categories

HOT TOPICS

Subscribe to our Feed

iPhone and the Future

Posted on Sunday, Jan 14th 2007

by Frank Levinson, Guest Author

When I was sitting with some friends recently, we began talking about Apple’s introduction of the iPhone. We all felt that this product was one with much more promise than many we had seen in the last few years.

Why?

From the most straightforward view, the features in the iPhone have been available on the Dopod 838Pro has nearly all of the same hardware features, perhaps even more in that it has a second camera for video phone calls. (Where is that iSight camera on the iPhone anyway?)

What makes this device different?

There are three things:

1. The use of OSX – this choice empowers the device to be able to run Safari, mail and widgets. It continues to unify the Apple product line, not fragment it.
2. The use of a new consumer user interface (UI) and the deletion of so many buttons and choices (this was what we did about 16 years ago with Windows and 23 years ago with the first Mac and now we are doing it again).
3. The realization that Moore’s law concerning the scaling of silicon is continuing and this makes the possibilities of integration infinite.

Let’s explore these because it is these choices that make the iPhone a radical product, not the choice of camera, quad band GSM, EDGE or other hardware.

The decision to go with OSX was remarkable if only because no one else had done anything like this. Nokia has new versions of its “cell phone OS” (called UIQ or Symbian), and every time this evolves it leaves behind all of the legacy products.

[Aside: A group I work with programmed a Sony Ericsson P910i phone running the Nokia OS, and we could not work with the SD flash card as a storage device with a file system because this was lacking in the OS. But a few months later a newer generation of phones with different features added the ability to work with the flash card as a file system.]

The same thing applies to Palm-based phones and even Windows Mobile phones. Each of these operating systems are made for small mobile devices. But as silicon continues to have smaller transistors and we can therefore cram more and more onto chips, even a cell phone can have a powerful enough processor to run a PC-level OS. That compatibility gives this new iPhone a different soul. Not because of the chips but because of the OS.

In the same way, it seems to me that designers are always adding additional direct ways of doing things in a hope of making the device easier to use. The first IBM PC had “function keys” across the top of the keyboard … they are still there today! The belief is that extra specific keys is a way for people to be more efficient.

But in most human-based interactions we find a finite set of learned primitives, and then we combine them to achieve what we want – language, gestures, alphabets. By adding more and more keys and having combinations of keys, for example cntl + shift + F3, we end up having to memorize something that is only relevant here and from which we cannot springboard to a wider arena.

The use of gestures is the opposite. For example, on the Macintosh today you can do two-finger dragging to scroll a window up and down. If you are reading some text, like this essay, and what you are reading is at the bottom of the page on your laptop screen, you place two fingers instead of one down on the pad and slide them down and the window scrolls up. What do you think you do to get it to move left or right or up? See?

The second radical aspect of the iPhone is the introduction of a new set of gestures that the user makes with her fingers on the screen to accomplish most of the intended functions of the device. There are gestures (that we know from the iPhone demo) to magnify, fast scroll. My guess is there will be others. The approach that Apple is taking is no buttons, but rather a flexible touch screen with high graphical resolution. Ultimately flexible and open to a variety of gestures.

Finally, we have the device itself. In the next five years (remember the iPod was introduced about 5-6 years ago and we can see how far it has come!) silicon geometries will enable us to put the power, memory and communications of today’s best desktop and laptops in a device the size of the iPhone. What if it becomes the only computing device we own or need?

Wonderful!

Thus we have a simple portable device which under some circumstances we hook up to big screens and full keyboards and other times we simply talk to it or use it to find out where we are. It is this kind of simplicity we are seeking. Not a simplicity of compromised performance but rather an uncompromised single device we use to improve our performance in the world of the future.

Is this so unthinkable? One reason this may happen is that computing could plateau for the individual user. The device stays the same size, with the same outline, and functional elements change more slowly and more in terms of performance rather generally capabilities.

This happened with the automobile around 1960. Speeds reached 70 mph (110 kph) and stayed there. The same is true with tires and other elements. The car you have today probably resembles the one you drove 20 years ago (unless you drive a hybrid).

Imagine the benefits of a single computing and communications device. A single, simple-to-carry thing to maintain and backup, applications and data always with you. Not bulky, nor a burden.

And how disruptive to most of the industry out there! Apple is slowly creating an entire platform that people can use throughout their lives – both for fun and work – organizing things for you seamlessly.

I am ready, and I suspect the renaming of Apple, Inc. indicates they are too.

Hacker News
() Comments

Featured Videos

Comments

You have to admit that the iPhone looks pretty good, and great for itunes, ipod, and I!

Cell Phone Rx Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 2:08 PM PT

Finally, a reasonable post about the iPhone. Although you are getting a bit carried away, i agree – this is the way of the future.

Two of the three main tasks of my Macbook can be replicated with the iPhone. These are “Media” and “Communcation”. “Work” stays on the Macbook. And it replaces my iPod nano and my cell phone at the same time. This is pretty amazing.

Andreas Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 5:40 PM PT

Wow, I think you’ve got it. Thanks for writing such a beautiful explanation of the iPhone’s real revolution. Apple is using their best asset (the OS) in a whole new arena with a new set of interface gestures to bring the Mac like philosophy to another complex device.

How much this may fork OS X will be interesting to watch, but my bet is that the UNIX like goodness will let them run the same core with the added interface plug ins. Low forkage possible. This is why Apple is still way ahead of the still monolithic Vista OS.

