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Why iPhone OS (iPad) is ECM…

by alexandra on april 7th, 2010

I like Twitter. It exposes me for a lot of interesting thoughts from interesting and smart people that I follow. Today I read a post called  Why the iPad Matters – Its the Beginning of the End by Carl Frappaolo. It talkes a lot of why the iPad brings a new promise for content delivery – a complete digital chain. It made me think about one of the things which is unique with the iPod/iPhone/iPad – it is the lack of a folder-based file system exposed to users. Surprisingly (maybe) it is the lack of it that makes the whole user experience much better.

So how does this relate to ECM then? Well, I guess many of us ECM-evangelists (or ”Ninjas” I heard today) have been in endless meetings and briefings explaining the value of metadata and the whole ”context-infrastructure” around each object in an ECM-system that can hold fine-grained permissions, lifecycles, processess, renditions and so forth. I have even found myself explaining the ECM concept using the iTunes as an analogue. You tag the songs with metadata and access them through playlists which is in essence virtual folders where each song can be viewable in many playlists. That is the same concept as the ”Show in folder” flag in Documentum. Metadata can even power Smart Playlists which in essence is just a saved search query – something we have added as a customization in Documentum Digital Asset Manager (DAM). So in essence the iTunes Library (should be call it a repository 🙂 is a lightversion of an ECM-system. Before continuing I really wonder why I have to customize Documentum to get the GUI-features that iTunes provide…?

So iTunes abstracts away the folder-based file system on a Mac or Windows PC but as long as you are using Mac OS X or Windows the file system is still there right. Some people even get really frustrated by iTunes and just can’t get around their head that there is no need to move files around manually when synching them to iPhone OS-powered devices. And here comes the beauty, in these devices there are no folder-based file system to access. Just the iPod App for music, the Photos App for photos and so forth. All your content is suddenly displayed in context and filtered out based on metadata and that App’s specific usage.

To some degree that means that the whole concept of iPhone OS-based devices not only can make content delivery digital but it can provide a much better user interface that is powered by all these ECM-features that we love (and have a hard time explaining). Suddenly we have an information flow entirely based on metadata instead of folder names and file names. Maybe that will make ECM not only fun but also able to much more quickly explain the dreaded ”What’s in it for me question?”.

Now, can someone quickly write an iPad App for Documentum so I can make my point 🙂 It will be a killer app, believe me!

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From → Apple, ECM, Technology

4 Comments
  1. Ed Steenhoek permalink

    Hi Alexandra,

    Although I do follow your line of thinking, even iTunes (or better the the iPhone applications that access the content of the iTunes library) fails on large volumes of content.
    But, to support your line of thinking, it is not the concept that fails. It’s the inability to create those virtual folders taking more than one meta data value into account. There’s no way (yet) to browse your music by genre and per genre by artist.
    I believe you need multi dimensions when the volume is to large.

    Ed

  2. alexandra permalink

    I think there are many perspectives of my thinking around this. I will try to outline them:

    – iPhone OS make users used to a device without a folder structure
    – iTunes teaches users that songs (files) can exist in multiple virtual structures
    – iTunes makes people understand why it is worth the effort of managing metadata
    – iPhoto teaches users that this ”photo context” that the App creates automatically give them additional views on their photos based on locations, events, people and the usual Albums (playlists), Smart Albums (Smart Playlists). Again irrespective of any folder structure. Again the same photo appearing in many perspectives.

    However, I agree that in terms of browsing/searching both iTunes and iPhoto is a bit one-dimensional and would really benefit from thinking around combinations of facets.

    I am not sure if I am arguing that the iPhone OS itself (regardless of the Apps) provide a more relevant interface to an ECM-system (meaning online) or if the main benefit is the seamless synching data between a computer with access to an ECM-system so that they can be explored using Apps like Photos and iPod. Or finally, I if the iPhone/iPad User Interface provide many exiting possibilities for a Documentum client that really has nothing to do with the underlying technology of the iPhone OS and the connection to iTunes.

    I have the same feeling around this as I have when I have tried the Multi-touch wall from Perceptive Pixel…this interface really would benefit from the rich metadata context found in most ECM-systems.

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