So, I was on my Segway drinking my Starbucks and talking on my iPhone…

I figure I ought to say something about the iPhone, lest all of you wonder if I lived on Mars (given how much I’ve written about it), though they are probably writing about the iPhone there, as well.

I won’t go on and on too much, because that’s not my thing. Well, going on and on is my thing, actually (as regular readers know), but not about tech stuff. There are much better and more popular blogs for that. But talking tech is not so much my thing.

However, I do find the whole iPhone phenomenon fascinating, and I do know that some of my regular readers out there have some passionate (irrationally committed?) preferences. So, here I will throw in my two cents. (Actually, probably only worth one cent, given I have yet to handle one of the things…)

From all I have read, I believe that there are more definitely well equipped cellphones than the iPhone — especially in Asia: South Korea, Japan, etc. They have cellphones in that part of the world that make our Blackberries and such look like we’re striking two flint rocks together to start a smoke signal. So if you want the (currently) most functional and efficient handheld, get-business-done communications device out there, it doesn’t look like the iPhone would be your choice.

But from what I have read, that isn’t what Steve Jobs and Co. are aiming at in the first place, and–personally–I think time will show Mr. Jobs to be correct.

The New York Times had a great article today (July 2, 2007) in their Business Day section, titled “Chasing the iPhone: the Lessons of the iPod Haunt Manufacturers,” written by Martin Fackler. It makes the case well that while the iPhone may not be the single best cellphone on the market, it is the cellphone of the future. I mean, anyone familiar with the consoles on the bridge of the Enterprise-D would have to agree that the iPhone is looking pretty 24th Century.

For one, the iPhone plays to Apple’s strengths.  Especially over the last decade, Apple has been focused on improving the interaction between human and machine.  The iPod was a fantastic leap forward in that direction — a leap of such a magnitude it defined a new product class.  Yet, the iPod is not the only example of Apple’s strength in this regard — simply the most recent and iconic.  Yet, one of the big reasons we PC users have windows is because Mr. Gates demanded of his faithful minions “I want Mac on a PC.”  We’re so used to Windows now that it is easy to forget that the mouse and GUI-for-the-masses began with the Mac.

To me, the iPhone represents another such leap in the area of human/machine interface.  From its innovative introduction of radical surface computing to its almost prideful commitment to it, the iPhone is designed to compel you to interact differently with your machine.  “Those who bemoan the lack of some dedicated buttons on the iPhone can grow to accept that lack,” seems to be the thought.  Those who think that lack is poor product planning on the part of Apple are missing the point: the iPhone’s designers are out to change the paradigm — to own the paradigm.  And while there will be changes and improvements as more rival companies jump on the bandwagon, I think that Apple is on the right side of history here.  (A look at that Popular Science video on surface computing might convince you, too.)

Apple isn’t interested in creating the cellphone that you reach for because it does what all the others do.  They want to create the cellphone that you reach for because you simply want to.  You enjoy it.  As Steve Jobs said in an interview with WSJ’s Walter S. Mossberg: “What matters to customers is the experience they have using the product.”  And he’s exactly right.  (Go figure.)

Secondly, the iPhone opens the door to what Mr. Jobs believes is the future of cellphones: software.  Has has said as much in interviews.  For instance, in an earlier interview with Steve Jobs (click here, but full text requires WSJ subscription), Mr. Mossberg quizzed him on the noticeable absences in the iPhone (video recording, IM, et al.).  Mr. Jobs gives the standard “We don’t talk about future products” Apple response (used three times in this very short interview, alone), but then says, “I will say that the iPhone is the most sophisticated software platform ever created for a mobile device, and that we think software features are where the action will be in the coming years. Stay tuned.”

And that’s the key.  The iPhone is a mobile “software platform.”  Do you want to buy a brand new phone for its real-time GPS navigation features when it means (1) a big expenditure and (2) the potential loss of other features you have come to enjoy, or do you want to be able to purchase real-time GPS navigation software for the phone you already have and love?

