When Apple announced the iPhone the world instantly divided into two camps: those who thought the iPhone would redefine the mobile phone and be an immediate success, and those who thought there would be a limited number of people who would shell out $500 for a phone that didn't even use the fastest 3G data, was only available from AT&T, and was hermetically sealed against any applications not personally approved by Steve. I was leaning towards the latter camp, but after hearing Jobs at D, I have new reasons to think the iPhone may just live up to expectations. Among them:
- In addition to the three previously announced functions of phone, music player, and web browser, the phone will include Google Maps. I've been trying out Palm's GPS Navigator recently and am convinced it's the fourth "killer app" and the one that might justify the steep price.
- Jobs stated that the iPhone implementation of maps was not just the usual web browser version but had been reworked to be a true client server app. Apple's willingness to exploit the power of the platform and, significantly, to say Apple would open up that platform later this year, would make the iPhone an attractive alternative to other high-priced phones.
- Jobs admitted that it might take a new user up to a week to adjust to the touch-screen virtual keyboard. While that sounds like a lot, Apple has sufficient brand equity to cause its fans to stick with it through this adjustment period, similar to what happened with the IBM Thinkpad's Trackpoint pointing device.
- Never underestimate the power of Apple's industrial design. See the latest Technology Review for an interesting account of how Apple will often work with manufacturers to push the state of the art of its packaging.
Let's hope Apple lives up to Job's promise to open up the platform for independent software developers.