A Closed iPhone is an Opportunity

Mark Pesce mpesce at gmail.com
Fri Jan 12 03:53:25 CET 2007

Howdy, all.  (My first post to this list, and thanks for having me...)

While we can't be entirely sure that the iPhone is a closed device -
Apple may be waiting to spring something onto the world at WWDC, in
May - all indications are that they regard the iPhone as a firmware
device, as closed, locked down and fixed as an iPod.  This has been
reported on Gizmodo (as the earlier post stated) and by several other
people, who have been asking questions directly to Apple's Developer
Relations folks.

If we take them at their word, we can only believe that they've been
working a bit too hard, and a bit too long, on their lovely new toy.
If they'd taken a look around - even just briefly - they'd have seen
that the most fertile areas for mobile development are happening with
third-party applications.

Apple probably made the decision to restrict third-party development
to web-based applications.  Not an entirely unreasonable choice, if
you consider that the mobile only looks outward, that it only cares
about what's going on out on the net, and not what's going on within
in it, on it, or (in the case of Bluetooth and Wifi) immediately
proximal to it.

Even if, as I now believe, Apple allows third-party developers to
create Widgets for the iPhone, these Widgets are simply a combination
of HTML and Javascript.  They can do some interesting things - such as
that sexy Google Maps demo - but they're still intrinsically bound to
the world far beyond the device.  If, say, you wanted to do something
interesting with your address book, or your SMS history (and I can
think of some very interesting things I could do with both of those),
you're out of luck, because those files, data structures, etc., are
all stored on the device - and you don't have access to the device

Is this a fatal mistake?  No.  But, what it is, for OpenMoko, is an
incredible opportunity.  FOSS projects rarely explode on the scene -
Firefox is probably the only out-of-the-gate success story.  What they
do is grow in utility, usefulness, and userbase.  Eventually, you have
the little independent mobile phone retailers that dot all the cities
in Australia (where I live) and Europe and the US all offering the FIC
Neo1973 in their stores offering it as a high-end smartphone, to a
select class of power users.

Get 1% of that market (heh) and we'll be doing alright.  And it can be
done, because Apple simply *can't* do everything that users might want
on their own.  No company is big enough, bright enough, and fast
enough to do it.  If it were, we'd all be running Microsoft Vista.


Mark Pesce

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