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…