The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Notify only on the device you are closest to

I have disabled notifications for nearly everything except email from my VIP list - but I still get too many notifications.

E.g. just right now, I received an email from somebody I work closely with.

It beeped on my MacBook.

It beeped on my iPhone.

It buzzed on my Pebble Watch.

I prefer to get notifications on my watch.  I find the buzzing on my wrist much less objectionable than the sound that I need to grab my attention on my MacBook. Ditto iPhone.  And it is much easier to look at my wristband, even if I have to scroll, than to pull my iPhone out of my pocket.

Yeah, I know I can disable the notifications on my MacBook and on my iPhone. I have done that in the past.  But this is suboptimal when I have forgotten to wear my watch - rare, but sometimes happens.  Similarly, I much more often forget my iPhone.

I want notifications on my wrist (for only the important subset), when I am wearing my watch.  When I am not wearing my watch but when I have my iPhone in my pocket, I want notifications on my iPhone.  When neither my smartwatch nor my mobile phone is nearby, I want notifications on my laptop.

I.e. I want the device to which the active notification is delivered to be based on whichever devices I am closest to.

Failing that, distance:  if my watch is being worn, notify my watch.  If my iPhone is more than 6 feet away from my watch, buzz my iPhone.  If my MacBook is not near either my watch or my iPhone, buss my MacBook.

The last may be a problem, because while my watch is usually paired to my iPhone, if the iPhone is misplaced my watch has no way of telling the laptop that it is nearby.   TANSTAAFL - you can't have everything.

There are lots of articles on the web about notification overload.  Choosing one:

Zombification from notifications: How to fix the problem of too many alerts | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Shruti Gandhi:

'via Blog this'

Choosing this one because the poster talks about "OS level mindfulness", and how contextual awareness alone is not the answer.

She's close - but it has to be trans-OS, if you think of the watch/phone/laptop as having separate OSes.

Or it can be OS-level --- when we have an OS that is trans-device --- when any of your devices can be managed from any of your other devices.

I would prefer trans-OS, since I would prefer to be able to have different devices from different vendors.

But trans-device OS integration may be easier for a suitably motivated company to get right.

I think that this is what happened way back in the PC software market, when people realized that they wanted their word processor to talk to their spreadsheet to talk to their presentation software to talk to their database to talk to their email to talk to their calendar...   What they wanted an application suite or integration.   Providing that was one of the things that allowed Microsoft to become so big - the Office suite (Word/Excel/PowerPoint/...) apps were not individually the best, but they were good enough, and the fact that they worked together pretty well was enough to give Microsoft dominance, and drive nearly all SW vendors away from these apps, on Windows at least.    Email and calendaring were slow to arrive at Microsoft, but eventually Outlook got there.

I think that integrating software across multiple devices - watch / phone / laptop, possibly also earphones, web and cloud based - may be a similar  opportunity for whoever can do a good job of doing trans-device integration to displace the large number of not very well integrated apps that we have now.

I don't know that Microsoft will be able to repeat this integration.  But I think that the company did it once before, and I am not aware of anyone else having ever done so.

I suspect that Apple does not want to do trans-devices-from-different-vendors. Apple may want and be able to do this for all of the devices that it sells.

It is hard to see how small startups can play in this space, since they need to be an many different platforms.