Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My Palm Is No Longer Top Dog

Yep, it's official: Steve Jobs has been reading my blog on the ultimate device, and went ahead and created it. This will serve as an epitaph for my Palm: ladies and gentlemen, I humbly yield my evangelism of my Palm TX as the ultimate multipurpose device, and give you the iPhone.

Why is the iPhone the perfect device? Let me count the ways:

- Apple (no longer Apple Computer; now just Apple, inc. - nice touch, Steve) understands that the killer app for a cell phone is...the phone functions. With Apple's clout, they were able to make the largest cell carrier innovate (visual voicemail: click what messages you want to listen to, rather than be forced to listen to them all), and promises more. Hell, they make making a phone call look sexy on this thing.

- Perfect form factor. Slimmer than any other smartphone, to appeal to the sexy crowd. All screen: you can't mess up the buttons on this thing. The right size to talk on, watch movies...just perfect.

- It runs Mac OS X. Read that again. Not some stripped down version of Linux, or a proprietary OS: the real Mac OS. You want a platform to innovate on or get apps to run on? This is the most robust possibility, ever.

- It syncs with all of the Apple apps, seamlessly as your iPod syncs with iTunes. Music, video, podcasts, contacts, calendar...effortless.

- It ships with 4 or 8 GB of flash memory. Not a hard drive: flash. That means FAST, and no moving parts. Sure, on a music player, that might be not news, but as a phone as well?

- Widgets. This is the ultimate platform for widget displays, all with the whole Apple Dashboard library to choose from.

- Video. I finally have a reason to buy TV shows from iTunes. No more ripping, and dithering down: this sucker will play them all. And you KNOW the integration with FrontRow is coming...can you say Apple TV DVR?

- Music. It's an iPod, the gold standard of MP3 players. And it uses the same connector, which means the accessories are amazing.

- Elegant design. An integrated accelerometer "knows" when you turn it to see it in widescreen, and changes the display to match. A sensor "knows" when you bring it to your face, and turns off the screen, so the light is not on and you can't hit any buttons by accident.

- Connectivity. WiFi built in and Bluetooth 2.0. The phone "senses" when you are near a WiFi connection and uses that; if unavailable, it falls back to the EDGE connection.

- Battery life: it was called out as a feature, not a drawback. The talk time and usage is clearly a focus.

- Price: $599 for the 8GB version. Top smartphones cost close to that, and don't begin to offer the features this does.

- Yahoo push e-mail and Google Maps, built in. Oh my goodness.

I could go on and on, but as great as this device (it's impossible to consider this just a phone) is already, it's real secret weapon is that the potential has not even begun to be explored. 3rd party apps on Mac OSX. Video games. GPS. The mind boggles.

So, are there any flaws? Yes.

1) No camera. It took me a full day to realize that omission. As I have mentioned before, this is a surprisingly popular feature. People will not be thrilled about giving this up, especially with such a capable device to send the pictures from.
UPDATE: Uh-oh, it just got even better. According to the iPhone specs page, it comes with a 2.0 Megapixel camera. Wow.

2) Battery. iPods are notorious for having "closed cases:" you cannot pop a new battery on, when the old one dies. While this may be ok for iPods, phones are critical: let's hope when June comes around (when the release is), it allows for the end user to change the battery.

3) Price. Yes, it's a hell of a deal for all of what you get, but it's still the elite of elites. Will I buy it? Of course. But the iPod took a while to get fully entrenched because of the price.

4) It's wedded to Cingular. Some people tolerate Cingular, others hate it. IMHO, all of the companies are the same, but it will turn off some folks. Your iPod is individual; this attaches you to Cingular for at least 2 years.

5) Memory. 8GB sounds like a lot, until you load all your music, photos, videos and contacts on it. No expansion I saw. This allows Apple to intro the 10GB, etc., later, but it means Flash memory needs to keep up with the demand. Plus, how happy will people by having to spend another $600 every year or two?

6) 3G connectivity. EDGE is the least acceptable cellular data rate. Cingular's HDSPA is much more DSL-like, and rolls back to EDGE. Not a big deal, until you remember: Steve Jobs hates compromise. The browser is Safari, a full web browser. Reading the NY Times on EDGE on a real web browser is like using a 14.4 modem instead of broadband. I didn't see any scaled down version there; that will be my prediction of the first app that makes it's debut, so people can read pages fast. I LOVE WiFi on this device, but HDSPA should have been the cellular standard.

6) Outlook connectivity. Look, the world still runs on Outlook. There needed to be a seamless integration, day 1. OK, no Outlook? How about GMail & Google Calendar? It's still fuzzy how the contacts and calendar apps will sync. Will it only be with the .Mac apps, or will Windows users have an option?

All this aside, this is a truly landscape changing device. Companies that will be affected:
- Nokia. Dead within 3 years, or Europe only is my prediction.
- Motorola. Their design team had been in the lead...they just lost it, and it won't be coming back.
- Blackberry (RIM). Push e-mail from Yahoo? It'll become a tool for the IT executives only.
- Microsoft. After watching Windows Mobile make huge inroads, the sexiest BlackJacks and Q's will look like Newtons compared to this.
- Sprint. 5000 layoffs, same day as this announcement. Connection? No, but expect the 3rd cell carrier to abandon the consumer market and stick to the Nextel business needs.
- Palm. The Palm OS is already a dead OS; now, their legendary ease of use and hardware is antiquated. This device is what Palm should have introduced, not Apple.
- HTC. They make most of the smartphones on the market today (Q, BlackJack, Wizard, etc.), and now they are reduced to a 2nd tier player.

Finally, I leave you with this: not only was this the greatest Apple product yet; not only was this the best keynote yet; not only is this product a world-changer. Even better, check out the dining option Steve and Phil Schiller of Apple decided on in the keynote, while demoing the SMS messaging of the app:

Yep, the best phone, from the best the best Sushi in the state. As a card-carrying Sushi Ran Sushi Love member, I salute you, Steve. The 49er Roll is on me.

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