January 26, 2007

iPhone Bash Round-Up

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 1:35 am

Thursday was a big day for iPhone-bashing. Really stupid iPhone-bashing.

First, a couple analysts want everyone to understand that the iPhone is not a smartphone. At least according to their definition, which requires that the OS is open and supports third-party development.

For me, a smartphone has always been a phone that incorporates a fully-functional PDA feature set and a browser. The fact that my Sony Ericsson P910i allows additional applications to be installed was never what qualified it as a smartphone for me. But I’m not a fancy analyst like Stuart Carlaw and Philip Solis at ABI Research — I’m just a guy who uses a mobile phone.

Still, I think Carlaw’s prediction — “Consumers will not be willing to settle for a second-rate cell phone just to have superior music” — is way off. His description of the iPhone as a “feature phone” ignores the biggest feature of all. The phone’s interface has gotten raves from everyone who’s actually managed to touch one. And the OS X system can obviously run other applications.

The big question is how additional applications will get on the phone. Right now, it seems Apple is going to tightly control development. That’s a bummer, but still doesn’t mean that the phone won’t get a broad range of new features under Apple’s supervision.

Carlaw seems to be looking for the standard cell phone entry — take the base features of existing smartphones, rework the keyboard, add a dash of ingredient X (3G data services? MP3 player and FM radio? Instant messaging device?) and voilà. The UI? Well, they’re all pretty bad, so just do the best you can. Web services? Stick a WAP browser on there and let Opera fix the problem.

Apple’s decided to try and deal with a lot of things that make mobile phones suck. Is it going to be perfect? Of course not. I’m still disappointed that there was no mention of voice recognition dialing, for example. But I continue to think the iPhone is going to be a big hit. And when it is, please tell me where to report for my analyst gig.

Not to be outdone (outwronged?), John Webster, an IT advisor at another research company, makes some observations in a Computerworld article republished at Macworld.com today. Webster says the iPhone reminds him of Ken Olsen of DEC because Olsen was concerned about the PC and it’s potential for distracting software and the possibility that anyone could swipe sensitive data with a disk.

Webster reminds me of an analyst stretching to find some historical reference to support baseless fearmongering. He says:

How secure is the iPhone? What kinds of data does it store? Any data of a personal nature? How secure is that data? It’s way more portable than the PC and way more fun. But what could happen to you as an owner of the iPhone if it winds up, even momentarily, in the palm of the wrong person?

I’m trying to figure out Webster’s point. Is there one? There’s really no comparison with Olsen’s views on the move from dumb terminals to personal computers. And the concerns Webster raises are so old news they’re laughable.

I already carry around, every day, the kind of data an iPhone will contain in the form of my mobile phone and my iPod Nano. Am I supposed to be worried about — gasp — someone finding out that my music collection includes some Ace of Base tunes? Or see the photos of my dog that I carry with me, or scroll through my calendar? This is all stuff they can steal from me today — in the future, my thief will just be able to browse through my music library using the iPhone’s nifty cover flow view and will probably enjoy the entire stealing experience a lot more.

And really — haven’t enough stolen laptops containing sensitive info made the news for this to be a rather mundane observation?

No, Mr. Webster, I’m afraid the biggest tragedy of a misplaced iPhone will be that I’m out $600.

Finally, Rob Enderle posted some utter madness that is really beyond comprehension. John Gruber has some discussion at Daring Fireball about it. You really need to click through to Enderle’s article and see the photos of the concept phones that he thinks the iPhone has copied. Only then can you appreciate the depth of the insanity.

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