You know, there is hardly a day passes where I don’t see a story about the iPhone. One day there’s a reminder of the intense anticipation for the product, the next what “secret” features might be included, and, of course, a tech writer can always ring up Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer for some negative spin. If Ballmer ever decides to give up his Microsoft gig, I suppose he could find employment another ill-informed industry analyst. That is, assuming we don’t have too many of those already, crowding out the ones who do know what they’re doing.
Now call me skeptical, call me sarcastic, call this commentary a downer, but when is it all going to stop?
I mean, we’re talking about what is basically a pretty smart phone with a built-in iPod, right? Sure, you can go on at length about how it’s powered by OS X (without the word “Mac”), and the same can be said about the Apple TV. To be sure, it’s nice to know that Apple is really finding ways to leverage its operating system technology into new devices that are not officially recognized as personal computers.
But let’s remember that there’s only so much the iPhone can do. Maybe it is really a fully-functional handheld computer, and, to be frank, a 21st century upgrade to the infamous Newton. I won’t even dismiss the fact that there are loads of great features, such as the ability to listen to a selected phone mail message, rather than have to rummage through the entire list, replete with calls that maybe you didn’t want to receive.
I am quite sure that Steve Jobs and his crew of able-bodied designers and engineers examined all sorts of smart phones and found them notoriously lacking. I know I do, which is why I never bothered to acquire one, or even consider the possibility for even a moment. Oh yes, maybe it is true that a BlackBerry can do more things than an iPhone, and run third party software too. I gather that folks actually like that gadget, although I still have the impression that a wireless phone was first and foremost designed to make and receive phone calls.
Or have we forgotten that essential feature in the ongoing buzz about the iPhone? I mean, how often do you read about the quality of its wireless reception and its voice quality? Have the few people who have been honored with some face time with an iPhone ever written about such matters, or is that a given.
On the other hand, what about the company formerly known as Cingular? Isn’t that the same company that has gotten a bad rap for connection quality and customer support? Oh yes, they claim to have cleaned up their act, and I hope that Apple did consider such essentials in choosing them. Yes, the little things do count, don’t they?
I realize that the iPhone’s critics have written lots of copy complaining about the features the iPhone lacks, just as they did previously with the iPod. The thing about Apple is that they seem to have a grasp on the features that are really unnecessary in the core product. They see one of the great strengths of Steve Jobs is his insistence on omitting features when he doesn’t think they’re necessary, which is probably why the iPod still doesn’t have a built-in FM radio.
This process of creative omission, of course, creates an opportunity for third parties to fill in the gaps. Consider the cottage industry that has arisen around the iPod and don’t think it won’t happen with the iPhone over time. I mean cases have already been announced for the product, and I’m sure you’ll see some special clothes and lotions that are designed to keep its screen clean and as free of finger smudges as possible.
Certainly, Microsoft hasn’t figured out any of this yet. Their definition of “innovation” often means cribbing a few features from wherever they can find them and grafting them onto products that really don’t need them. I can imagine that they sit there in a meeting room for hours on end observing the bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation on the new product and trying to figure out how and where to add more bullet points.
At the end of this exercise in feature-bloat, a committee of product planners decides to go ahead and design it. Sometimes the product even gets released. Imagine that? It almost makes you think this whole exercise in organizing bullet points has some value.
But that’s nothing you haven’t heard before and will hear again from now till the iPhone comes out. So I’m going to make an effort to keep my commentaries on the subject to a minimum, assuming, of course, that I don’t get caught up in the iPhone’s halo, and I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.