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Emu: Context and design (oh! and also nice technology)

Breakthroughs in technology are sometimes less about the underlying technology than they are a leap in understanding how people need to use technology.  The iPod and its ecosystem, for instance, create a synergy between a handy gadget and the music and content people want to carry around and listen to.  By understanding that people want to download, listen to, and share music easily without having to shift from one application to another, the iPod and its successor devices changed our use of content and upended whole industries.  Bo Begole’s book,  “Ubiquitous Computing for Business”, emphasizes that designing an application with the task—the context—as a starting point trumps starting with a technology if you want people to adopt that software.  Business applications have lagged behind consumer applications in ease of use, but sooner or later, what we learn in the consumer space infuses new business interaction designs.

Today’s launch of Emu is another consumer breakthrough that will have broad implications in the business arena as well.  Consider the awkwardness of organizing an evening with friends.  Email or texting to find out if they are available.  Having everyone check one or more calendars.  Merging the answers.  Then agreeing on time and place.  Then seeing if restaurants are available and if that time will fit with the movie schedule.  A familiar and time consuming process.  What emu does is technically difficult but, on the surface, simple and obvious.  It lets you stay in SMS as you arrange a date, time and location.  It checks calendars, available times for favorite restaurants, movie times.  Then it makes reservations, and even shows where you all are on a map as you start to converge on the location.  

Yes, I know the founders of emu, but beyond that, I am taken with this application because it fits squarely into the trend of simple, usable applications that save time and hide technical complexity.  Check it out at