I have recently been in the market for a new smartphone. The iPhone looks like some nice hardware and I’m already an AT&T customer, but after seeing news like this I’m just not buying. Apple has proven to me that I don’t want to live in a closed ecosystem. Sometimes it really is true that “you don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone.”
A Palm Refugee
Basically you could say that I am a long time Palm user that is growing increasingly impatient. I like the ease of use and efficiency of the PalmOS UI, but the under-pinnings are really starting to show their age. This has been made very apparent by adding a data plan to my phone recently.
I like having the access a lot more than I would have expected; Opera Mini is a great browser but the Java VM that runs it isn’t so much (it crashes regularly). Add on the lack of native Bluetooth A2DP (which my car’s audio system does support), a so-so email client, and Palm’s tardiness with a new OS and you can see why I’m looking for something better.
Honestly I have to admit that the iPhone is probably the best device right now for what I want (strong multimedia, great web browsing, good email client, decent form factor), although it is far from perfect (the phone part isn’t amazing, no built-in search, short battery life with 3G on, no A2DP, etc). So why am I not buying it?
My Apple Epiphany
I must confess that I generally don’t like Apple, and that I think their products are over-hyped most of the time (“Apple is reinventing the home stereo with the new iPod Hi-Fi” –Steve Jobs) but they generally make some good products. The iPod, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, or Mac Pro are all legitimate top-of-the-line competitive products that most companies’ products do worse than. I realized what my real issue with Apple is though: their business practices.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that when you go Apple your choices are mostly dictated to you by Apple (aka Steve Jobs). Why will Adobe’s CS4 suite be 64-bit only on Windows? An Apple business decision. Why is the iPhone only available on AT&T? An Apple business decision. Why couldn’t .Mac users wait until MobileMe was stable to switch their e-mail over? Again, an Apple business decision.
The problem is particularly pronounced on the iPhone as it is an insanely closed platform (without jailbreaking it). It is like the iPhone is nothing but a DRM device, because basically it is. Lock down my music, check. Lock down my videos, check. Lock down my service provider, check. Lock down my choice of applications, check. Pretty much anything you can do with it is locked down.
Open Platform != Open Source
Don’t confuse an open platform with open source. Windows, PalmOS, Symbian, and even Mac OS X are all basically open platforms (but clearly not open source). You can run any app designed for the platform whether it is specifically blessed by the developer of the platform or not. If Windows or Mac were closed platforms you couldn’t make a third-party application like Firefox because Microsoft and Apple both already have competing web browsers. Look on the iPhone though and you’ll see that Apple won’t let any developer make a competing media player. See the difference?
I have numerous third-party apps on my Treo 680: Google Maps, Opera Mini, Gmail, Pocket Tunes, Facebook, a dictionary, etc. It may seem funny, but it would really bother me to have Apple deciding what I can and cannot use. Simple things like the program I use to track my gas mileage are switching costs to me if there isn’t a viable alternative on a new platform. After Apple’s trend of pulling Apps from iTunes lately I really can’t say I trust them.
Technically there are Windows Mobile 6 phones that have all of the features I want (A2DP, Opera, 3G, wifi, real multitasking) but I just don’t think I could stomach the stodgy UI. So I guess I’m left waiting to see whether Android materializes into something good, Palm can finally bring out their new OS, or hope that Windows Mobile 7 has a new UI, because those will all happen before Apple truly opens up the iPhone.