Thursday, January 25, 2007

The iPhone is not for me :( That was my initial reaction to the product announced at Mac World and after trying hard for a few weeks to convince myself otherwise, my lack of interest wouldn't budge, so instead I spent the next few weeks trying to figure out why.

Why is it surprising that I don't want this phone? Any one of the following facts would be sufficient evidence, but taking them all together will really make you scratch you head:
  • there are four Macs in my house, one G3 iBook (bought used) that was until recently my primary work computer, an iMac G4 that handles all media duties (with the help of an external hard drive), a late model G4 PowerBook that my wife uses for school, and the brand new MacBook pro I'm now typing on.
  • I'm a happy Cingular customer. I know a lot of people wanted the iPhone to be unlocked and multi platform (GSM, CDMA, iDEN even). That would have been a neat coup for Jobs like getting the all the record labels to go in on the iTunes Music store, but not really relevant to me. I'm on Cingular and receive good service (though that might have something to do with me being a legacy AT&T digital customer).
  • I am not opposed to shelling out money for a phone. In fact, I bought my current phone in India for full price even knowing that a similar phone would eventually be released for Cingular in the US with heavy subsidy. I wanted it immediately and knew Cingular's version would have features turned off.
  • The phone I bought is a smartphone, in my opinion the best one for business use, the Nokia E61: great OS with superb support for open standards (Reuters, Gmail and Google Maps run without a hitch), the best browser i've seen on a mobile (if you haven't seen it you should really go demo it and note the iPhone browser is built on the same platform, WebKit), great display, info dense standby screen, Nokia's high quality build and feel, comfortable thumbboard (I compared to blackberry, moto Q, and HTC's offerings for cingular), very rich bank of built-in applications (mail, calendar, contacts, etc.)
The one exception is that I am not an iPod user. I did have a low capacity nano for a while, but didn't pay for it (company Christmas gift one year), and after it died (it got run over, but amazingly worked for quite some time before kicking the can), I didn't replace it. The reason for this is simple, when I'm mobile with my phone, I'm almost always always answering email (yes even more often than I am talking on the phone). The iPod was nice for the brief train ride to the office, but I don't miss it as long as I can answer my email. At the end of the day there is very little new about what the iPhone does and frankly existing players do those things better.

There is one thing that excited me about they way Apple is doin's the same thing that got me to switch to Macs...the operating system. Now I'm not talking about the touch screen interface which is pretty nifty, but I'm talking about their claim that it runs a special form of OS X, the same operating system in their desktops and laptops. Putting aside what a great benefit this is to developers, I am most excited about the prospect of interoperability between a four inch handheld device and the four macs in my house.

Which leads me to describe the product that I wish Apple would make: the iPhone without all the mobile phone features. This isn't a reduction back to a plain ole video iPod because it runs OS X and has a wifi connection. Imagine if they replaced all the mobile phone features with a VOIP client, created a slick remote login/filesytem, and souped up iTunes and iPhoto to allow remote control/media streaming fuctions (like the Sonos remote). That would fill an actual gap in the computing landscape.

Such a device would, for instance, allow me to do something you think would be simple, but isn't possible given Apple's current hardware: change what song I'm streaming to my Airport Express in the living room without walking to the kitchen where the computer that stores the music is. They could call it the iPalbecause it would be a mobile assistant for the digital home (can I coin that?).