So in summary, I do believe that the iPhone is visionary and represents the future of the mobile device better than any product currently out there.  Not that its creators are prophets.  It’s just that it’s easy to see the future when you are the one creating it.

Augh!  I can’t believe I’ve already written this much!  For those of you who wanted to know all this about the iPhone, you’ve probably already heard it in your own tech-related sources.  For those of you who didn’t want to know all this, you are probably wondering why you wasted your time. My apologies!

As for me, I will continue to maintain my neutrality in the PC/Apple discussion.  I love haranguing both sides on occasion.  Although my preference is a PC (I prefer the Millennium Falcon to the above mentioned Enterprise-D for similar reasons), I would love to have an Apple MacBook, an iMac, or even a Mac Mini in addition to my good ol’ built-with-my-own-hands PC.  (My wife, on the other hand, would be happy to trade on the spot for a Mac.)  Yet, at the same time, I’m not the sort of narrow-visioned Apple zealot who believes PCs and Microsoft products should be thrown out of every corporate window in America to be replaced by Macs.  (Unless they’re running Vista.  XP forever!)  (My apologies to any of my readers who do so believe, by the way.  I don’t know of any, but perhaps I have not had the chance to have a long enough discussion with you for your true nature to be revealed.)  (I now return you to text without parentheses.)

Don’t think of it as being double-minded, a lá, James 1:8.  Rather, think of it as seeing that all parts of the body have their place, a lá, 1 Corinthians 12:18. 🙂

Thankfully, this entry should get the techie-wannabe stuff out of my system for a while…

11 thoughts on “So, I was on my Segway drinking my Starbucks and talking on my iPhone…

  1. Craig

    Great article on iPhone. Lot’s of fun!

    “I will continue to maintain my neutrality in the PC/Apple discussion,” but “I’d love” a Mac (so would my wife)! ROFL. Too funny! I can seriously picture you after the Feast with the new Leopard OS running on a MacBook Pro with LED screen.

    XP forever! LOL. Give me the latest warp 9.5 Enterprise any day. Data is better than any Wookie!

    I personally resonate with a company that has said, “We want to make a dent in the universe,” and “computers for those who want to change the world.” Hey, that’s me!

    Now we have the cult of the iPhone. If we had the kind of passion Apple generates, Mr. Meredith wouldn’t need to call a fast.

    What phone makers have never grasped until now is some of us want simplicity in our interfacing with complex technology. People first! Apple is about the power in simplicity. The Mac OS, iPod, iPhone. I don’t want a cell phone that looks and acts like a scientific calculator needing a huge user manual. I want something that “just works.” Now if Mr. Jobs would just make a phone that looks like an iPod nano.

    P.S. Speaking of Mars…http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap070703.html

  2. I’m with you on much of what you say there, Mr. Craig. Although, my desire for some great Mac products shouldn’t be seen as besmirching my claim to PC/Apple neutrality, any more than a desire for a good cheeseburger should besmirch a claim to like macaroni and cheese just as well. (Obviously, I need to expand my culinary tastes!) While I would like one of those beautiful machines, it should be noted that when I actually *did* have the money to purchase one I opted to build my own PC instead. And even a child is known by his *deeds* (Prov. 20:11). So I think my neutrality is safe enough.

    I mention my wife, though, because she has no such neutrality. She would much prefer a Mac. Her interests lie in making DVDs and doing media work, for which a Mac would be so much more well suited. (Which isn’t always a plus: keep in mind that the first time Jar Jar Binks was ever rendered, it was probably on a Mac…)

    I cannot, however, agree on the Data versus Chewy thing. I love Data. The “no contractions” thing — sweet. But, Chewbacca hands down. And warp 9.5 is nothing compared to a hyperdrive that leaves your enemies saying, “they could be on the other side of the galaxy by now.” Han Solo could have ferried the entire crew of the Voyager back to Federation Space over multiple trips before the last commercial break of the second episode.

