First, to put this in context, I am not exactly a young kid. And so my mom is not of what one might call the technology craving generation. I think she thinks it’s interesting but it does not come easily for her. I bought her first computer, an iMac, in 2000. She loved the color, but it was never exactly a match made in heaven.
As a product designer, I have always worked on consumer facing technology. And my mom has always been the gold standard for the target customer in my head. I have always had in my mind the idea that I was making products for her. I defined design success as making stuff not only easy enough for her to use, but compelling and relevant enough that she would actually care to use it.
I don’t think I ever reached that second standard. And up until recently I don’t think anyone else has either. I have bought her Palm organizers, digital cameras, the iMac, and other stuff. I have always thought I could expose her and entice her into really being interested in something electronic. She has always been moderately enthusiastic to start, but the energy is always short lived.
But this time I think it’s different. My mother has never independently inquired about a technology product, until now.
First, about a month ago she called me in the middle of the day to ask me if I was familiar with the iPhone. Calling in the middle of the day is odd. Asking me about some tech product is odder still. But the most odd thing about it is that I had already shown her an iPhone and we had spoken about it several times. But somehow it just didn’t stick.
This time it was different. One of her peers, a client, had given her an iPhone demo. She obviously hadn’t really gotten it before. But this time, she was excited. “Yes mom, I am familiar with the iPhone… I showed it to you before remember?”
“Oh yes, but I didn’t realize this is what that was.”
Now, fast-forward thirty days, to Monday June 9th, the day of the new iPhone announcement.
“Hi Hank. Did you hear about the new iPhone? It’s $200. Are you going to get one?”
Ok, so she didn't exactly announce that she wants one. But as we talked, the body language came through the phone loud and clear. My mom has been converted. Steve Jobs has done something I have never been able to do. He has made my mom lust for a piece of technology. He has, I think, turned her into a fan boy of sorts. And so this is now, for me, a fascinating and very close to home social experiment. Will she actually buy one on her own? Will she really learn it? Will this really stick? I don’t know. But after a lifetime of trying to get my mom to be curious about a technology product – any technology product – I am looking forward to finding out.