Forget the iPhone - I want MacOS Mobile

by Jim Farley

The mobile phone market doesn't need yet another innovative device design. We're well-served by RAZRs and Treos and Dash's (oh my!). But it desperately needs innovation in the smartphone OS area.

[Sorry for parking this in the Java area for now, but technical difficulties leave me no alternative.]


Andrew Burton
2006-11-25 12:20:53
I don't have a SmartPhone (here that, Santa?), but if I were going to bank on any super-duper-innovations in the portable gadget department in the next few years, I'd put my money on the iPod. That may not be smart money, but the simple games that Apple's selling for the iPod (plus phone rumors) make be think we'll be seeing SDK's for the iPod soon. If that happens, and I can't really see it not happening with Zune-foll already discussing it, maybe that middle ground your after will be filled.
2006-11-25 12:22:16
Wow, you got all the way through that without mentioning the Newton!

Honestly, I don't really care much for the SmartPhone market in the whole. I would rather my phone be a small, utility device with limited but well designed functionality. If Apple can successfully merge my phone and iPod Nano, bully for that, but it has to wrok as well as each of them individually.

I will say this, however, about PDAs. I can't stand where we have ended up. Aside from depth and weight, the Newton is still, IMHO the right form factor. I want something with a large enough screen that reading it is comfortable and a decent about of data can be displayed on the screen. Moreover, I want "forgetaboutit" battery life. One of the things that strike me about the Table PC vs PDA market is neight of them are using digital ink. If someone would give me a machine that had a 4.25x5.5 digial ink screen, a powerfull-but-not-battery eating CPU, and iPod levels of data storage that still had a 8-10 hour active battery life -- meaning interactions with it, not long running operations; take advantage of the digital ink -- I would love that device so much.

Let it bluetooth to my phone for connectivity. I just don't like using something of the "phone" form factor for my interface to the "world".

2006-11-25 12:27:04
Palm's current strategy (along with several other key phone manufacturers) is a clear move to Windows Mobile

This isn't exactly true. Palm is committed to being a multi-OS vendor (they'd say value-added reseller), but due to Palm OS's poor multitasking, it can't meet the requirements for UMTS (3G GSM). UMTS requires a phone to be able to hold open both an active voice connection and an active data connection at once, and the Palm OS Garnet kernel just can't do it well enough. EV-DO (3G CDMA) doesn't have such a requirement. That's why you see both Palm OS and Windows Mobile in the Treo 700 (w/wx and p), but not in the 750 (WinMob only). That doesn't mean Palm is abandoning Palm OS; it does mean that until their next generation OS is ready, you may be stuck with WinMob or Symbian for a 3G device. Oh, and the scuttlebutt is that Palm is developing its own OS independent of Access, so you'll probably never see Access Linux Platform in a Palm device.

As to your overall question, I really don't see Apple developing anything but a consumer-oriented platform to compliment iTunes. Mac Pros and Xserves may be able to help Apple gain footholds in the business world, but I don't think an Apple phone will venture far away from the iPod formula. That's what has worked in the past, and that is what Apple is good at: finding a market niche and making it profitable. I see an iPhone competing with T-Mobile Sidekicks or Dashes, but not Treos, Blackberries, etc.

Jim Farley
2006-11-25 13:14:32
Andrew: Interesting prediction, that may be the angle Apple is going for. Turn the iPod platform directly into the iPhone media/phone/gaming platform. Not exactly what I'm looking for, but could be a winner for them.

cooper: I think the problem with PDAs is that they try to be everything to everyone, and that's not possible in my opinion. The Newton is way too big for me, but I did own one for a while and liked it. The "right" portable device(s) is a personal thing, hard to canonicalize.

AJ: True, Palm is a multi-OS vendor and will likely stay that way, but I don't think the current PalmOS will be part of the picture after this generation, and they won't want to support more than 2 platforms, so it's going to be Windows Mobile plus Symbian or Access or their own Symbian/Linux variant. And it sounds like you're lining up behind Andrew in terms of the iPod direction for the iPhone. Probably a safe call.

Does anyone else think Palm can bring a new mobile OS option to the fore? I have my doubts - they have great hardware designers, but they've never really shown their chops in software user experience (those folks went to the Palm OS side of the split). Do you think they'll target the mass market and leave smartphones to Windows?

2006-11-26 02:43:52
Honestly apple has always been close on integration with software and hardware.... I dont think apple will release an iPhone without its own proprietory mini OS anyway... there not going to take someone elses. I think the environment for apples smartphone is going to closely resemble that of OS X .... I broke my phone about 3 months ago... and im not getting nothing until this iphone comes out... whatever the cost.... I will have one... I really hope I can just swap the sims.... im really tired of having to wait 1 year to get a phone from the states available in canada... I think ill travel down there and pick one up
2006-11-26 07:47:42
This is my dream iPhone:

1. Unlocked phone
2. Wifi & bluetooth
3. Instant Messenger
4. iSync
5. 2 to 3 megapixel camera
6. 4 to 8gb memory for: data / voice memo / mp3 /iTunes / Quicktime
7. 2.5 to 3" Screen
8. Each functions available with one button touch.
9. 12-14 hour battery life (w/ user replaceable battery).

Anything beyond these features would be icing on the cake for me.

2006-11-29 12:23:22
Ever heard of Symbian? Nobhead.
2006-11-29 12:23:46
I'd hope for a range of devices, from a Nano+phone+light games up to a smart phone. One prediction I do have is that even if it's not OS X-lite, they'll obviously use WebKit (already mobile) to deploy widgets onto a phone - widgets seem to be a perfect match for a phone level of functionality (i.e. display rather than interactivity centred).
2006-11-29 12:38:33

I want a mobile OS that is visually appealing, has wide adoption (with business and consumer users), desktop integration, enterprise integration, and a great user experience.

This sounds like a job for Apple, no?

Er, no. Take the title of this post, replace "iPhone" with "MacBook" and "Mobile" with "X for PCs":

Forget the MacBook - I want "MacOSX for PCs"

I believe the main argument for that being a bad idea are:

  1. the supposed increased development and support costs (and reduction in quality) for supporting more varied hardware
  2. the limited market, i.e. the number of people who actually switch operating systems
  3. the supposed lower profit margins on software

Any reasons why these arguments don't apply to mobile devices just as much as PCs? (I'd suggest the second applies even more.)

The hype about the upcoming "iPhone" from Apple keeps harping on the hardware design that is sure to emanate from One Infinite Loop"

Really? A lot of the hype I've read already focuses on Apple's user interface design skills. We're all crying out for a phone that isn't a pain to use. We just assume that we'll only get the Apple UI goodness via new Apple hardware, just like, well, almost every other Apple product ever created.

Still, keep dreaming.

Jim Farley
2006-11-29 16:16:18
My apologies for offending Symbian fans by not mentioning it. I have used several Symbian devices, and I wouldn't consider it an ideal smartphone OS (at least not yet). I think they could be a contender, though - there seems to be a fairly deep bench behind Symbian, on both the technical and user experience front.

pauldwaite: If you're saying that it is futile to attempt to develop a multi-device mobile platform, I think you'd better talk to PalmSource/Access, Microsoft, and Symbian. They're neck-deep into this already, with their stuff running on multiple vendors' hardware. They haven't done a superb job at this, but they've definitely shown that it's at least feasible. I agree with you that it's a long shot for Apple to dive into this business model (as I stated in the piece), but I'd like to see them or someone like them try to get it Right.

Pirate O'Hara
2007-01-10 16:23:21
>The mobile phone market doesn't need yet another innovative device design.

Yeah, and nobody needs more than 32k of ram.