    Crew complement of 760? Please! Give me a Wookie and a Fonzie-style cold start, any day. 🙂

  3. Somehow, a wrong button was clicked and Mr. Banjo Ben’s comment was lost. I reproduce it here so that the response I posted makes sense…
    Banjo Ben:
    Actually, the Enterprise D has a complement of 1014 (give or take a few dead security guys). As for the speed comparison, that’s just because George Lucas didn’t take the time to think about making things even remotely consistent.
    *sigh* I AM a geek…
    Wallace Smith:
    Howdy, Mr. Ben, and not so fast. I said “crew” — I wasn’t including the civilians. Any Star Trek record worth its salt is going to mention that the Enterprise-D carries around 185 officers and around 575 enlisted men. Together, these make up the “crew.” The civilians (whose presence is often conveniently neglected on the show) round out the remaining 255-ish passengers. (Early TNG Wesley Crusher *definitely* doesn’t count.)
    Some of the sources out there on the internet (e.g., memory-alpha.org) mistakenly give a “crew” count like you have, but you shouldn’t trust everything you read on the internet, you know.
    Yet, even if we go fuzzy on the definition of “crew” my implied point stands either way: To run the Enterprise-D in the standard fashion, you need a crew of at least 760 people, one of whom is required to wear a girl’s barrette on his face. To run the Millennium Falcon, all you need is one pirate, one Wookie, and a good hydrospanner. (Duct tape probably helps, too.)
    I love the Enterprise (in all her renditions). But still — give me the Falcon!

  4. mikep

    Well I think the reason for the immensity of the enterprise was the lack of speed achieved. If you were too far from your port you needed to be able to sustain a mini-civilization onboard. The maximum warp speed is nothing compared to the hyperdrive thus making the universe more diversely traveled, much like now with our own personal automobiles. We dont need to, as like the old days, have a wagon train for long distances. Now, because everything is closer at hand and not days, weeks, months, or years away.The lack of speed has been overcome, and no longer needing sustainablity.

    But really they werent going any faster in either case, one used another dimension in the case of the millenium falcon, probably greater than or equal to subspace communication speed(warp 9.99999999999999 (where warp 10 was occupying over point in the universe (just like achieving light speed, because it is light speed relativistically))) in ST:NG, and in the case of the enterprise it just bent space with the warp coils (via an immense electromagnetic field) so that they never really moved faster than the speed of light relative to the warp-bubble they create, but to the rest of the universe they contracted the distance instantaneously and made them “go faster than light” by manipulating the other variable in the velocity equation… v= d/t…distance…. they just shored up the distance brought the space closer to them, this also solve the dillemma associated with the physics of traveling near the speed of light,( such as matter /space and time dialations) So the millenium falcon is much more superior moving the universe closer via hyperspace, than the Enterprise-D ever could.

    A cool book to read esp for you Mr. Smith being the math guru you are would appreciate it…Hyperspace by Michu Kaku…It was awesome..eversince I read it as a highschool freshman my mind has been greatly enhanced in understanding more the mind of God through the intracacies of His creation.

    although I dont agree with Mr. Kaku’s assumptions about a ten dimension hyperspace because it is nothing but confusion and a cop-out for making a unified field theory in multidimensions. (As us math geeks know we can make anything number of dimensions obey whatever limits we attribe them to have, given all other axioms in said universe must obey one another. like calucuating a cross product of five dimensions… although How in the world are there five dimensions for us even to precieve and how can you haev five orthogonal lines each perpendicular to themselves in obsurb…but in math on paper we can do it…it is just confusion….God is not the author of confusion…leading me to believe that everything can be unified in the four dimensions we so now lovingly inhabit. Now…..If we could just inhabit Eternity??? 🙂

  5. Howdy, Mr. Peters, and thanks for your comment!

    I am just about to leave for Texas & Charlotte, but I wanted to check the blog to see what was out there, and your comment made my checking worthwhile. 🙂

    I think your observations about the way of life imposed by spacecraft speed is an excellent observation and one that I have never heard before. I suspect I will be repeating it to others in nerdy conversations in the future!

