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My Prediction for the iPhone

I have previously written about how I refused an offer of a free iPhone [1] (largely due to it’s closed architecture). The first Google Android phone has just been announced, the TechCrunch review is interesting – while the built-in keyboard is a nice feature the main thing that stands out is the open platform [2]. TechCrunch says “From now on, phones need to be nearly as capable as computers. All others need not apply“.

What I want is a phone that I control, and although most people don’t understand the issues enough to say the same, I think that they will agree in practice.

In the 80′s the Macintosh offered significant benefits over PCs, but utterly lost in the marketplace because it was closed (less available software and less freedom). Due to being used in Macs and similar machines the Motorolla 68000 CPU family also died out, and while it’s being used in games consoles and some other niche markets the PPC CPU family (the next CPU used by Apple) also has an uncertain future. The IBM PC architecture evolved along with it’s CPU from a 16bit system to a 64bit system and took over the market because it does what users want it to do.

I predict that the iPhone will be just as successful as the Macintosh OS and for the same reasons. The Macintosh OS still has a good share of some markets (it has traditionally been well accepted for graphic design and has always provided good hardware and software support for such use), and is by far the most successful closed computer system, but it has a small part of the market.

I predict that the iPhone will maintain only a small share of the market. There will be some very low-end phones that have the extremely closed design that currently dominates the market, and the bulk of the market will end up going with Android or some other open phone platform that allows users to choose how their phone works. One issue that I think will drive user demand for control over their own phones is the safety issues related to child use of phones (I’ve written about this previously [3]). Currently phone companies don’t care about such things – the safety of customers does not affect their profits. But programmable phones allows the potential for improvements to be made without involving the phone company – while with iPhone you have Apple as the roadblock.

Now having a small share of the mobile phone market could be very profitable, just as the small share of the personal computer market is quite profitable for Apple. But it does mean that I can generally ignore them as they aren’t very relevant in the industry.

5 comments to My Prediction for the iPhone

  • foo

    Errr, just get an OpenMoko. They give a shit about free software, unlike Google.

    Also note GSM security issues:

    http://laforge.gnumonks.org/weblog/2008/09/24/#20080924-things_i_learned_about_gsm

  • tom├ís zerolo

    You sure heard about it. But just in case you didn’t: there is OpenMoko . They may be still a bit rough around the edges. But they deserve a lot of credit, because of being there first and because they followed through their vision with unprecedented radicality (e.g. you can get the full doc and layout plans for their *hardware* — now, how’s that?).

    To cite OpenMoko’s CEO (in ):

    “This is Openmoko. If you /don’t/ open your Neo, you should probably have your warranty voided ;-)”

    Regards

    – tomas

  • Alejandro Romo

    Your point of view is right for a person who develope things, but for most people that android is open and iPhone is not is not an issue. People should use what seem best for them, if they feel happy with a product that fit their needs, that’s all. Any thing else is superfluos. These things (phones) as many other technological thing become obsolete easily. So, if you’re happy with an iPhone now, an tomorrow you like an Android, go out an buy one. Be happy!

  • etbe

    foo and tomas: Yes, the OpenMoko has some nice features. Unfortunately they couldn’t get any significant market share, I expect that Google can.

    Alejandro: You could have said exactly the same thing about the Macintosh in the 80′s. But the IBM PC won.

    Sure home users don’t buy computers or phones with the idea of extending them, but they buy computers and phones desiring features that will only be available if people like me can extend the devices.

  • AlphaG

    If I take a purely commercial perspective of the 3G Iphone then I think it will do well amongst the GenY Business users. It has a very good Exchange (full capability) client included, as does the Nokia+Symbian, Treo, soon Sony Ericcson, MS powered devices etc etc. I think the Iphone will stand apart from the others because it does come from Apple, has itunes, music and video capabilities etc etc that people expect of Apple.

    Does this make it open or closed etc I don’t think the purchasers of this device for the use I am discussing will care about that fact.

    I do know many of the customers I deal with, who have significant investments in Exchange, love its native mobility support are looking closely at the iPhone but are insisting on data plans. The data plan is often not included for user purchases but corporates do get access.

    Josh