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iPhone Predictions: How did we do?

Written by: Alex Curtis

Categories: Random Thoughts

A previous post on the MacCast blog discussed some practical predictions on Apple’s iPhone, and the MacCast community commented on it. Some aspects we collectively got right, others not so much. Let’s take a look.

How Apple would create iPhone

  • Prediction: Not from bottom up.

  • Reality: from scratch.

I underestimated Apple’s dedication to this device. Yes, they created the iPod which is a data retrieval device. I thought because the iPhone was a different animal, one that both retrieves data, but creates it as well, that Apple wouldn’t spend the resources needed to build a mobile device. Boy, was I wrong. Severely wrong.

Of course, Apple did what it always does. It went in a new, unexplored direction, thought about how the ideal mobile device would work, and then painstakingly executed on that ideal building from their existing technologies and inventing new ways of interfacing with a mobile device.

Operating System

  • Prediction: Symbian S60

  • Reality: OS X

What I said:

Would Apple invest the time to engineer a mobile OS for a much more capable handset? Start with iPod functionality, add making calls, texting, emailing, adding phone numbers, playing games (oh wait, we have that on iPods now, dern!), surfing the net, taking photos, etc. There’s a lot of work that goes into a mobile phone, and even though Apple secretly developed OS X on Intel, I doubt that lab has shoe-horned Tiger onto a RAZR.

I also said that I thought it’d just be a gussied-up version of S60 with slick UIs crafted in Flash. Wrong.

Clearly Apple took the time and they did the work—over two years on one device. It’s not a RAZR, but they apparently poured the OS X secret sauce into a mobile device. To me, it is perhaps the most amazing mobile device. Ever.

Design

  • Prediction: Far better than Motorola collaboration, intuitive Jonathan Ive-ish hardware.

  • Reality: Way far better than anything in the market, ever. Intuitive Jonathan Ive-ish hardware.

I may have been right, but it was an understatement.

Browser

  • Prediction: Safari

  • Reality: Safari

Yes, it’s Safari, but I know, it’s not really what I predicted (specifically on Symbian S60, not on a mini version of OS X).

Synchronization

  • Predition: Via iTunes

  • Reality: Via iTunes

In the post where we discussed how the iPhone would interface with the Mac or PC, we said it would continue to work the way Apple had interfaced with the iPod—which is via iTunes. iTunes currently acts as the content and data manager, and there’s no reason for that to change. Apparently Apple agrees.

Platform Development

  • Prediction: Symbian S60, open development platform; fear that Apple would keep development platform closed.

  • Reality: Not S60; reports that development platform is closed.

This one I, unfortunately, may have been partly correct, though I really wish I were completely wrong. It’s not the Symbian S60 platform, where an already healthy developer community exists. Instead its a version of OS X. Development-wise, you might think this would be a bonus for the Mac platform. But there are reports that Apple will act as a gateway to the iPhone and that the platform is otherwise closed off from developers.

If true, I believe this is a gigantic miscalculation. I can understand two reasons for why Apple would do this. One is to protect the GSM network to which the iPhone attaches. I believe this to be bogus because there are plenty of other smartphone platforms like Palm, Windows Mobile, and Symbian, that all attach to both GSM and CDMA networks and are all open to development without risk to the underlying network. Two, I believe may be anti-competitive, and if maintained in the long run could harm the progress of the iPhone.

On the issue of third party apps running on the iPhone, Steve Jobs is quoted in John Markoff’s recent NYTimes.com article as saying:

“These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there’s not going to be software to buy that you can load on them coming from us. It doesn’t mean we have to write it all, but it means it has to be more of a controlled environment.”

I’m not sure which way that statement leans, but hopefully this rumor is not true and we will know more when the phone is closer to release (and maybe even more with the release of Leopard).

But enough about what we rightly or wrongly predicted—what do you think about how the iPhone turned out?