    As for the potential *actual* existence of higher dimensions, I haven’t ruled them out. Ever since “Flatland” opened my eyes to see the possibility, I haven’t given up on it. Though your observations are well-founded. We mathematicians through around extra dimensions like they were free and abundant for the using! And, of course, for the purposes of solving mathematical conundrums, they often are.

    Thanks for the book recommendation, too! I have found Kaku to be incredibly annoying on TV, but if he is more palatable in book form, then I am game! 🙂 Actually, any book that helps me to wrap my brain around the possibility of multiple actual dimensions sounds tempting.

    I’m sure it is a bit more abstract than Kaku’s book, but one of my favorites that opened my own young mind in those directions is Rudy Rucker’s *Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension* (written as Rudolf v. B. Rucker).

    Thanks for a great comment!

  6. Craig

    Hey, if Hans took the Voyager crew home, we would have had no series!

    “Give me a Wookie and a Fonzie-style cold start, any day.” Oh, I give up! May the force be with you!

    Have you seen the superb Nova DVD’s on “The Elegant Universe”? If not, you can see the trailer or watch the whole thing online: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/

  7. I…do…not…be-LIEVE I am reading this thread. (LOL with eyes rolling)

    *Star Trek* vs. *Star Wars*…as much as I appreciate them both (but slightly favor ST, just as I slightly favor Macs), both of them have plot holes big enough to drive a Romulan Warbird or a Super Star Destroyer through, and nowhere more so than in their discussions of FTL (faster-than-light) drive as correlated with distance. I had a better FTL drive system and velocity scale working in my own fiction when I was still a child, and I was *consistent* in applying them.

    It is difficult to maintain that the laws of physics can be unified within four dimensions when what I understand are observed — not just theorized — phenomena act as if they are operating in many more than four dimensions. Einstein’s Theories of Relativity work within four dimensions. Quantum mechanics is another story, and that is why such things as multi-dimensionality and string theory have been put forward to account for both extremes of scale.

    There have been interesting discussions in science fiction long before now as to how transportation methods would shape interstellar civilizations. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle commented that a star empire of the sort used in their book THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE would be useless if travel were instantaneous — there would be no way to defend against sudden attack, and therefore no benefit in being part of a larger organization. It would be every planetary system for itself. So in said book, ships are limited to sublight most of the time until they can find jump points near stars, points which can take them instantaneously (given a special drive) to the next point. This makes it possible to create and then to hold together an empire, and even then in the book and its sequel there are “outies” and then aliens to worry about.

    There are reasons why God wants sons with His own nature to inherit the Universe, and this is one of them. Instantaneous travel coupled with tremendous power is capable of making political unity impossible, if not completely useless, if driven by selfishness.

  8. Alex

    I have held an iphone… I played with it a bit….

    I can see the potential of the iphone, but do they come in an XL or even a XXL? My fingers are too big for the keys on touchscreen keypad…

    As for Apple vs PC…. I do not like Apple’s proprietary nature (I don’t appreciate Microsoft much either). I own two PCs and both of our mp3 players are non iPods.

    Have fun visiting the family, and good luck with the tapings.

    One more thing, Independence Day Related:

    http://www.glennbeck.com/news/07032007b.shtml

  9. The engines don’t move the ship across the universe. The ship stays in place and the engines move the universe around it. — Cubert J. Farnsworth

    The Newton and PalmPilot preceded the iPhone as touchscreen devices with few buttons. The iPhone is unique in combining simplicity, functionality, fun and most importantly, the growing demand for a PDA/phone/music-player.

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