Friday, 20 March 2009

The hardware advantage...

I have mentioned before my belief that a better computer system usually emerges when the same company produces both the hardware and the software platform.  (Openness for applications is good for innovation but the core system software platform is key).  Apple have an advantage in taking this approach and the ease of use of their Macintosh computers has long been an example of the benefits which can come from it.  Two years ago they used the market success of the iPod music player to move into the mobile phone market and apply their approach to this too.  Last year they released version 2 of the iPhone's system software and created a revolution in application downloads to mobile phones (via the AppStore) in the same way that they had done with music downloads previously.

This year the third coming of the iPhone's software platform adds an extremely important aspect which will further push the gap between this device and its competitors.  This year Apple has defined open interfaces (including auto-discovery/configuration) for third party hardware attachments to iPhone.  This means that others can now innovate with other peripherals which can connect either by cable to the dock connector or by wireless Bluetooth.   This opens up a new delightful touch user interface on an always networked device with storage and a beautiful display capabilities for all sorts of other devices and sensors.   And all that is needed is the design of an application to be launched on the AppStore to enable it.

Apple have now sold 30 million devices which will run this 3rd generation software platform.  Although dwarfed by some 50 million Windows Mobile devices as well as other mobile software platforms (Nokia, Android, Symbian), this third party hardware interface will be very tough for others to follow.  The devices which run these other systems are fragmented by a whole range of different user interfaces and screen sizes/resolutions, making the application requirements much more complex, never mind the problem of catching up with the slick easy distribution portal of the AppStore.   We will see what innovations third parties come up with, and which mobile platform they choose to develop them for.

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