Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On iPhone Competitors

At the New York City iPhone Meetup last week, Steve Kochan and I were tasked with talking about the future of the iPhone and the iPhone SDK. I'm not sure either of us were particularly qualified to speak on that. I'm not being modest; I'm not sure anybody outside of One Infinite Loop is qualified to speak about that, and anybody who is qualified is almost certainly not allowed to speak about it. But everybody's got ideas of where things should go and where they might go, so we talked for a little while about some of the things we might see in a hypothetical iPhone SDK 4 or in the next generation of iPhone OS devices.

First of all, I hope nobody took anything I said as gospel. Although I do know a small handful of people inside Apple, none of them are close enough friends that they'd be willing to risk their jobs by giving me secret information, and if any of them did give me secret information, I wouldn't stand up in front of a group of people and spill that secret. I do NOT know what will be coming out when. I don't know if there will be a tablet, or what it will look like. As far as hardware is concerned, I don't know what the future holds at all, and as far as software is concerned, I don't know all that much that hasn't already been made public. I don't know that we'll get garbage collection or, at least, I don't know when we'll get it. I know Apple is capable of delivering a tablet. I highly suspect that they've prototyped several ideas, but Apple prototypes lots of ideas that are never turned into actual products. I know that there are indications of a move toward a completely resolution independent OS, but that's not a secret. Apple has been moving that way for quite some time in the Mac OS, since even before the iPhone OS was forked off.

So, just for the record, anything I said last Thursday night was pure speculation. Do not buy stock based on it, or spread anything I said as if it came from somebody who actually knows something.

And with that out of the way, I noticed that John Gruber has tackled one topic we discussed at the end of the night, which has to do with challengers to the iPhone throne. John's specifically speaking to the Android platform in his posting while we were talking about a handful of platforms, including Palm, RIM, Android, and Microsoft, but a lot of what he says echos what I said during that discussion. And John has a much, much better track record than I do with regard to making predictions about technology and specifically about Apple, so for that part of the discussion, at least, I feel like I was on fairly solid ground.

1 comment:

Douglass Turner said...

Apple/iPhone has perhaps the most insurmountable lead on competitors - and impediments to competitors success - since Microsoft. Perhaps even greater.

Think of it as a triumverate:

1) ecosystem
2) platform (device + SDK)
3) developers, developers, developers.

1) To other folks like myself that have toiled in the mobile biz - I did my time in Scandinavia form 2000 - 2008. Until Apple arrived on the scene the ecosystem was the mobile operator ecosystem which I would describe as close to being an indentured servant for a not very bright king. The arrival of iPhone blows that all up. This is huge. Similar in scale to Apple hoodwinking the music operators ;-).
Nokia. Sony/Ericsson. Samsung. Are all in a state of disbelief and denial that the world they suffer in has so completely and permanently changed.

2) Apple controls and patrols then entire technology stack. Android? Thats a profit burning exercise. Nokia? Sigh, they have to dance to the tune of the operators. Heck, Vodofone asks device manufactures to put a little red button on the device to take users directly to the Vodofone portal.

3) Apple is pulling a Microsoft move with developers by putting a device from heaven and sublime SDK in front of them and saying "go, be brilliant." Shh.Listen. Can you hear all those developers from Helsinki to Berlin to London to Barcelona stampeding to developer.apple.com/iphone? You have no idea how hellish the mobile development environment was prior the the iPhone. We're talking stone age compared to the Star Trek Holodeck.

As a scarred veteran of the mobile biz and seasoned developer. I often find myself shaking my head in sheer amazement at the trifecta Apple has so elegantly pulled off.