I've blogged in the past about Apple's remarkable ability to innovate and set new directions in our industry. But as much as Apple is able to innovate, they are just as inept at dominating markets they enter. The iPod is really the only exception, and iPhone will fail to dominate as so many other Apple products have failed to in the past.
The iPhone is certain to fade into history as another cool Apple innovation, that others soon rushed competitive, like-products to market, blowing away any significant lead Apple might have. The iPod mp3 player is an industry Apple essentially created, the iPhone isn't. Too many major players are in the mobile phone market, who have and will bring iPhone-like products to market over the coming months and years. LG has already done so with the LG Voyager phone, and now Microsoft's plans for Windows Mobile 7 OS have been leaked and described in considerable detail by InsideMicrosoft blogger Nathan Weinberg.
With many features dubbed "iPhone compete", WM7 is all about effective uses of the touch screen, finger gestures, and additional motion gestures. Microsoft's put a lot of thought into how to make the mobile phone interface more intuitive and easier to use, even more so than Apple's iPhone. WM7 is surroundings aware, and movements of the physical phone are part of the user interaction with the phone. From Nathan's blog post...
"Gestures shown include in music or a slideshow, shaking the phone left or right to go to the previous or next song or photo, and shaking the phone in order to shuffle it."
"Microsoft Research has a technology concept that uses the device's camera as a motion sensor, enabling motion control while using the device. This means devices will not need accelerometers and other complicated gyroscopes to get these features, and that existing Windows Mobile devices could be upgraded to full Windows Mobile 7 functionality."
I was having lunch today with a good friend of mine, Ross Carlson, and we were lamenting how Apple creates innovative products, but then only implements that innovation to a very limited extent. Yes, the iPhone has a finger-based gesture interface. And the image rotates on the screen, but only for a limited set of applications like the Safari browser and displaying pictures. Many applications on the iPhone aren't "rotation aware" apps. Even WM6 supports rotation of the interface no matter what the application.
Here's another interesting concept about WM7 from Nathan's post...
"The camera will also cause certain actions based on light sensitivity. For example, if you put your phone in your pocket or in a bag, it will shut off the screen, and can even make the ringer louder or put it on vibrate, as directed. It can also turn the screen on automatically when taking the phone out, trigger the timer on the phone's camera when the phone is placed face down on a surface, automatically activate the camera flash based on available light, snooze the phone's alarm when waving your hand over the phone's camera, taking a picture when anyone walks past the phone (or any other desired action, like making a noise), or remotely connecting to other devices when the phone sees them."
I really like the thought Microsoft has put into WM7. It's more than must "iPhone compete" -- Microsoft is taking key ideas and extending them well beyond current mobile phone interfaces. I'm encouraged by the depth of Microsoft's thinking about WM7.
You might assume from this blog post that I'm very anti-Apple. Actually I have a very long history using Apple products, beginning with the Apple II Plus and the Mac Plus. There was a long period where I was an Apple zealot and evangelized the benefits of Mac over Windows. But as both the Mac and Windows matured, Apple products became no less complex to use and maintain than the Windows platform. The gaps between them closed and the hassles just weren't worth what you have to give up to be a Mac user.
Apple's inability to gain any significant market share means the options for software products are much more limited and hardware is much more expensive. That's still true today, despite my friends efforts to try and tell me a Mac Pro notebook or desktop isn't much more expensive than the comparable Windows machine. Just price them and you'll see what I mean.
Apple iPhone. Enjoy the limelight because it won't last long.
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