Tuesday, October 02, 2007

iPhone lead: for how long?

It is pretty clear that the iPhone has caught all device manufacturers by surprise. First, they said "it is very hard to build a phone, Apple do not know what they are getting into, the first version will be a failure". Then, when the device was showed the first time, they gulped and started hoping it was all hype. And went back to the drawing board, just in case. Lastly, when it hit the market, they realized it was exactly what the marketing machine told us it would be. Apple did the impossible: they built a phone, which is hard to do, and the first version is nearly flawless. On top of it, it has many innovations. Every device manufacturer is now trying to catch up as fast as possible.

The closest seems to be HTC, which certainly was working on much of this before the iPhone was unveiled. They have manufactured devices without a logo for a while, now they are pushing their logo. The HTC Touch is the closest thing to an iPhone out there, with a reasonable price (Prada or Armani phones do not count...). It has TouchFLO, which reminds of the iPhone multitouch. They just announced they sold 800,000 of those. Not a bad number and very close to the iPhone. Today, they announced an evolution of it, the Touch Dual, with a sliding keypad. Both phones sport Windows Mobile.

What is the difference between the Touch(es) and the iPhone? Well, marketing... Apple wins hands down. However, the Touch has Microsoft behind and they will pour some dollars on this one, in my opinion.

The main difference is applications. There are a tons for Windows Mobile, an "open" platform. There are none available for the iPhone today (if you upgraded to 1.1.1, that is). The difference is staggering. Apple is putting itself in a hole. After the launch, they managed to leave a door open for hackers and dozens of apps were written. With AppTapp, installations and upgrade were seamless. Now it is all gone and it might never get back to wher
e it was (playing cat and mouse is fun for a while, then you get bored to be eaten by the mouse every month and you just give up). Apple is risking big. They might lose their lead, if they keep insisting on supporting a fully closed device.

It is also hurting their marketing a lot. Look at the Nokia poster that went around the web today...

The message is simple: the iPhone is closed and has limits, imposed by Apple. And it is locked to a single carrier, that you might not like...

Mobile Linux, Windows Mobile, Symbian... all open platforms... And you can buy an HTC phone, put your SIM card in it and use it anywhere you want. Unlocked...

The iPhone has a lead, but if Apple is not careful, it is not going to last long.


BTW, thanks to those of you who voted for me in the Visionary category for Consumer Mobile Software at the Mobile Star Awards, allowing me to be a Bright Star for the second year in a row. Much appreciated ;-)