Designing Interactions

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Paul Mercer

Paul Mercer is interviewed in Chapter 4 – Adopting Technology.His description of the adoption of the iPod illustrates the phases described by David Liddle, and his work at Apple relates to the contribution from Cordell Ratzlaff. He admires simplicity, in common with John Maeda.

Paul Mercer showed an amazing aptitude for writing code when he was still very young and joined Apple at the age of twenty in 1987. Within a few months he found himself working on the next generation of Finder, the core of the Macintosh user experience, maintaining system 6 Finder while the underpinnings of the Finder (NuFinder) were rewritten in the then newfangled C++. In 1991 he put together a team to explore concepts for handheld Macintoshes and the software to go with them. Apple CEO John Sculley was impressed by working prototypes. By that time, though, he was committed to Newton and asked Paul to help move the Newton design from research to product. He built the core software framework for Newton and along the way came up with the little “poof cloud” that evaporates when you erase something on the Newton screen. In 1994 Paul left Apple to start his own company, called Pixo, as he wanted to develop the building blocks for the next generation of devices and user interfaces. Pixo grew to employ 150 people, with clients including Nokia and Samsung, in mobile phones, and Apple, for the implementation of the iPod. After eight years, Paul saw a new opportunity as more and more devices became wireless. He has founded a new company, called Iventor, to create enabling structures for ubiquitous computing.

After his years at Apple, Paul is well positioned to discuss the culture of the firm. He illustrates his comments by describing the way in which Apple has become dominant in the music sector, with iTunes, iPod, the iTunes music store and a version for Windows.

Paul shows his collection of palmtops and phones. Photo Author