Published on January 12, 2010

This post was previously on the Pathfinder Software site. Pathfinder Software changed its name to Orthogonal in 2016. Read more.

… it’s hard not to think about how much easier some people’s lives would be (hi Mom and Dad) if they could trade technical complexities they don’t care about for vastly increased simplicity and ease of use.

– John Siracusa, ars technica

My parents were technically savvy enough (with a little help from their sons) to start using Skype video in their mid-seventies, prompted by the arrival of grandkids halfway across the country. But for them, it was always a cumbersome affair:

1. Arrange a time to have the video call.
2. Move the laptop to the dining room.
3. Call on the telephone to tell me that they’re using Skype on the computer.
4. Initiate the Skype phone call.

Needless to say, this did not happen all that often.

This past Christmas my brother got them a Skype Video Phone. They set it up with a little help from us, and when we told them to just treat it like the telephone, they got the idea. Now, they are making video calls much more frequently – not just to the grandkids, but to our cousins in Switzerland and South Africa.

They traded complexity for simplicity and ease of use, and though the skype video phone will not end up being a success on the level of the iPhone, it’s already brought my parents a lot of joy and is part of a trend towards more simplicity and ease of use. It’s one major reason the iPhone is as successful as it is.

Now imagine that simplicity and ease of use in a multi purpose, always on a device with a bigger screen. My parents wouldn’t need the skype video phone, they’d just have that as an app on their tablet.