What Google can learn from the iPhone

Despite the Apple iPhone's significant shortcomings, the iPhone has captured the fancy of the mobile device market. The iPhone's touch and keyboard-less interface, interactive gesture-based user experience, visual voicemail, and stunning look and feel set it apart from the rest of the mobile device crowd. I believe the most significant advancement of the iPhone is the Safari mobile web browser, which delivers a far superior web interface experience than Internet Explorer in Windows Mobile 6 or the BlackBerry web browser.

Those improvements alone won't be enough for Apple to maintain a lead in the mobile device and cell phone market. The iPhone is seriously lacking is support for critical business and security requirements. The BlackBerry is a winner because it does email extremely well. Windows Mobile wins because it is a versatile mobile computing device that integrates well into IT environments. Palm OS created the PDA experience but is showing it is a bit long in the tooth. And Google threatens to change the game for all mobile players.

Here's my top 10 lessons that Google can learn from Apple's experience introducing the iPhone.

1. It's about business. Business users will spend big bucks on mobile devices, software and services, but the device must meet the security, email and application requirements of business users. Corporate email, not just email, is the killer app (everybody gets that wrong, btw.)

2. KISG - Keep it simple, Google. Apple knows how to create a great user experience. Google also follows a similar minimalist experience, resisting all temptations to turn the main Google home page into a billboard for a thousand ads. Google Apps are the same way, simple and effective. Stick with your roots.

3. Design for the everyday user, not for the IT specialist. While WM6 is the ultimate platform for the IT guru and serious hobbyist, it's not a friendly platform for the causal user. Apple learned this lesson well and designed their product for the everyday user. (They just forgot the everyday business user in the process.)

4. It's about IT integration. While you don't have to do everything WM6 does, make it easy to integrate with Microsoft and / or BlackBerry technologies, preferably both. Providing both makes for the widest addressable market. Business users will turn in their WM6 and BlackBerrys in droves for a better device that IT blesses.

5. It's about security, stupid. How Apple could be so careless and be so lax about security is astounding. Two things Apple forgot about which are a must: remote device wipe, and SSL encrypted communications to Exchange servers are both a must out of the gate.

6. Closed platform is a very remote island. Apple apparently forgot when they created Mac OS X for the iPhone, that OS X is based on BSD, an open source operating system.

7. Mobile devices are like personal computers, automobiles and cribs. Everyone likes to trick out, customize and add their own bling. They also like to add applications, hopefully from a rich selection of third party applications. (See point #6.)

8. Put Google on every mobile device, not one. Phones aren't iPods. People don't replace them because a new one comes out every six months, with new features, obsoleting the phone you just bought. Why? A two year contract. Google Phone software should be on everybody's device, not just Google's phone. Want to rule the market, be everywhere, not just on the faithful followers' devices.

9. It's about the online experience. Networks and network providers come and go. Today it's Verizon, tomorrow it will be somebody else. If you're going to sign an exclusive, and please don't, please chose a carrier that actually has a good network. EDGE was outdated two years ago. Current networks will be passé in two years. WiMax is on the horizon. A great mobile experience is more than just about having three to five bars for phone calls, we need high speed broadband to the device, everywhere, with great software.

10. It's about the software and user experience, not the hardware. Touch screens and gestures? Cool. Runs on only one hardware platform? Not cool. Google's everywhere today, so be everywhere for mobile devices. We'll get over not having gestures in our user interface, especially if we get great apps and lots of choice.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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