Apple’s Remote iPhone app is a true jewel: it does one thing really really well. In my case, I have an iMac upstairs in my home office, wirelessly connected over AirTunes to my downstairs speakers. Now I can be in the kitchen and, with the Remote iPhone app, see all the songs and podcasts on my iMac, including cover art, and select the piece I want to play, as well as setting the volume for it. Simple, brilliant, just right.
It does have one gotcha – you have to “pair” it with your iTunes library so it knows which library to connect to over WiFI, and to do that you have to be tethered (by USB cable) to its Mac (or PC). This is something the app does not make clear – it says to go to iTunes and find your iPhone listed under Devices: well, Devices doesn’t appear if the iPhone is not cabled to the machine, and, being in a wireless mindset, you may not expect to have to physically connect. Yeah, I know, magical thinking. But, design is also how to get it working.
But there’s a much bigger implication here. We’re entering a world where the desktop is disappearing, to be replaced with computing devices everywhere (ubiquitous computing), whether you can see them or not. The handheld device, the one that you carry with you or is part of you, has a huge role to play here: as the universal controller for all the devices in your immediate context. As you walk into a space, you should be able to have all the computing devices there adjust themselves to you, and be driven by you, so that you can make use of the limitless computing, communicating, and visualizing power they offer. Every room can be your situation/war room. And the device to bind them all? It’s the one you have on you. The iPhone is the first sign of that.
I think that’s exactly what “Bonjour” discovery protocol is about.
This also shows the need for strong user-centric identity: these devices need to know who I am, and what I’m trusted with, in what context.