To Microsoft and Apple
As I look at what I’ve seen and heard about Windows 8 and Accessibility features, I’ve seen nothing to convince me without a doubt that Windows 8 will be accessible to the blind, visually impaired or anyone with a disability. I’d love the great giant (Microsoft) to explain in great (or even minimal or moderate) detail that its next release is going to be accessible from out of the box like its fierce competitor MacOS X going from at least its Leopard (10.5) release. In fact, I challenge both companies to compete to beat each other at this huge challenge. That being the following:
1. Create the next world changer that everyone can instantly use from the outset. Apple recently did this in the electronics world with the iPad and improved it with the iPad 2 so they’re a world ahead of Microsoft.
2. Reimagine the starting point of the computer user. Create a “HOME,” something that is so identifiable as a home for the user to start customizing that the user will within moments after the initial sighting of the OS they know exactly how to use it to a capital T.
3. Create the next-generation media, web, app and general user experience as well as the developer experience so that every developer (and every user) will be inspired to not only use, but develop for and innovate on it without fearing the company’s desire to control the experience, the developer, the communities around the OS and the computer or device.
4. Make sure the community is open to criticize, innovate on, suggest changes to and just open in general to get to the company to express its desires, needs, wants and so on.
5. Instead of focusing on the user “interface,” make yourself and your teams focus on the “experience” creating what I want to call the totally natural user experience with the user freely able to choose the exact method(s) he/she will use to interact with and “experience” the OS and the computer with features like off the shelf screen reader/magnifier voices from companies like Nuance, IBM, etc., speech recognition, magnification that doesn’t require two monitors or squinting at where your cursor is (or cursing your stupidity) when trying to get tasks completed, all accessibility features on the system easily accessed and a capability to touch the monitor (like the iPad or iPhone experience) for the Mac or especially for Windows on appropriate monitors and a push to get them designed, developed, tested and in (and under) the consumer’s hands.
6. Make a more intuitive computer with something like a OneStop for drive and device management, network management, troubleshooting and so on.
7. Make system intelligence a huge part of your product (if the tech is there) by minimizing user need for error reporting services and delays in their daily lives.
8. Let the computer manage saving, versions, troubleshooting, etc. After all, it’s the tool that tells the OS what’s going wrong not the user and sure as heck not the OS. The computer is the one constant while software, hardware, etc. change over its life and time with the user. Let it monitor hardware and software problems, updates, driver updates, rollbacks and so on. Your job is to make it the most secure as it can be while not rushing everything into market before its time and niche has been set and carved.
Those are the suggestions I have for both Apple and Microsoft. For Microsoft, I have one more suggestion. Take a page from MacOS X (adopt the dock and if you must, add a start menu at the beginning and a clock at the end, but build the concept of a dock (one that’s scrollable) to your OS’s future plans.
Companies must be open and act as if everything they do is in the public eye. That lesson comes even for Apple and Microsoft, bot not only for business. It comes from me to governments worldwide. I understand the obsession with protecting data. That’s a must as well, but be open to the extent that you can and act (and know) that everything you do is in the public eye.
The technology business is ever changing and no two companies should know that better than Microsoft and Apple, except Google! To the two computer giants, continuously ask yourself WWGD (What would Google do?)? I believe as does Jeff Jarvis, the author of “What would Google do?”, that a company’s product (Windows, Mac, Linux or Office, SQL Server, FileMaker, iLife or iWork) should be open, a platform to be innovated ontop of instead of a closed society to be controlled, changed only by trusted employees and partners, built for the licensing fees and profits. That would allow those products to be innovated upon so much more quickly than is the case with Office, iLife, iWork, SQL Server, FileMaker or the Windows Phone 7. I also believe that the marketplace (often the market of consumers, developers and solution providers, but more importantly a customer or consumer-focused marketplace) instead of the originating company and its small cadre of solutions partners and independent software vendors should be the ones driving and defining innovation. The one caveat I will commit to is committing and meaning commitment to areas like usability, design, open architecture, energy efficient computing, intuitiveness and community support and openness as well as some of your similar corporate values. The computer is already complicated enough and will get more so in the future. The user, partner, company and so on don’t need to make it even more complicated by keeping the control and the complex system of current beliefs. I believe the user who is the developer will be making add-ons and apps that are more intuitive, usable, open and powerful than you may think. After all, that’s what’s happened on the iOS platform even though these apps may not all (or even half) be accessible to those with disabilities.
Hiring, Launching of products and Product Evangelism and People with Disabilities in Tech companies
It is crucial to not only hire people with disabilities (at least 5 per year in my view), but to showcase them demonstrating usability features at launch and other events for any product, but especially an OS. Every product needs an evangelist, especially one who doesn’t work for you. If you launch a product with an evangelist for a launch demonstrator, then the community will know someone who can use and evangelize the product. That person(s) will then turn around and hype it up and demo it to their friends, family and contacts in their disability community and the user base, free advertising, evangelism ans so on will simply be unignorable. Don’t always make it an employee, especially a strong man/woman or someone who is fearless or something like a swimsuit model, iron man or whatever. Make it a person everyone with or without a disability can relate to without having to have a PhD, be an iron man or whatever.