May 31, 2007: I'm sure you've heard by now about Microsoft's "surface computing" vaporware announcement. Now, Multi-touch screens are cool and all, but I am completely taken aback at the complete lack of understanding of human behavior that's apparent in the applications they're talking about. Take this bit, for example:

Restaurant. You pull up on-screen, virtual menus on all four edges of the table at once — because four of you are eating out together — and order your meal by tapping what you want. While you wait for the food, you can each play your own video game, or open up four different Web browsers. And then, after dinner, you can call up your bill, split it four ways, and pay, all electronically.
In short, this revolutionary technology can make the experience of going out to dinner with friends feel just like you stayed home and surfed the web alone. Who wouldn't want that?

So, either they conducted this entire initiative without considering how real human beings think, feel, and act or (more likely, I guess) they conducted research and ignored it because some product manager decided this was going to happen whether anyone wanted it or not. Or else the person who wrote the scenarios had nothing to do with the product at all (maybe this is the most likely of all, but it doesn't make it any less pitiful).

So I'll go ahead and state the obvious: this is where good ethnographic work comes in: reality-grounded concept generation based on research designed to uncover real human beings' needs, motivations, and desires. Note to Microsoft: This is not the same as going in the field and asking people if they would like to "flick an on-screen globe to spin it").