There are 8 comments on iPhone Predictions: How did we do?:

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  1. shadownight | Jan 21 2007 - 06:31

    I’m pretty sure that last statement by Steve Jobs means that iPhone apps will be sold the same way as games are sold now for the 5G iPod: through the iTunes Store. The developers can create high-quality apps, they submit it to Apple, and if Apple approves it, they put it on the Store and take a cut. Or perhaps Apple would ask specific developers to write an app for the iPhone, but that would be too bad, because then only fairly large software companies would get the deals.

  2. Francis Deblauwe | Jan 21 2007 - 09:32

    Just out at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: “The iPhone: A User’s Guide”! (http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2007/1/11cahr.html). One can always dream…

  3. Rene | Jan 22 2007 - 09:43

    I was just curious, because Mac OS X is based on an Unix-like kernel called Darwin, which is open source, will there also be a Pocket-Darwin for the iPhone, and will it be open source as well?

  4. Alex Curtis | Jan 22 2007 - 10:20

    This is the second time I’ve heard reference of “Pocket-Darwin.” The first was in episode 41 of MacBreak (http://www.twit.tv/mb41) starting around 4min 11sec, where Andy Ihnatko says it’s a stripped down version of Darwin made to run on mobile devices.

    Other than that, I haven’t been able to find much more discussion of this. If you can shed any more light on this topic, please post it, I’m eager to find out more about it.

  5. Jack | Jan 22 2007 - 02:45

    I think they started with the basics to highlight the way the phone does stuff–not what it does.

    My only disappointment is that it doesn’t have iChat w/VOIP. But they are constrained by Cingular for now. And iChat doesn’t have Voip yet. BUT, since Leopard is going to have remote desktop with iChat, this would be a killer feature for the phone. I think we’ll see a few more things that the phone will do after or when Leopard is out. And they are only stuck with Cingular for 2 years. Think of all the R and D costs that need to be made up by sales of the phone for these first two years. Essentially Cingular’s discount in exchange for a 2 year contract is making in the realm of possibility to buy it. Once these fixed costs are payed for, we’ll see the iPhone drop in price just like the iPod did.

    Also, don’t be upset that it is not 3G. I live in an area that has UMTS, and it sucks. I took my 3G phone back to Cingular and got an Edge based Treo 650 and the call quality is excellent and the internet service is ok. The problem with 3G in the US is even if you have it, it is spotty, and it will drop calls and data access.

    I think apple made the right decision. Hopefully enough early adopters will by this thing worldwide, so when the price drops to say $350 I’ll hop on board.

  6. Ryan Gray | Jan 27 2007 - 02:36

    Everyone says Cingular wouldn’t want the iPhone to have VOIP and so would not allow it in the agreement with Apple because Cingular wants you to use your cell minutes. Consumers would love it because it would mean not burning up minutes of their plan while using at home.

    However, if they were to allow it to use VOIP while at home (or wherever there was WiFi), this would attract more people to buy the phone and thus more customers to Cingular – away from their competitors.

    With the Cingular network working with the iPhone, you could do some nice things like the VOIP service is integrated so you still have one phone number – when the iPhone is using VOIP, all your calls to your cell number go over the internet to the phone and the cell radio is turned off to save power to run the WiFi radio. For this to work, of course, Cingular would be the VOIP service provider, gathering much of the VOIP business.

  7. Himanshu | Jan 29 2007 - 10:03

    As excited as I am with the iPhone, I am still worried about one thing – will it or will it not sync with the PIMs on the Windows Platform?

    For me (PC at work and Mac at Home) it is very important to sync it all. And currently I use a Dell Axim running WM5 that syncs with both the Macs and PCs with the right tools. So does the Palm OS based devices.

    I hope the iPhone will not be a Mac only device.

  8. Alex Curtis | Jan 30 2007 - 08:46

    Himanshu,

    I tried to address this in the post above, but if you remember from Steve Job’s MacWorld keynote, he said that the interface for syncing the iPhone with the PC is iTunes.

    If you’re on a Windows PC today, I believe that you can sync your Outlook contacts and events through iTunes, right (though, in searching on this, I found that this process is not without it’s problems–but it’s Windows, right :-))? If that’s the case today with the iPod, I believe that will be the case for the iPhone.

    But we’ll know more soon enough!