Now that iPhone is on stage, lots of developers are complaining about how closed the platform is. I read lots of stupidities like using its UNIX base to hack it and install Linux. But who really cares about being a closed platform? Geeks I guess, but certainly not users.
The mobile business is very complex with lots of actors in the place, manufacurers, third party developers, content providers and operators. These people all interact to provide a service to users. What is the result? Pathetic. We all know that current phones and services are a pain to use, badly integrated and totally incoherent.
Controlling the platform from hardware to software has always been the Apple success to user experience. It has been important on the Mac and its even more on mobile. Third party applications will be available but only through Apple approval as in the video game industry. Developers can’t sell games without approval of the platform maker — this process ensure quality.
Keep in mind that most people don’t care about downloading new applications, only 4% of people in US have actually downloaded something and will keep using the basic features of the device. If they are not happy with them, they simply buy a different handset.
Apple didn’t say anything about J2ME standards and I’m pretty sure there is no piece of it. The MIDP standard is far from being exhaustive and as it is, it will take years for manufacturers to agreed on something great. MIDP 3.0 is on its way and its not very exciting either. The problem is that manufacturers and operators doesn’t share a common vision of a final product, they just agree on features and not how to integrate the best possible service with the best possible platform for users sake.
Apple did it, they cut every existing standard to propose users with the best device that can be done no matter what’s inside. That’s why the iPhone is so different from other handsets on the market, there is nothing close. Apple cares about its users. Operators and manufacturers don’t, they just “care” of each others.
Speaking about iPhone software, Apple will certainly provide full OS upgrades like they do on Macs and iPods. Just plug the iPhone in the dock and you’ll have a new version of the OS. iPhone is just release 1.0 so I guess Apple may open it later, when they have enough market share.
Finally very few people talk about Web 2.0 on the iPhone. Now that Safari is included, Web 2.0 sites will be accessible — as multi-touch is close to a mouse user experience. Web 2.0 developers will be able to build a lightweight version of their service dedicated to the iPhone.
Yes, the iPhone is a closed technology and it will be good for users because somebody cares. Like the videos for iPod, we’ll see specific web content dedicated for iPhone and through OS upgrades we’ll benefit from the best Apple can do. Will Apple standardize some of these features as mobile standards? Who knows but the iPhone will for sure be a great device to play with and people will love it.
UPDATE 1: John Gruber from Daring Fireball wrote some good points about OS X running the iPhone.
UPDATE 2: An interesting article from Andy Ihnatko from Chicago Sun Times about iPhone useability.