I’m a big consumer electronics fan and will use the word “love” when speaking about some of the products I own. In all of those cases I can enthusiastically describe the product and it’s benefits to someone who may get it and get excited about its benefits, but that’s usually where the conversation ends. That’s how it goes even for first generation products like my digital video recorder. I’ll evangelize all of its capabilities and benefits and people respond happily with “yeah, sounds great, very cool; I’ll check it out.” However, I’ve found that for MS Surface it’s a different and unique story. Here’s how it goes pretty much each and every time someone touches Surface for the first time: We describe the product and it’s benefits, people get it and get excited, and within a very short time of touching and interacting with Surface an uncontrollable smile or expression of delight appears on their face followed quickly by a long list of… possibilities. “You could do this, and this, and have you thought of that, and what about this, or even that”, and it goes on and on. I call this the “explosion of possibilities” and I have not seen this happen with any other product. The best part is that this explosion happens pretty reliably to everyone regardless of technical literacy. Like you, I too have relatives who are technophobic and never understood or appreciated anything I’ve ever worked on until now! Even they kept me on the phone for hours on end explaining the great ideas they have for Surface and the possibilities we should be exploring.
Of course, this is very gratifying and cool, but it actually tells me something more. This “explosion of possibilities” tells me that our designs (especially the interaction paradigms) were so clear and compelling that people get it (Surface), and they get it so much that they can quickly personalize it and extend its use and value to their world and their own ideas that go beyond what we have shown them. Surely, this can be considered to be some sort of valid measure or benchmark. Now, if there were only some way to convert this into some sort of leading indicator of business value / success!