This phrase has become the mantra of amature interaction designers and of the electronic product industry in general. It is the road block in the way of new and better ways to control our systems. It even prevents logical enhancements to our otherwise well-designed products.
Take the new philips HDTVs. At least the one I have has put a lot of thought into their remote and UI. To set the colors it shows you a bunch of photos in split screen and asks you which looks best. It has a minimal amount of buttons on the remote. (although they missed a switch aspect ratio button which is about the most-used non-core functions on a TV)
They even have a input source system that lets you more quickly switch between the 15 inputs by not switching channels right away and letting you up and down arrow through the list.
However, here is where they missed the mark.
I can change the labels on those inputs, I can change the labels on the channels too. It even handles collisions from multiple sources with x.1 x.2 x.3 channels. But with all these hundreds of options. I am stuck the same chan upchan down idiom that has always been on remotes.
I'm not an industrial designer. But even I was able to think up a much better alternative. Replace the volume and channel buttons with mouse-wheel-like dials. And in the case of the channels, pop up a list of them like a cable-box channel guide and let me dial through them.
The snap-to feeling of the wheel will give me a rough estimate of how many I've passed, and if it requires I depress the wheel to go to a channel, then I will have saved a lot of time and frustration.
You could even use a wheel that can jog to one side or the other and use the side motion to traverse a menu. Or for volume.
I've actually had a TV where the remote had a wheel for the menu. It even depressed. So I know there are no technological concerns preventing it.
I can't be the first person to think of this. Why isn't this the norm? Is it only because of the "People are Used to it' mantra? Or is there more to it then that? Can you think of more examples?