January 21, 2007

Accelerating change in effect: Why Apple's iPhone is already obsolete

Technological change is happening so fast that I'm starting to have a real hard time keeping up with all the latest gadgets, platforms and standards.

Take for example my brand new electric toothbrush. It took me forever to figure out and accept the fact that it re-charges wirelessly. Wireless re-charging. Who knew? Apparently not me.

Along these lines, new technologies and standards are changing so fast that even high-end products are becoming somewhat disposable. It'll only be a matter of time before I have to replace my brand new DVD player with a blu-ray compatible player.

And I've got to stop buying DVDs; I'll just have to replace them with hi-def versions anyway. Which then leads to the next issue, which is, why buy DVDs when video-on-demand is right around the corner?

Given this rapid pace of technological development, I was quite shocked when Steve Jobs announced Apple's new iPhone six months before its slated release. Six months!? Why would he give his competitors half a year to catch up?

Not only that, Jobs is playing with fire: the iPhone is surprisingly limited and uninspired in its feature set. Competitors will look to exploit its limitations.

Research analyst Michael Gartenberg notes four shortcomings:
  • It's not extensible by third parties, only Apple. This means at the moment no RSS readers, no Slingplayers.
  • There is no support for Microsoft Office attachments.
  • Not clear how well Exchange will work with calendar and contacts
  • No 3G support. (WiFi makes up for this in some ways.)
  • And Microsoft technology researcher Brandon Paddock is thoroughly unimpressed with its download speed noting,
    That’s right… apparently the iPhone uses, and no I’m not joking… EDGE. That’s right, your iPhone might as well be a dial-up modem. Not ~800kbps like I’ve been getting from EVDO for over a year and a half, or the faster EVDO Rev A stuff rolling out now. Definitely not the ~1mbps HSDPA / UMTS speed like all the fancy new Cingular smartphones. Just good old 80-110kbps EDGE, a worse connection than I had on my Treo 600 in 2003.
    Nor is the iPhone a smartphone (a platform device that allows software to be installed). It's primarily a software driven device. In addition, it won't support over the air iTunes Store downloads or WiFi syncing to a host machine, it has no expandable memory, and no removable battery.

    Tech analyst Avi Greengart suspects that a user backlash will emerge once it's released and these limitations become more widely known. Greeengart notes some of the shortcomings, including Apple's acknowledgment that it will not allow third parties to make software for the device – other than in conjunction with Apple itself. "That means no PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) for doctors, no Weight Watchers for people tracking their 'points', no SlingPlayer for place-shifting your TV, and no Hebrew prayer books or King James' Bibles or Koran readers for the faithful," he says.

    Far be it for me to second guess someone like Steve Jobs, but I believe he's taking a big risk. Accelerating change is in effect and competition will be quick paced and fierce. We're getting to the point where products are at risk of obsolescence prior to their release. Look for BlackJack to pose some stiff competition.

    Of course, Apple can also play the catch-up game. There's a rumor going around that they will eventually be releasing a 3G iPhone.

    And the screamingly fast pace of technological development continues.


    Anonymous said...

    "Technological change is happening so fast that I'm starting to have a real hard time keeping up.."

    Really? i am a (so-called)primitive tribesman who uses a pointed stick as a toothbrush, and yet i have no problem understanding your modern device.

    After all, mine too wirelessly recharges. Every spring.

    It is magnificent.

    Gary Franczyk said...

    The rumor is that the reason for using EDGE rather than 3G was because the hardware needed to support 3G would have increased the size of the handset. If this is true, I believe it was a good choice, as most people will not use the data features of the phone, but would instantly notice if the phone were much bigger.

    As for the reason that it was released as early as it was, the FCC typically publicly posts details after phones are approved for use in the USA. Often, this is how blogs like Engadget get the scoop on new phones before they arrive.

    Alexandre said...

    What is a new technology if it's not usable by ALL people. Neither my Palm handheld nor my old Panasonic GSM can be easily used by anybody, even if I can surf the net down the street with them. I'm not sure limitations you noticed are real ones.
    Alex, France.

    Jeff said...

    Joost player ?

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    Unknown said...

    The market iPhone has changed all that. In the early days of launch App Store, more than 900 new applications were added. The iPhone has all of a sudden a playground for digital users.