Apple Support

Did you know that if you walk into an Apple store with a broken iPhone, in this case a roughly one inch horizontal band on the touch screen that doesn’t register anything, they actually tell you to make an appointment and come back another time? I don’t mean walk around the mall and grab something to eat another time, I mean a different day. When I asked the rep if he thought this was good customer service, he just shrugged and said that’s the way it is. As regular readers know, I already wasn’t that happy of an iPhone owner. This just puts me over the top. I’m now counting the days until I can order the OpenMoko Neo1973 GTA02. I was seriously considering getting a new MacBook Pro over the next couple weeks. No way that will happen now. Are my expectations too high?

–jeremy

Where's my Gphone?

Google finally made the highly anticipated Gphone related announcement today:

Despite all of the very interesting speculation over the last few months, we’re not announcing a Gphone. However, we think what we are announcing — the Open Handset Alliance and Android — is more significant and ambitious than a single phone. In fact, through the joint efforts of the members of the Open Handset Alliance, we hope Android will be the foundation for many new phones and will create an entirely new mobile experience for users, with new applications and new capabilities we can’t imagine today.

Android is the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. It includes an operating system, user-interface and applications — all of the software to run a mobile phone, but without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation. We have developed Android in cooperation with the Open Handset Alliance, which consists of more than 30 technology and mobile leaders including Motorola, Qualcomm, HTC and T-Mobile. Through deep partnerships with carriers, device manufacturers, developers, and others, we hope to enable an open ecosystem for the mobile world by creating a standard, open mobile software platform. We think the result will ultimately be a better and faster pace for innovation that will give mobile customers unforeseen applications and capabilities.

It’s important to recognize that the Open Handset Alliance and Android have the potential to be major changes from the status quo — one which will take patience and much investment by the various players before you’ll see the first benefits. But we feel the potential gains for mobile customers around the world are worth the effort. If you’re a developer and this approach sounds exciting, give us a week or so and we’ll have an SDK available. If you’re a mobile user, you’ll have to wait a little longer, but some of our partners are targeting the second half of 2008 to ship phones based on the Android platform. And if you already have a phone you know and love, check out mobile.google.com and make sure you have Google Maps for mobile, Gmail and our other great applications on your phone. We’ll continue to make these services better and add plenty of exciting new features, applications and services, too.

This is fairly inline with what I was expecting. While some were anticipating a hardware device from Google, a platform plus stack release makes much more sense. They don’t have to get into a very low margin high capital business and they can keep existing partnerships in place without the added stress of direct competition. This move should have fairly large repercussion for the entire industry. With the availability of a full SDK for this platform, Apple is really going to get hurt if they are too closed with their SDK, which will be released soon. Looking at the Open Handset Alliance members, you’ll notice both Nokia and FIC are missing. You have to wonder how this announcement will impact Maemo and OpenMoko, respectively. I’d guess we’ll see many more partners and stepped up competition as a result of this announcement, so I’ll keep an eye out and post an update when the dust has settled. One thing is clear, the Linux mobile landscape is heating up.

Additional Reading:
TechCrunch
Edgadget
Mashable
Techdirt
Linux Foundation (which has pointers to many of the Linux mobile initiatives and players, including: ACCESS, A La Mobile, Celunite, FST, Mizi Research, OpenMoko/FIC, Purple Labs, Trolltech, LiMO, LiPS, Moblin and more)

–jeremy

Apple: "we plan to have an iPhone SDK in developers' hands in February"

Apple has finally officially announced a real SDK for the iPhone. From the Apple announcement:

Third Party Applications on the iPhone

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones—this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.

Some companies are already taking action. Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than “totally open,” we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone’s amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.

There’s a lot of speculation about whether or not the dedicated iPhone hackers forced Apples’ hand on this. Looking at the Springboard breakdown, some amount of support for additional apps has been there since the beginning. The latest 1.1.1 release seems to have increased that. The question is: with the PR beating it was taking, why didn’t Apple announce this when the iPhone was initially released, and what took them so long? Only Jobs knows for sure, but announcing it from the very beginning would likely have caused some people to hold off on their purchase. As for what’s taking so long, it could be a variety of things. The latest firmware release clearly shows that the iPhone platform is still a rapidly moving target. Apple may just want things to stabilize a bit before letting others in. It will be interesting to see how Apple rolls this out. Will apps have to be digitally signed by Apple? Will the only installation mechanism be iTunes? We’ll have to wait and see. While I’m glad to see this announcement (although they really didn’t have much of a choice in the end if they wanted a truly successful product long term), it’s probably not enough for me not to switch to an OpenMoko device in December.

–jeremy

OpenMoko

While the iPhone has been getting all the press, something seriously interesting has been happening in the Open Source mobile space. OpenMoko devices are becoming available. From a Wired Blog:

After seemingly endless delays, the OpenMoko phone is here. The first version of the NEO 1973 mobile phone, which carries the Linux kernel inside and is not locked to a specific network, is available for purchase from OpenMoko.com. It’s not as jaw-droppingly pretty as the iPhone, but it shares a design philosophy — no buttons, just a screen — and it’s ready to be loaded with any number of open-source software applications. (Though, according to Gadget Lab, so is the iPhone).

The base version of the NEO sells for $300. It has a 2.8″ VGA touch screen, a micro SD card slot, a USB port and 2.5G GSM quad band capability.

Keep in mind that this unit (the GTA01) was pushed out early so developers could begin writing device drivers, custom GUIs and some cool apps for the phone. The next revision (GTA02), which will be available starting at $450 in October, will be ready for the mass market. It will have wi-fi, 3-D motion sensors and added graphics accelerators. So this phone isn’t exactly an iPhone killer — the next one will be a contender. AptUsTech has a nice comparison of the NEO 1973 and the iPhone.

I’m going to try to hold out for the GTA02, but we’ll see if I make it. Bottom line is, I am getting one of these. I’ll probably keep the iPhone also, even if it’s just as a wi-fi enabled iPod. Which phone I’ll use on a day to day basis remains to be seen, but the more I use the iPhone the more its closed architecture is a limiting factor. If rumors of a pending firmware upgrade prove true and it does in fact allow real 3rd party apps things could change quickly. In that case I may just carry around two phones :) If you’re interested in the GTA01 you can find more details here.

–jeremy

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