STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

iPhone, and "The Device Formerly Known As iTV"

So the Church of Steve all got together overnight to be told what new tech they should get excited about. Here's the run down of the keynote:

1.) iPhone. This year, for US zealots.
2.) Partnerships involving iPhone - Google and Yahoo. Singular/AT&T for carrier.
3.) *TV, where "*" represents an Apple symbol. From here on, called AppleTV.
4.) "Apple Computer Inc." now called "Apple Inc."

Here's my POV on these:

1.) iPhone
Firstly, expect a lawsuit involving Apple vs. Linksys and Cisco shortly about the name.
Second, we all knew this was coming. It's an iPod and a phone. Together. In one box. Now, out of everything announced at this keynote, this is the only thing of any real merit. The iPod brand is strong and the design recognition is also. iPhone adheres to the iPod simplicity of design and interface, and generally is an impressive looking device. Now here's where my praise of it ends.
Firstly, it's running OSX. I hate OSX. But aside from my personal distaste of it, putting a desktop OS on a phone seems like a bad idea to me. Memory management and OS functions surely are built with assumptions of cache/memory/processor/storage configurations that are just not possible in a phone. However, I'm willing to be proven wrong.
The next thing that irked me was Steve making a big ol' claim about owning the patents for multi-touch touchscreen interfaces. OH MY GOSH. While none of the linked videos prove that Apple don't own the patent, I'd like to note also I've seen video of HP and another company demoing multitouch screens in coffee tables at tech shows. I can't see that Apple's patent could be on anything other then their specific design implementation. Expect to see the competition doing simular things shortly, despite Steve's claims of exclusivity.

2.) Partnerships for iPhone
Google, Yahoo, Singular and AT&T (I don't know the relationships between the last two) were all showcased as providers with services for iPhone. Looks like they haven't done particularly much - I don't really understand it all, but Yahoo's push-email service seems... expected? a requirement? It's a shame my Exchange server at home will do this, and has been able to do this for quite a while - to ANY Windows Mobile phone, and I believe Palm ones too. Not impressed. But hey - nice that they've set these up for people who buy the iPhone. Seriously - I think iPhone is a reasonable offering, minus the OSX factor.

3.) The Device Formally Known as "iTV"
There was only one piece of information about this I don't remember being in last year's keynote, and that's that it will output 720p resolution via HDMI. Whoo. As I predicted previously, iTV *is* just an iTunes player.
Justin's official line on this product is that it blows. Why? Because you can do everything it does for cheaper, and without being locked in to Apple's iTunes/iPod model for content, and DRM scheme. And, as previously stated, it's yet ANOTHER device for your livingroom that does one very specific subset of what you need to do. It doesn't record TV. It doesn't play DVDs. It doesn't connect to your cable/satelite box. It sure as heck doesn't do anything with HD-DVD/BluRay technology. So why waste your money? Buy a cheap-ass hard disk recorder that will play back DivX/XVID/Mpeg4 content, and get your content from wherever you like. If you're willing to spend a bit more, a PC running Media Center (with AMD LIVE! for added value) and you'll get an easy to use system for displaying digital content in the living room that does a million bazillion times more useful stuff then AppleTV. Perhaps even a brazillian times more.
If you buy this product, you are nothing more then a zealot. So either suck it up and admit that Steve is your pimp, or be sensible and buy a device that is more then just a glorified expensive iPod with HDMI.

4.) The name change
Personally, I see this as an "about time" event. Apple's computer offerings have picked up some new sales recently, granted, but overall - it's not what's keeping them afloat as a business. In particular, Apple will claim OSX as a superior OS in one breath, and then say they're not a software company in the next. Let's be honest - Apple is now about consumer electronics, and one of those items just happens to be a shiney white plastic coated computer, which is now completely capable of running OS's other then Mac's OSX. For those of you who remember Dvorak's prediction that Macs would eventually be running Windows full-time, note that we're already halfway there. Every Mac in my office now has a copy of Windows installed on it, even though the users are all die hard Mac adherents. Why is that? Because they need Windows to run an effective business. It's just life, zealots, get over it. Windows dominates because it's a good OS, where "good" is not necissarily defined as being built on *nix. (Not saying *nix based OS's are bad... just that Windows can be good without being based on it) I have more points, but I really should get to work now...

Summary:
Less then impressive keynote, with one impressive device - iPhone. iPhone still needs to be identified as being functional as well as pretty before I'll give it too much credit. I guess we'll see.
Mac zealots to buy millons worth of iTVs, even though they already own multiple devices that do the same job.
Apple finally identify themselves as not being a computer company. Something Windows users have known for years.

1 comment:

Joel Baltaks said...

I haven't seen the keynote - I assume it's mostly full of things that won't impact my life at all so I'm not all that interested. However the one thing that does interest me is the iPhone. I've seen the animated UI demonstrations on apple.com and quite frankly it looks like a brilliant piece of UI design - this is the major selling point for me. I don't care too much about what OS it's running and all that, but I love that there are big colourful buttons that appear under your finger at times when you would want to press them, allowing you to easily go and look at the eiffel tower via a website or something. And the fact that it's all finger driven rather than needing a stylus. My initial impressions are that this is a fresh UI for a phone, similar to the fresh UI of the nintendo Wii - I love it when cool products like this come out! For instance, to zoom into a picture you put two fingers on the iPhone screen and drag them apart. Simple, elegant and intuitive. (Of course I'll have to try it out to be sure).

It's a funny coincidence - just yesterday afternoon I was having a long discussion about user interfaces with my brother, partly analysing the limitations of the mouse/screen combination, the way that the mouse pointer is an extension of your finger on the screen, and what benefits and disadvantages this had over using your finger directly. (Actually it was a really interesting conversation). And the very next day there's apple coming out with just the kind of interface we were contemplating.

As an aside - I don't think there'll be any performance worries about having a "desktop" OS (MacOSX) on this embedded device - you can bet your budgie that they've cut it down and tweaked it to be perfect for the performance requirements - especially since they are also designing the hardware. It's no different to having embedded linux on small devices. A good metric might be how modular the OS is, to allow it to be customised like that (I suspect MacOSX *cough UNIX* would be more modular than Windows). But a better metric is how fast and reliably fast it runs, of course.

I'm not a mac zealot, but I'm tempted by this device simply because it looks like a pleasure to use - non-frustrating interface that can do lots of stuff that I want. If some other company brings out a similar device that has a better UI, or that can do the same stuff better, I'll buy that instead. But Apple's stayed ahead of the competition with the ipod, and I wouldn't be surprised if the competitors have trouble matching the iPhone now.

I agree with your opinions on the DRM content of iTV. I'm not going to be buying any of this DRM content any time soon, because then what I have bought is at the mercy of Apple Inc. I don't really own the stuff, I only own it within the context of Apple's private world. Nuff said.

Now the next thing I want to see on the iPhone are games. There's lots of nintendo DS style games that would port well to the finger touch screen format - this would be a big plus for me. Or maybe I should just buy a DS. Hmm, there's so much "pretty cool" stuff out there that I don't need and can live happily without... I feel the consumerism drawing me...