Was it really just this Tuesday that the tech world was collectively drooling over Apple’s latest perfect thing? The initial response to the iPhone announcement was almost universally positive. It was sort of like a Twilight Zone episode. Even the usually pro-Microsoft crowd at the Zune Insider blog seemed envious of the iPhone.
The universal iPhone excitement didn’t last long at all. By yesterday morning cracks began to emerge, and by afternoon the blogosphere was full of scathing criticism from disgruntle tech enthusiasts who couldn’t believe that Apple dropped the ball so badly. Clearly, Steve Job’s fabled reality distortion field had worn off.
Here’s a quick round-up of how things quickly soured for the new Apple phone:
- Cisco Sues Apple: More than a few observers were surprised by Apple’s use of the iPhone product name. It was only last month that Cisco announced it’s own iPhone. As it turns out, Cisco has held the trademark to the iPhone name for over a decade (that’s a mid-90’s iPhone pictured at the top of this post). Shortly after the latest iPhone product announcement it was revealed that Cisco and Apple were nearing an agreement that would allow the two companies to share the name. Tuesday’s agreement turned into Wednesday’s lawsuit when negotiations fell through after the Apple product announcement. Mark Chandler, Cisco’s General Counsel, has more back story on his blog. My guess is Apple’s iPhone will be re-branded before its official launch. Look for it to become the [Apple Symbol]Phone. At some point the Beatles will probably jump in with their own lawsuit claiming Ringo had the original idea for an Apple phone back in 1967.
- Cingular Backlash: No one ever really likes their phone company, but the depth of hatred that some people are expressing toward Cingular is astonishing. Maybe this is why AT&T plans on changing Cingular’s name by the time the iPhone launches. Cingular’s bad rep, combined with the required two year commitment in order to even buy the iPhone is a deal breaker for many.
- No Third Party Applications: My first reaction to this Internet connected mobile computer running OSX was “Cool, think of all the great apps you’ll be able to run on that thing”. Skype comes to mind. Then there are all of the amazingly cool applications that could be built on a mobile device that supports Bonjour’s method of self-discovery. The iPhone could easily become THE social media device. But only if the platform is opened to third party developers.
Needless to say, I was surprised to see numerous sources lamenting that the iPhone will be a closed system. The funny thing is that Apple hasn’t actually addressed the issue. As near as I can tell, this rumor can be traced back to Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research, who offers no source for his speculation. That hasn’t stopped the iPhone detractors from using the ‘closed system’ argument as one of the reasons why the iPhone already sucks.UPDATE: As noted in the comments below, the iPhone has now been confirmed to be a closed system.
Looking at this objectively it doesn’t make sense to close a system that includes a standards-based web browser and free-range WiFi browsing. If nothing else there will be a wave of web application development for the platform. More likely though, Apple will offer developers at least some limited access to the platform. We just won’t know until it actually happens. Hell, at this point we don’t even know what the phone will be called.
- Battery life There’s been some hysteria over battery life. Apple announced 5 hours while watching video, surfing the web, or talking, and 16 hours while listening to music. Reformed Microsoft zealot Robert Scoble briefly fueled the hysteria when he wrote that the battery life would actually be closer to 2 hours. He’s since corrected his post after numerous complaints in the comments.
- Durability and Scratchability: A lot of people are wondering how long they can expect their revolutionary $600 iPhone to last. iPods aren’t exactly the most durable electronic devices around. Plus, iPods have a nasty reputation for scratching rather easily. Now transfer that scratchability (probably not a word, but it is now) to a device that is virtually all screen – and touch screen at that, and you’ve got some potential problems. If anything could sink the iPhone, this is it.
- No Tactile Response: Even if the touch screen works perfectly and doesn’t scratch there’s still no guarantee that users who have grown accustomed to tactile feedback will embrace a touch screen phone interface. I have a feeling voice recognition may be the answer to this particular problem. Voice recognition is already included in the standard version of OSX and it would make sense for it to be a big part of the mobile OSX.
- Price: Of course people are complaining about the price. The iPhone will be damn expensive! It’s pretty clear that this product is targeted at early adopters who will pay a premium for new technology. On the other hand, if you view this as a mobile computing device, comparable to, say, the Origami, then it looks positively inexpensive by comparison. Ultimately we’ll need to know much the iPhone can actually do and how open the platform will be before we know whether or not $600 is too expensive.