apple and all the rest are still stuck in 2005.




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