Earth to Cisco
I noticed tonight that my gym -- the New York Sports Club (NYSC) branch at 94th and Broadway -- has deployed IP telephony for intra-office communications and (I surmise) for economical, packet-switched voice between all the branches (around 125) of this large chain.
I saw that club personnel had taped little strips of paper to the Cisco IP Phone 7910 handset. The strips were scribbled with extension numbers. Shucks, why can't such an advanced phone give users a visible speed-dial directory? How much better if, on a bigger, better screen, the speed-dial numbers were displayed with appropriate labels and prompts.
Instead, el cheapo Cisco has supplied the phone with a grayscale LCD display that's straight out of 1995: 24 characters by 2 lines, with only 5x7 pixels per jagged character. Ugly and cramped. Perhaps, despite the limited prompting and feedback available on such a small display, the interactivty of the phone is actually quite good -- but I doubt it.
As appliances and gadgets of all kinds move to all-digital controls, device interfaces needs to become more like a Web broswer's. This is what is happening in desktop application software already, Quicken being a prominent example. Linear navigation via back and forward buttons is, for better or worse, the most usable interface model today. It's quickly understood by users and simple to implement by interface designers. The sooner it's ubiquitous, the better -- in kitchen ranges, automobiles, everywhere.