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The July 15, 2003 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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In Praise of Broadband Homes for Real People

During the three plus years we've been writing this report, we've run occasional pieces about our belief that the broadband industry needs to keep the user front and center in its plans. We first talked about it in May 2000, when we wrote "New technology is great. That is, it's great when it's working and doing what we want. The rest of the time, it causes us to say unprintable things about the people and companies that have wrought grief and frustration on us."

At the time, we were reporting enthusiastically on the work of the Broadband Innovation Group at MediaOne Labs. Its role was to help their company to understand how real people actually live, and how they think about and use new products and services based on broadband technologies. Their early work on PVRs, Web tablets (like our Smart Display) and how people's behavior changed when they had broadband, were "right on".

We've also written about other products and applications we wish MediaOne had studied but didn't. For example, see Computerized Complexity: Frustrations of Everyday Life about Sandy's frustration with her new car radio.

Although that group and company no longer exist, some of the people and approaches they championed are being supported in other places. We were led to Eric Dishman's work on Proactive Health at Intel through Ken Anderson, who had been part of the MediaOne team. Intel's People and Practices Research Team explores the relationship between human behavior and technology so that hopefully their products will satisfy people's real-world needs. We applaud their efforts and would love to hear from our readers about other examples of companies that are investing in such work.

As an industry, we've done well at making broadband more mainstream and creating products like TiVo that simplify and change how we watch TV. As we watch people who are not in the business, their complaints and frustrations remind us we still have a long way to go in our quest for products that adapt to how people behave, rather than the other way around.

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