I’m waiting to see how gestures could come back into the desktop OS. I can use an iPhone, but it won’t soon replace my desktop as a production tool. But a portable User folder & identities could be another reasonable expectation for future iPhones. I think they could have a sandboxed user account for the phone and then they could allow portable user folders & Applicatons. Then I could take my photoshop and final cut pro with me to any Apple machine I interface with.

I’ll calm down now.

Max Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:45 PM PT

[…] on the iPhone that I’ve read over the last couple months, this is probably one of the better ones.  A sample: In the same way, it seems to me that designers are always adding additional […]

HDL Friends and Feeds » Blog Archive » Not a simplicity of compromised performance Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 7:56 PM PT

[…] Levinson has a very insightful blog post on the potential of the iPhone. This is beyond your typical prospective piece, offering some real […]

‘Phone + ‘Book Zone » News and notes Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 9:03 PM PT

[…] the iPhone is such a radical product Why the iPhone is such a radical product The decision to go with OSX was remarkable if only because no one else had done anything like this. […]

Why the iPhone is such a radical product « Tons of Fresh News Saturday, March 17, 2007 at 9:57 AM PT

[…] Frank Levinson wrote an important piece when the iPhone was first announced. As we approach the launch of the iPhone, I would like to review what is going on in the rest of the ecosystem, and how the players are preparing. […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » iPhone and the Future of RIM Monday, April 23, 2007 at 9:20 AM PT

iphone has all the functions that combine with mobile phone we can find now a day, or even more until it will launch the 3G or 3.5G unit with real time web meeting and high speed internet service in Asian area in the coming 2008.

Look forward to possess one of them.

charanis chiu Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 7:05 AM PT

[…] as Frank outlined, one of the coolest things about the iPhone is the user interface … the redefinition of […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » iPhone and the Future of Broadcom Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:37 AM PT

[…] we have so far said that the OS is going to become the biggest issue in the iPhone’s future, if Intel achieves significant innovation in the integration, power, and performance arena, the […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » iPhone and the Future of Intel Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 6:40 AM PT

Critics of iPhone’s price don’t see that Apple is creating a whole new class of device. iPhone will be an all-encompassing life-management tool. It has all the hardware it needs, it can talk to almost anything. It’s potential is limited only by software.

I give a lot of powerpoint presentations on my MacBook. Who’s to say I couldn’t use iPhone as a wireless trackpad? The iPhone could function as a bluetooth mouse, and the multitouch sensor could send data to move the cursor on my MacBook.

I anticipate seamless integration between iPhone and Apple TV. iPhone will be the most functional remote control you’ve ever had. Who needs an Apple Remote If you have iPhone? iPhone could be made to navigate Apple TV’s menus wirelessly.

Nintendo Wii is killing the market because they’ve put motion-sensing gyroscopes and speakers in their controllers, creating a revolutionary user-interface. Well, iPhone has a speaker and an accelerometer, too. iPhone and a Wii Remote are remarkably similar in that regard. Software could turn an iPhone and an Apple TV into a revolutionary game console. If Apple intends to get a larger share of the Living Room market, it’s not for lack of hardware.

Let’s talk about Apple TV, another product with a lot of potential because software is the only limiting factor. Rumors have been circulating that Leopard will allow you to use Apple TV as an auxiliary monitor in “extended desktop” or mirror mode. If you can stream iTunes content to Apple TV over iTunes, it just takes a bit more software to stream a Macintosh desktop to Apple TV. In fact, desktop streaming capabilities have already been written into Apple Remote Desktop.

As Apple Inc. evolves into its new name and focus, I don’t think it will forget where it came from. What Apple is feeling now is just growing pains, and come June, we will know for certain all this pre-release hysteria and speculation was all worth it.

Ryan Brandys Thursday, May 3, 2007 at 1:04 PM PT

[…] Let’s stay with the thesis that one of the key differentiators of the iPhone is the presence o… […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » iPhone and the Future of Microsoft Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 4:48 AM PT

[…] È forse il caso del blogger Frank Levinson, molto seguito nel mondo dei cellulari, che afferma che il nuovo cellulare targato Apple farà concorrenza anche ai produttori di PC; secondo Levinson, […]

iPhone: storia di un (in?)successo annunciato. Monday, June 4, 2007 at 3:52 AM PT

[…] È forse il caso del blogger Frank Levinson, molto seguito nel mondo dei cellulari, che afferma che il nuovo cellulare targato Apple farà concorrenza anche ai produttori di PC; secondo Levinson, […]

PigPaper! » Blog Archive » iPhone: storia di un successo annunciato. Monday, June 4, 2007 at 1:07 PM PT

[…] The iPhone’s “multi-touch” UI, in the upcoming days and months, will potentially establish a whole new set of gestures. […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » Mossberg’s iPhone Review : UI Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 7:17 PM PT

[…] The iPhone’s “multi-touch” UI, in the upcoming days and months, will potentially establish a whole new set of gestures. […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » Mossberg’s iPhone Review : UI Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 7:17 PM PT

[…] industry these days is due to consumer products. Semiconductor companies stand to gain from the iPhone phenomenon and the convergence device movement, which is only at the beginning of its incredible growth curves. […]

Top 10 Semiconductor Stocks - Sramana Mitra on Strategy Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 8:44 AM PT

[…] industry these days is due to consumer products. Semiconductor companies stand to gain from the iPhone phenomenon and the convergence device movement, which is only at the beginning of its incredible growth curves. […]

MaximumCEO » Blog Archive » Top 10 Semiconductor Stocks: business strategy, supply chain management, outsourcing Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 6:28 PM PT

I am a bit worried that the Nano 4 feels too light and is so thin that it will easily break under pressure.

Chris Hutcherson Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 12:53 PM PT
`