Well the iPhone announcement was almost a week ago, and there is lots of speculation, both positive and negative, about what this will mean for the mobile phone environment.
As far as the timing of the announcement, I think it was totally appropriate for Apple to be able to announce its own product ahead of all of the public filings to the FCC and others. So for me that’s not a big deal at all.
In terms of whether it will perform as billed – I think people are giving Apple a great deal of benefit of any doubt based on their past performance in interface design. Remember when the iPod was announced most people went, “uh, so what?” because there were already dozens of MP3 players on the market. The execution of Apple’s version, though, changed everything, quite literally.
In the phone world, Jobs is right that the interfaces are pretty bad. I love my Treo and all, but I can think of dozens of ways that it falls short of anything close to ideal. If Apple can execute in the phone world even half as well as they have in the music world, then I think it will be a big success and a big advancement on anything available now – even with roughly identical or even inferior specifications.
The “walled garden” aspect of it, though, is a huge problem, and I think it puts any human interface wins in peril.
The Blackberry is the closest analogue, I think. It’s more or less a walled garden (as I understand things), but it does one thing – email – exceptionally well. And so it has been a success – but is it’s success even half of what it would have been were it a more open platform? 10%?
On the other side of things, you have the Palm Treo platform. The smart-asses are right – the Palm OS is a joke! But it’s a joke with thousands and thousands of applications available, and custom applications can be developed on a whim by any organization because it’s really simple to develop for the Palm. So in spite of everything – questionable battery life, a lack of innovation in the past 4 years, a very old-fashioned OS – it’s still the leader in the marketplace. And in some domains, you’re pretty much tied to Palm because all of the development has been there – like medicine.
I guarantee that if we got a group of any 10 readers of this site together for half a day, we could come up with 10 innovative applications that use the iPhone system in really really great ways – that Apple alone will never come up with, let alone release. NOT taking advantage of that could be a huge problem for Apple unless they do open it up as a development platform.
I predict that the iPhone will launch as a closed platform, but I would be surprised if there weren’t an announcement soon – when’s the next WWDC? – about development access. The program will probably still be pretty restrictive, but I don’t think Apple’s so out of touch that they really believe they can do everything on their own.