With the MEX conference right around the corner (31st May – 1st June 2006, London), we’re running a series of articles focusing on key agenda topics. The idea is to stimulate debate prior to the event and introduce you to the expert speakers who’ll be participating in these sessions. In this issue, we’re looking at INTRA-DEVICE AND MULTIPLE INTERFACE CHALLENGES, which runs 11:00 – 12:30 on 1st June.

The session will explore two of the major challenges facing the industry: providing an optimised user experience for a diverse range of functions within the same device, and maintaining consistency across an operator’s portfolio of handsets. These are critical issues for handset manufacturers, network operators, platform providers and independent developers.

There are several factors driving this. On the one hand, manufacturers are seeking ways to support everything from messaging to video editing within the same device. They are maintaining margins by increasing the capability of devices but know they must not compromise usability. This means utilising platforms such as UIQ and Series 60 which support several usage modes in the same handset. Examples include Sony Ericsson’s P990 flip-phone and the Nokia 3250 ‘twist’ design.

Nokia 5500

Coincidentally, today also saw the launch of Nokia’s 5500, one of the first devices to support active ‘mode shifting’. This Series 60 smartphone has a dedicated button which enables users to switch between 3 distinct device configurations, including ‘Sports’, ‘Music’ and ‘Phone’. Each mode is optimised for its particular function, recognising that a great music device experience may not actually be compatible with a great personal communications experience.

As an aside, the Nokia 5500 is also interesting for its highly segmented positioning (it is aimed at sports enthusiasts) and use of unusual materials. You can read full details in this Nokia press release.

Another related MEX session will see Gus Desbarats, Chairman of industrial design company Alloy, talk delegates through a unique project which used customer immersion techniques to produce a prototype handset with advanced ‘mode shifting’ technology. Gus will show video footage from the design process and introduce the designers who converted this inspiration into a commercial product design. See ‘MEET THE CUSTOMERS, UNDERSTAND THE INSPIRATION‘ for further details.

The debate on intra-device and multiple interfaces will be chaired by Ken Blakeslee, Chairman of WebMobility Ventures, who brings unrivalled experience in this area as an investor, advisor and strategist.

The keynote presentation comes from Andrew Borovsky, a user experience guru from Adobe’s internal design team, who will demonstrate some of the latest vector-based interface techniques using the Flash platform.

Following Andrew’s presentation, Ken will lead an hour of debate, with contributions from our expert panellists, including Francis Djabri, User Experience Manager at the OMTP, Benoit Schillings, CTO of Trolltech and Laurent Mauvais, Interaction Architect at UIQ Technologies.

As with all MEX sessions, the emphasis will be on creative thinking and open debate between the audience and panellists.

For further reading on this topic, check out the previous articles: ‘All things to all people‘, ‘Maybe Palm got it right‘ and ‘Intra-segment evolution – complexity in the user interface‘.

To register for the conference, simply visit Delegate places are priced at GBP 1299 (+ VAT @ 17.5% where applicable).

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