Apple has officially announced the iPhone, it is a personal communications device capable of running applications, accessing the Internet, taking photos and maybe even calling someone.

Steve Jobs has positioned the touch-screen input as a revolutionary interface. The challange was to build something that could avoid the keyboard input of a Blackberry yet provide enough utility that it could be used for more than just phone calls. Oddly enough, the touchscreen has been generally available for 30+ years in a number of forms, and most competative PDA devices that include phones are already equipped with a touch-sensitive display.

Fortunately, if you do need to enter data you can bring up a virtual keyboard program on the screen and start typing. This is suppose to be the Blackberry “killer” and will compete head-to-head with the entrenched PocketPC.
The Apple iPhone is really nothing more than an integrated iPod with PDA capability and a cellphone. The availability of intelligent WiFi connectivity and of course Bluetooth make it a very attractive package, but it’s not really worthy of the level of hype devoted to it on the Apple homepage.

A truly revolutionary phone would have been able to respond to voice commands. You could put the phone to your ear and start asking questions, and the smart phone could provide intelligent answers. Something like “Where is the nearest Starbucks?” and the phone would use the built-in GPS to determine where the closest store is in your area. After letting you know the location it could provide some options, things like “Do you want to see a map?” or “Would you like to call the store?”.

While Apple is coming late to the cellphone party, the interface does provide a very complete end-user experience and may be just the thing for some users. Microsoft has been busy with PocketPC and they have a number of capable PDA device with integrated phones. Certainly the iPhone is more like UMPC in a smaller form factor, so perhaps this will give Microsoft some insentive to combine these platforms into a small form-factor PDA-style device that includes the best features of both operating environments. At this stage, either one of the Microsoft platforms could be converted into an iPhone-style interface in much the same way as Media Center converts Microsoft Vista into a PVR.

In this case, Apple is able to offer an attractive product with a full compliment of features. However, Microsoft has remained flexible with the PocketPC and should be able to compete with this design if consumers find it attractive. In the long run, I expect most consumers will find the best part of the iPhone is the phone itself.

Categories: Technology