It’s the scripts, stupid.

There’s a presentation making the rounds lately that pokes fun at companies hoping to “capture the magic” of the Apple iPhone by making devices that are superficially similar but substantively different – or inferior. Namely, with similar hardware but different software.

There’s a very simple, fundamental principle at work here: literalism. To take something at face value. To disregard the relationship or the context.

For example, executives in the television industry (TV manufacturers, content providers) concerned by the increasing amount of time consumers spend in front of computers might fall into the trap of literalism by saying: “People are spending more time in front of computers. Computers have a keyboard. So let’s attach a keyboard to the TV…so the audience can type on the screen.”

But the keyboard is only meaningful in the context of the computer when it is required by the computer. People don’t just sit at a computer and type random characters on the screen for fun (though that is certainly what a two year-old might do in imitation of adults.) Rather, the computer is running software that invites the user – indeed, requires the user – to become involved via the keyboard.

If the television industry wants to compete with the computer industry, it has to change the software – i.e., the scripts.