Earlier this morning I watched a Steve Jobs talk from 1980 where he discusses Apple and the relationship between hardware and software. An interesting piece comes at the 12:30 mark where he addresses the question “Right now software is powerful enough, what impact will improvements in hardware have on software?” His answer is great: “[We will] start chewing up power specifically to help that one on one interaction go smoothly and specifically not to help the calculation… start applying that power to remove that barrier”
Sure the response is very Jobsian but the underlying point is significant. It’s only a tiny bit about what the software actually does; the majority is realizing that people will actually be using the software to solve problems and building tools for that experience. I remember starting with DOS on the family computer and being blown away when I first used Norton Commander. Similarly to when I saw Windows for the first time and saw my first smartphone.
Usability improvements are still happening but they’re taking the form of cloud and background services - akin to the way Google Now provides contextual information and the way Siri handles voice recognition. As sophisticated as they are, they will only get better as hardware improves.