Are We Magicians?

Back at the D Conference in 2005, I remember taking notice at how many times Bill Gates used the words “magic” and “magical” to describe what Microsoft’s products do. Similarly, as the run-up to the release of the iPhone finally ends this week (perhaps you’ve heard it’s coming out?), Apple’s Steve Jobs has been referring to its capabilities, particularly those of its display, as “magical.”

What’s going on here? My semi-educated guess is that as computing becomes more integrated into our daily lives, the tasks we associate with computers and handheld devices feel more mundane. For example, we all check our email more than we used to, but none of us are more excited about it. Email is not magic (neither are IM or Twitter, wise guys). As the goal of computing becoming entrenched in the mainstream has become true, at least in the developed economies, do the Gateses and Jobses of the world have to pretend that their latest wares are, indeed, magical to get them into buyers’ hands? Magic: when the promise of productivity isn’t enough to sell your stuff.

(On the other hand, alpha geeks, this is magic.)