I could have just posted a comment in Greg’s post about the iPhone’s SDK and about how scared to hell RIM should be about it. But I think I have quite a mouthful to say about this and since I’ve got the keys to this blog, you’ll have to put up with my long rant disguised as analysis. 😉
Greg focused on the infamous SDK, but that is only one of the things that Apple announced this week. And that is not really the juiciest part of the news. The SDK will help developers make applications a lot more easily, but Apple seem – oh, what a surprise – determined to keep a very tight clasp on what is developed and allowed to be installed on the iPhone. We know what the justification is: security. But we also know that nobody sells and charges dearly for mind-boggling idiosyncrasies like Apple. Nobody really knows what criteria Apple will apply in accepting or rejecting applications into the iStore catalog. Neither does anybody know how much and how often such already muddy criteria will change with the wind, star conjunctions or ebb and flow of the tides.
More important than the SDK, Apple also announced push e-mail and enterprise-focused security features. Well, I am a Blackberry newbie, have had it for 7 months only, but for how many years have RIM been offering these services that Apple haven’t even started offering yet? Seriously, I don’t know. But it’s been a lot. Apple have just announced theirs, they ain’t even running yet.
Side comment: imagine if it had been the other way around, RIM copying something from Apple. Imagine the Apple fan boys gloating about how innovative their idol company is. But the truth is that Apple are still catching up with something that RIM has been doing for years. Apple still are the little tomato who falls behind in the classical joke: catch up, Timmy.
And we don’t know what it is going to be like. Security features from Apple? Hum. The iPhone hackers don’t seem to have had exactly a hard time jailbreaking that phone over and over. Apple’s desktop operating system and browser can’t afford to brag too much down in the pub about how secure they are either. Can Apple really deliver on the security field with the iPhone? That is going to be fun to watch.
What about push e-mail? Oooh, RIM are so doomed… not! I know a bunch of people who hate the Blackberry and rub in my nose that push e-mail can be implemented in just about any phone by means of certain alternatives. Half true. It’s never really the same, the Blackberry e-mail experience remains unmatched even though the aforementioned “just about any phone” includes the likes of Palm, Symbian and Windows Mobile, three platforms that actually let developers develop freely with very little restriction, and don’t act as if they were doing the developers a favor. Actually, why no one else seems capable of matching or even beating the Blackberry experience is something that beats me. It shouldn’t be really that difficult, but anyway… Enter Apple. Four firmware revisions and still no copy-and-paste or multiple SMS recipients in sight. You and what army are going to make me take Apple’s attitude towards communcation and data handling seriously? Look at the entire mindset behind a Blackberry phone. Look at how nearly all possibilities seem to be taken into account. RIM don’t make that kind of goofy blunder. RIM have been making a serious work tool from the ground up. Apple, in comparison, will try to turn what is clearly a toy (pretty much an iPod glued to a phone) into a serious tool, **IF** Steve Job’s formidable egomania really lets that happen as it really should.
There is another very important missing piece in this puzzle: so that is what Apple has to show us in 2008; now what does RIM have to show us in 2008, and how long will it take for Apple to catch up with that? Apple is not the only innovative company around. They only get all the applause and reputation because of their powerful marketing. Apple has a very strong hand on the realm of appearances. But in the real world, other companies have been making strides and RIM certainly is one of them. RIM could come up something big this year too. Who knows? RIM know, Apple don’t, neither do we. Yet. Should RIM fear Apple? We can’t really answer that question until we know what RIM have in storage.
Even if RIM turn up empty-handed in 2008, we can play a little of this guessing game already:
- how many years will it be until Apple let me use the iPhone as a simple hassle-free pen drive connected to any PC (and when I say “any PC” I really mean any PC: Windows, Linux, Mac, Unix etc.)?
- how many years will it be until the iPhone can handle as many media formats as a Blackberry rather than just whatever Apple and Steve-in-a-bubble think the whole world should be using because he is too cool for other formats?
- how many years will it be until the iPhone works without the infamous iTunes, that an awful lot of people hate, but is uncompromisingly imposed on all and sundry by the company that is led by the man who obviously thinks that “a pair of jeans and a turtleneck should be enough to anybody”?
- how many years will it be until Apple give up on that stupid idea that in order to use any single Apple product, we have to give up on the rest of the world, gladly embrace their entire product line and rock meekly to a handful of condescending music box tunes?
- how many years will it be until the iPhone has copy-and-paste? That one should go down soon, even Apple wouldn’t be that stubborn and ridiculous;
- how many years will it be until the iPhone can be used with any headphone or headset, including the Bluetooth ones, without ridiculous hardware hacks?
- how many years will it be (as Dave Barry would say, I’m not making this up) until the iPhone SDK supports third-party apps’ multitasking?
- how many years will it be until the iPhone can be used with multiple carriers without requiring Jailbreak?
- how many years will it be until the iPhone does not require Jailbreak or the unforgiving claws of the iStore’s Politburo to accept third-party applications, and iPhone owners don’t have to mess with their firmware every freaking month?
- how many years will it be until the iPhone is sold contract-free or with very generous subsidization prices offered with the high usage contracts that big companies typically purchase for their staff?
- how many years will it be until companies decide it is OK to pay through the nose just so their employees can prance around with a designer label toy, tilting it like children to play games with the accelerometer?
That’s a lot of catching up for Apple to do, and the best part is that Apple’s weird elite designer label policies will never let most of them happen. The worst part is that the above is not just a sulky laundry list of things that make Apple and the iPhone suck. They are rather just a few examples of the serious mentality problem that has made Apple the best and the worst technology company in the world at the same time. Too many times have we been left with the impression that it is run by an idiot savant that comes up with brilliant stuff just as often as he comes up with pointless stuff that just doesn’t make any sense. Here is the big question: how many corporations will be willing to jump on board of that ship under the command of an idiot savant? RIM, in comparison, are slightly less brilliant than Apple, but are nowhere near as often caught making pointless blunders.
Even after Apple officially launch all the promises they made this week, the iPhone will still be much more of a toy than the also fun and media capable but far more serious and robust current line of Blackberries. And RIM haven’t even launched anything new this year yet. If anyone should be looking at the dice and counting the spaces ahead of the opponent with apprehension right now, that one is Apple. It’s RIM’s turn to play, and even before that next turn, RIM have the better cards and a lot more coherence in their designs and decisions.