Concept & Definition
Invisible software: a web, desktop, or mobile software that works behind the scenes, providing value to users without them having to do anything, and in special cases, when they don’t even know it’s there. A few examples may help explain the concept.
iCloud is Apple’s iOS 5data syncing system. Apple imagined a world where syncing doesn’t mean trying to find a cable or for the user to even own a computer (!!!). This happened a decade ago. Jump to 2011, a $1 billion data center constructed in secret in North Carolina, and here we are.
On the verge of the most advanced consumer architecture on the planet, but through the brilliance of a simple idea. You have no idea how, nor do you care or give it a passing thought, but all your data is on all your devices, in sync, all the time.
Siri’s Vocal UI
Siri is Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant. This is a little further away from the true concept of “invisible” as I’ve defined it above, but the way it ties together other native iPhone apps is invisible. For example, all the user needs to do in order to interact with multiple apps on his/her phone is hold the ‘Home’ button, then speak.
For example, if the user receives a text message, Siri can read the meeting request out loud, ask to schedule a meeting on the calendar, check to see if there are conflicting appointments, book the appointment, and reply to the text message, then send out an email for others to join, and set a reminder, all without the user ever having to touch the phone or open the Messages, Calendar, Reminder, or Mail apps.
Weather Notifier’s Minimalism
Weather Notifier is an iPhone app that we built at Evolyte, imagined in March 2011. The tagline was “the best apps are the ones you only need to open once” because, well, once you open the app, set your city and time to be alerted, you never have to open the app again to get the day’s weather forecast and chance of rain.
As in most things in life, it was built to solve a very acute, though, minor problem in our daily lives. Namely, rushing to get ready in the morning, we’d often forget to check the weather and end up getting caught in the cold or rain.
We built this to test the idea of invisible software. The interesting part is that some folks who use the latest tech, but aren’t psycho about it like we are, actually started to like it. Then they started to love it, and finally became super fans who began marketing the app for us, once they experienced our software solving a problem.
That last sentence makes me think that this concept has legs (that, and Apple knows a bit more than I do about developing software)…
The absolute behemoth who got the Invisible Software concept exactly right is Dropbox. If you don’t use it, you’re stupid. Very stupid. The interesting part, however, is that their biggest problem (lack of an interface to show what Dropbox does) is also their biggest selling point.
A Reality That’s Virtual
Now, I’m not egotistical enough to think I came up with this concept or even coined the term (though I’ve never read or heard of it prior to this), but what I am more concerned about is executing on this concept.
Eventually all software will work for you, without you having to lift a finger. Sure, scrolling through Facebook’s and Twitter’s timelines are so much fun when you’re bored, but the vast majority of its nearly 1 billion users aren’t connected to it 24-7.
Imagine if you could have the engaging and immersive real-world interactions (i.e., coffee chats) using technology and you could then wave “biyee!” to the neanderthalic Facebook interactions (“unh, me like picture. me beat you over head with club now”).
I hope to be a part of building that world so I’m going to take what I’ve learned from Weather Notifier and tackle a much bigger market.
I believe that we’re all inherently lazy; software should have to do the work, not me.
So stay tuned, it’s going to be a wild ride.