iPhone a Platform in Infancy

“The iPhone guranteees there’ll be no video iPod for a long time,” writes Chris Howard in “Has the iPhone Killed the Video iPod?” (Apple Matters blog). The logic behind this idea is that Apple’s iPhone (last said to be available in June 2007) is hobbled as a PDA, not smart enough to compete against smart phones, and not phone-y enough to appeal to power mobile phone users (who hold them in one hand and use their thumbs). In short, Apple is using it to stick its toe into the phone market, but it really is just the next generation of the iPod video. With phone attached.

Is this right? My view is that Apple has established a design platform for launching new commercial devices, from less expensive iPhone models down the road to less expensive video-enabled iPods by this summer, all with larger touch-screen displays and gesture recognition. I agree with one comment to Howard’s post: “Apple would be stupid to invent such a groundbreaking technology (patent pending, no less) and only use it in one product.” Stay tuned for an onslaught of iPods that take advantage of all these new patents.

I agree that “mobile phone warriors” (to use Howard’s phrase) are mostly thumb-tuckers. They hold the phone in one hand and use their thumbs. The iPhone is mostly designed to be used with two hands (one for pointing, one for holding). But I don’t see that it would be impossible to still use the iPhone with one hand, and your thumb to press the interactive touch-screen. Besides, a segment of this market use Blackberry devices, and a segment of the Blackberry market (or future Blackberry market — as I am part of), could be lured away to a device that lets you type more easily with a Qwerty keyboard. Especially if it gives you the choice.

However, I am concerned about Howard’s point concerning the lack of third-party applications for the iPhone — but I don’t think this situation will last long. The first iPhone might be crippled in some ways, but it is a vast leap forward in design. I can imagine a variety of widgets and applications that will run on its version of OS X. This is a platform in infancy, waiting to be exploited in the next decade.

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.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

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