Mere mortals don’t think of things on their computers as “files.” People think about digital representations of things the same way they think about real physical things: they think about photos, videos, text documents, articles, and people. A “file” on a computer is just a universal container for one of those things.
The iPhone OS completely removes the concept of a “file." It promotes apps to being the primary level of user interaction, and it stores related things inside databases that are content-specific. When you pick up your iPhone and want to view photos, you open the Photos app, which connects to the photos database and shows you all of your photos. When you want to listen to music, you open the iPod app, which connects to the music database. Everything on the iPhone is task-centric, not file-centric. The “file” part of completing tasks is completely insulated from the user.
This is a new model for organizing things on computers, but it actually much more closely emulates the way people do things in the real world. When you want to eat, you go to the refrigerator. When you want to listen to music, you go to your stereo system. Completing these actions just requires knowing the locations of the things you want to use. If you want to look at photos in the real world, everything you might want to accomplish is in a single place: in the album on the bookshelf. The photos themselves are even inside the album.
Because most computer operating systems don’t organize things this way, accomplishing simple tasks can be extremely confusing for casual computer users; doing anything requires the user to know several things before he can even start his task, including:
With the iPhone’s interface, the user only has to know which application to open. The files are simply always available.
The concept of a “file” as a container to hold a piece of content is dying. The contents inside the files are becoming the central actors for creating user interactions. Computers are becoming more human, and part of the evolutionary process requires them to more closely complement the human brain’s built-in systems for interacting with the world.
When you see a photo on your desk, do you think “a file!” or do you think “a photo of my family!”? •
You should follow me on twitter here.