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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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March 14, 2008 3:09 PM

Getting Everyone Online Takes Making Sure "It Just Works"

The New York Times ran a great article earlier this week entitled, "Tech's Late Adopters Prefer the Tried and True." It detailed how late adopters resist change to the patterns of use that work for them.

The lead example they gave was 56-year-old gentleman who's always used the same Netscape browser and AOL dialup service to get online. Why? Because it just worked.

That's what I see as the biggest challenge for the next generation of the Internet: getting to the point where it just works.

To illustrate the point, let's compare the usability of TV vs. the Internet-delivered TV I've recently switched over to.

To watch TV, I turn it on, start changing channels, and it basically always works.

To watch a DVD, I turn on the player, put in a disc, and hit play. It always works.

To watch Internet TV, I have to turn on my computer (not really, it's never off), open an Internet browser, type in a URL, click through the menus on the website to find and select the video I want, start watching and hope that the video doesn't stop or start stuttering or get off track from the audio.

The Internet isn't alone in failing the "It Just Works" test as cable VoD can be equally labyrinthine as it typically requires navigating hundreds of choices by just pressing up or down. But that's also why cable VoD has not been as successful as it could be.

The only way the vast majority of what's possible online starts getting used by late adopters any time time is if we can find ways to integrate their use more seamlessly and reliably into our lives.

Some of this is already happening with things like standalone music players that can play Internet radio. No longer do you have to start up a computer to listen to Internet radio, now you can access it much like a regular radio.

Videocalling is another Internet application with the potential to be revolutionized by upping its "It Just Works" quotient through dedicated devices that make videocalling as easy as dialing a phone.

Many companies are vying in this space but none have reached any significant level of mass market adoption. And in truth, this is all so young that it's even too early for many early adopters to have bought in yet.

But the best example of what can happen when you combine an Internet application with an "It Just Works" use case is what happened with the iPod. The devices made storing and navigating large music collections enjoyable, and made buying and loading song easy. And look what happened.

Look what happened with YouTube. Sure there were other video sharing sites, but YouTube had the highest "It Just Worked" factor so it took off.

The only way we get everyone enjoying the benefits of being online is if we find ways to make "It Just Work." And the biggest winners for developing new uses for the Internet will be those that find a way so that "It Just Works" as an easy part of our everyday lives.


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