I learned a word recently: skeuomorph. It’s a design term which refers to an ornament or design on an object made to resemble some other material or previous function. Basically, it’s where the look an older model is retained for a new product even though it’s functional purpose is gone, usually to give the consumer the feeling of familiarity.
Examples of skeuomorphs include the wood grain on plastic siding or anything non-wood, and those shutters on newer houses that don’t actually shut. Skeuomorphs in consumer electronics are plentiful as functional innovation often outpaces design, and the word has been thrown around in reference to Apple’s design philosophy (which might not be so much skeuomorphic as it is prone to visual metaphor).
Does the ShoreTel Dock count as skeuomorphic? At first I thought so, but now I’m not so sure. On one hand, it retains the shape and function of a deskphone, being corded, unassuming, and all business, but on the other it’s bringing back a design that was adapted for desks rather than mobility. Similar to the Snooze iPhone Alarm Dock, the ShoreTel Dock gives you the old user experience in the shell of a new device (while being a charger to boot).
So maybe it’s not so much skeuomorphic as it is a bridge between old and new, giving smartphones (designed for size and portability and not comfort) the ergonomics and use-value of your standard deskphone. I mean it’s not like deskphones were made obsolete by the introduction of the iPhone.
Oh yeah, the pertinent details. The ShoreTel Dock is due to come out in Q3 2013 and will run you an estimated $350. The company also claims the dock improves call quality, and calls it the “first enterprise-grade” device of its type. Future iterations will include support for Android devices.
Makes me wonder what other gadgets can we attach to our smartphones to bring back that “old user experience.” Kitchen gadgets? Teledildonics?