Steve Jobs on the iPhone:
I donâ€™t want people to think of this as a computer.
Juha Putkiranta, senior vice president, Multimedia, Nokia, on the N95 phone:
The Nokia N95 is the ultimate multimedia computer.
As the print reviewers have said, expectations for the iPhone have been built so high that it is bound to disappoint in some respects. And a system this complex is going to have a lot of warts even if it’s 99% insanely great.
Even so, some of the criticisms here show that Steve Jobs’ legendary attention to detail may not be infallible.
The lack of user access to the file system and the slowness of the EDGE network appear to be the major issues. Jobs has kind of addressed both these, saying that applications should reside on servers, and data access should be by Wi-Fi.
A comment on this blog points out that Google Mail is actually more in tune with these suggestions than the built in Mail application.
David Pogue of the New York Times, reviewing the iPod said:
When youâ€™re in a Wi-Fi hot spot, going online is fast and satisfying.
But otherwise, you have to use AT&Tâ€™s ancient EDGE cellular network, which is excruciatingly slow. The New York Timesâ€™s home page takes 55 seconds to appear; Amazon.com, 100 seconds; Yahoo. two minutes. You almost ache for a dial-up modem.
After reading that, I decided that since I would never use the EDGE service (too frustrating). I would forego the data plan on my prospective iPhone, and just use Wi-Fi at home and at work. But then I discovered that AT&T won’t let me do that. The data plan is an obligatory expense if you buy an iPhone.
Adding insult to injury, Randall Stephenson, the new CEO of AT&T, said in an interview in the Wall Street Journal:
With this particular device, to not have an inclusive data package with a voice package would be almost irrelevant, right? This is a data and a voice product. It’s nonsensical to sell a rate plan separate.
It’s as though he is unaware that the type of person that buys an iPhone almost invariably already has Wi-Fi. He must know that nobody is going to wait two minutes for a page to load; if David Pogue’s experience is the usual one, nobody is going to use the EDGE network. Customers will use the Wi-Fi connections they are already paying their ISP (maybe AT&T) for.
Instat published a report today, predicting that corporate spending on wireless voice and data services will outstrip spending on wireline services by 2010. The report is pitched at service providers, pointing out that corporate users are more profitable. Of course some service providers, like Sotto, already pin their strategy on this. The report also encourages corporations to unify their wireless spending, rather than have employees get their service piecemeal and expense it. I wrote about this in an earlier posting.
As cell phones get smarter and as they get more tightly bound into corporate networks, security becomes a major concern. This is the subject of two stories in today’s Wall Street Journal. The first tells how the iPhone is precipitating a standoff between IT managers who don’t want it on their networks, and users who want to use it as a corporate email client. The second explains how iPods, iPhones and any device with storage and a USB connector constitute network security threats.
Reuters carried a story yesterday from the Apple World-Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco. The headline is “Apple to let outsiders create programs for iPhone,” and the story says “Apple Inc. will allow independent developers to write applications for its upcoming iPhone by tapping into the device’s built-in Web browser.” The story was presumably based on Apple’s press release on the topic.
This sounds exciting, so why did Apple stock lose $4.30 on the day? Well, the market focused on the glass-half-empty. Apple didn’t open the iPhone up to third party developers in the way that most developers want. The comment that squelched the crowd was “there’s no SDK!” The official version, what Jobs, Forstall and the press release said beyond that, is too scant and ambiguous to draw a clear idea of how well developers will be able to exploit the iPhone as a platform. Here’s a link to the video of the Jobs keynote. The iPhone developer part starts at time index 1:14. Ryan Block of Engadget was there live-blogging the Jobs keynote. His transcription and commentary:
Jobs: “We have been trying to come up with a solution to expand the capabilities of the iPhone so developers can write great apps for it, but keep the iPhone secure. And we’ve come up with a very. Sweet. Solution. Let me tell you about it. An innovative new way to create applications for mobile devices… it’s all based on the fact that we have the full Safari engine in the iPhone. And so you can write amazing Web 2.0 and AJAX apps that look and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone, and these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. They can make a call, check email, look up a location on Gmaps… don’t worry about distribution, just put ’em on an internet server. They’re easy to update, just update it on your server. They’re secure, and they run securely sandboxed on the iPhone. And guess what, there’s no SDK you need! You’ve got everything you need if you can write modern web apps…”
Scott Forstall, VP of iPhone software: “Your applications can take advantage of the built-in native services.”
Block: “He’s in the iPhone — no new apps up on screen, the same 11 as before — sorry iPhone fans!”
Forstall: “We built a custom corporate address book app to use our internal LDAP… it actually took less than one person-month to do this. It’s under 600 lines of code to do the whole thing.”
Block: “Shows up the vCards as they look in the built-in contact app. Not too shabby!”
The Web 2.0/AJAX model is great for AT&T, because this model requires continuous interaction with the server, so you will be burning up your data minutes. Except, I hope, when you are at home or at work and can use the Wi-Fi connection.
This is, as Block says, weak compared to loading real OSX applications on the phone. How weak depends on what Steve Jobs means by “the full Safari engine.” Apple’s Safari FAQ page says “All versions of Safari support Netscape-style plug-ins.” This undoubtedly applies to the iPhone version of Safari, since Steve Jobs has been toying with the idea of including Flash. The published Safari plugin SDK isn’t any use to iPhone developers, since the CPU is an ARM. So if Apple doesn’t publish an iPhone SDK, even the Safari plugin support is moot to third parties, except those working closely with Apple, like Google. One obvious Google plugin that would reduce the sting of no SDK would be Google Gears, which lets you run server-based applications off-line. The usual example is Google’s complete suite of Office applications.
Blog reaction has been hysterical (but when has it ever not been?) Jesus Diaz of Gizmodo says No iPhone SDK Means No Killer iPhone Apps. One interesting tidbit in his piece concerns the degree of integration with the the iPhone’s services. Here’s what he says about clicking on a phone number in the browser to place a call:
This is nothing new, however. We knew this from the very beginning because iPhone’s Safari was already doing it. It’s called auto-detection of phone numbers and addresses: you click on a phone or address in your web page and it gets passed by Safari to the operating system, which calls the number or shows the address in the Google Maps app.
I certainly hope this isn’t the extent of it. If so, this guy is right. Nothing special here at all.
We live in hope, though. Steve Jobs was accurate in saying that Web 2.0/AJAX programming is the hot new thing, and that highly capable applications (especially enterprise applications) are being built like this. Users don’t care how software is written, they just want it to perform a useful function in a responsive and considerate way. If the API is rich enough, popular opinion will follow the trail that Ryan Block blazed, from “Weeeeeaaaak” to “Not too shabby!”