04 June 2009

Touch Notes I

I find this to be a richly pivotal time for consumer technology, partly due to netbooks, but mostly due to my iPod Touch. The iPhone/Touch is something more that just the second coming of the iPod or a cool new smartphone. It's actually not user friendly as mobile music player, and to a large extent, a phone is a phone. It's all the non-phone features, had in common with the Touch, that make the iPhone unique. So let's look a those common features which are making and breaking paradigms.

The greatest feature is the hallmark of all Apple products, which makes it less revolutionary but is certainly critical. The iPhone/Touch looks great, has a brilliant GUI, is simple to use, and just flat works—hassle free. Most importantly, this extends to iTunes and the App Store. If I find a program that I like, I click a button, it downloads to my phone, and two minutes later I'm using it. My only complaint is that the iTunes client software is very sluggish and a little buggy on the PC. I've never used it on a Mac, but I understand the difference is dramatic. Some have suggested that Apple sabotages the PC version to drive consumers to their computers. Not impossible.

Now, on to the revolution:

Internet: PDAs and applications for them have been around for years. I've owned just about every incarnation of the PDA, starting with a Casio Palmtop PC about 10 years ago. I've had apps for them all, of course, but they all soon ended up in drawers gathering dust.

PDA apps were underwhelming, largely due to underpowered devices, small screens and clunky interfaces. And as I now realize, their lack of internet access was very limiting. My last PDA (a Dell) did have wireless access, but it was slow, as was my Dash smartphone. And again, the screens were just too small, the browsers too limited.

The iPhone/Touch has surprisingly fast wireless access and the screen is just big enough, combined with pinch-zoom, to view non-mobilized websites. Which results in the first fully-functional web client that fits in your pocket. Well, let's say 80% functional. The lack of Flash, pdf, and some other plug-in support is limiting.

But given the aggressive development of hardware Flash support by Nvidia for mobile devices, and increasingly video-capable netbooks crowding the edges of Apple's market, I'm very sure Apple is working very hard on Flash. I'm looking for it in the next hardware update, if not OS 3.0. And we already know that YouTube support will be improved in 3.0. Mobile video on the iPhone is a top concern for developers, so we are just seeing the beginning of the iPhone/Touch's potential as a video delivery platform.


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