iPhone invades the cell phone market

I'm going nowhere near my closest Apple store today, which is only a few blocks away from where I live in Hollywood. All evidence would suggest that the store will be an absolute madhouse.

I'm going nowhere near my closest Apple store today, which is only a few blocks away from where I live in Hollywood. All evidence would suggest that the store will be an absolute madhouse. This is a shame, as I've been dying to take one of the devices for a spin (though not buy...I would have trouble justifying the expense given the other technology toys I'd like to buy).

I've been waiting for a full-screen phone ever since I worked at Orange Communications in Switzerland. Back then, SMS was the pinnacle of cell phone technology, though WAP was supposed to change all that and bring "the web" to cell phones.

What a joke. WAP is to the web what the children's story "See Spot Run" is to Tolstoy's "War and Peace." It's not "the web" by any stretch of the imagination. It was, however, a reflection of the extreme limits of most phones...a limit that still largely persists today.

Small screens simply are not adequate to the job of representing Internet content designed for the large screens of desktop computers. To come close, you need a screen much larger than is typical of cell phones, and for that, you need to boost the size of the phone somewhat while ditching the keyboard (or at least putting it someplace else) that takes up at least half of the potential screen space on a portable device.

iPhone opted to ditch the keyboard entirely, and created an interesting user interface which is the real reason I want to take one of the devices for a spin. A drop-down menu is nowhere in sight, which makes sense, as the screen is now large enough that you don't need to display everything in menu form (which would be harder to navigate by finger, anyway).

I have an odd and growing fascination with what Apple has become since Jobs returned to the helm of the company he founded. I've been flirting with the idea of buying a Mac Mini, just so I could have the chance to tool around its software insides to see what I find (I've already started reading a few books on software development topics). I've spent about $400.00 over the past year at the Apple store, mostly to purchase products for my Apple-favoring girlfriend. My latest purchase was a pink iPod nano...which has to be the most beautiful music playback device created thus far.

Yes, beauty, part and parcel of the fashion accessory that Apple has discovered is the secret to financial success. Every time I talk about that, guys who love the technology of Apple products are up in arms over my perceived slight of their favored company. I think they are missing the point. Jobs genius was in realizing that, for most purchasers, it doesn't matter that much whether the most brilliant technology ever devised powers a computing device they have purchased, or if it is fueled by a million tiny Tony Sopranos. They want something that works, is easy to use, and is beautiful.

That is how you compete when you aren't plugged into the dominant computing architectures that drive most of the business world. It's why the Apple store was such a brilliant move, a fact I missed when Jobs first announced their creation (who wants to shop at an Apple-only store? Well, lots of people...and that store is critical to Apple's cultivation of itself as a fashion brand).

Apple has proven itself very good at building products that people want to be seen having, and that's a powerful approach, and one that is going to help drive the popularity of the iPhone. I have no doubt that the iPhone will be popular, as products that people want to be seen with are what Apple is very good at (English teacher, forgive me for ending everything with a preposition). Where they will have a harder time, however, is in platforms and infrastructure in the home, which is why Apple TV is having difficulties.

Other companies, like my employer, are better situated to make platforms for the living room. They have the development tools (and for all my interest in Apple products, I still find their development environment and technologies to be...primitive;  Mono might be the solution in that regard). They have the platforms experience on both the client and server side.

Being better positioned, however, is no guarantee of success, and the only way you learn to do a good living room platform is to try to do it. Apple is at version 1.0 in that attempt. Microsoft, who already does phone platforms (albeit mostly business-oriented, which again, is a different market), is sure to respond to Apple by trying to do more consumer-oriented smartphones.  Microsoft, too, will learn from that attempt.

Competition is good.