Jan 9

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Back channel O'Reilly editors chatter on iphone

Like there is all over the web, there's been a lot of backchannel chatter on O'Reilly internal mailing lists about the iPhone. I thought I'd give a bit of the flavor with a few excerpts:

Brian Sawyer wrote:

I hate both that it's carrier locked and that the carrier is Cingular, with which I have had a terrible relationship in the past that ended in a vow never to return.

I also wish the iPhone were offered as a standalone iPod with about half the features but much more capacity. I really wanted exactly this product as a 60GB video iPod, but the phone isn't really an option for me right now. :-(

Brian Jepson added:

I ran across something else. This is pretty depressing:

"It's not extensible by third parties, only Apple. The means at the moment no RSS readers, no Slingplayers."

Phil Torrone replied:


its 6 months away, a lot will change. plus, part of the keynote said this...

"'[OSX] let us create desktop class applications and networking, not the crippled stuff you find on most phones, these are real desktop applications.' He's quoting Alan Kay - 'People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.' 'So we're bringing breakthrough software to a mobile device for the first time.'"

technically there are rss readers, since you can make widgets for it, id rather have someone have a MAKE app on their phone than a general rss reader - branding and all..

any hoo, 6m is a long time and apple isnt going to screw up, everyone is watching, closely.

So, how about you? Are you bummed like Brian and Brian based on what you've heard, or are you optimistic like Phil that Apple will get this right?

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Comments: 24

  Ranjit Mathoda [01.09.07 09:27 PM]

I'm generally excited by the device. In addition to the lockin on Cingular, lack of a big hard drive (which cripples the photo, music and particularly video functionality), and the terrible idea of limiting the ability to write software for the device (hack! hack! hack!), there's a few more troublesome elements:
(1) eventual battery death (particularly bad when it's your phone!),
(2) lack of a memory card slot (!),
(3) lack of 3G (maybe EDGE chips allowed for less power drain and a faster CPU but wow would it have been nice for this to be on a 3G service), and
(4) as a windows user it's unclear to me if the calendar/etc sync functions work with a windows pc.
Nonetheless, it'll be a huge success for Apple and Cingular. The price point will work out fine.
I'm definitely looking forward to version 2.0 though (particularly 3G or 4G support, and a lot more storage).

  Aaron Huslage [01.09.07 10:15 PM]

It's definitely an amazing device. I hope that some time within the next 6 months we see a developer tool chain for the phone, replete with emulators and all of the requisite stuff for mobile devices. That will make me happy. Of course, I've been asking Apple about an iPod tool chain for years and nothing has yet come of that.

The problem that Apple runs into is lockdown for carrier certification (so Cingular will allow it to be sold for their network...since the US consumer doesn't see the device as separate from the network) and the problems faced by allowing developers onto a device with DRM. Both of these are problems faced by manufacturers world wide. It's easier to limit developer access than it is to rationalize the process.

I hope we can talk about this more at the upcoming ETel Conference (shameless plug).

  Deepak [01.09.07 10:29 PM]

I am not much of an Apple user (not at all actually), but this is tempting. The good news

1. I just bought a blackjack and by the time I am ready to shell out the $$$$$ the iPhone will probably have the features I am missing (3G please!!!)

2. I use Cingular, but if they really want to succeed, they have to open it up. That's always been my beef against Apple.

  Dan Wood [01.09.07 10:38 PM]

Everybody is saying it will be closed, and I wouldn't be surprised that Jobs views it as a closed system (since he tends to do that) but other phone makers have SDKs for their phones, so I think that Apple might be pressured into following suit. The iPhone as a closed appliance is cool, but doesn't get me enthralled as a developer. The thought of being able to write software would have me drooling! I think we all need to send emails to Apple Developer Connection asking for an SDK.

  Bernie Goldbach [01.09.07 10:55 PM]

As a business phone user who uses his multimedia phones as podcatchers and mail handlers, I don't know if I could function without pressable keys. Pressability means you can text back or reply to mail without looking at the device. There is no user model for touching your way to a reply while walking or watching a presentation.

  Kevin Farnham [01.09.07 11:15 PM]

I view iPhone as excellent marketing, but also as an indication that Apple misunderstands the direction in which technology usually advances into the world, especially with respect to devices.

First off, I'll admit it: Apple annoys me. They are so happy to criticize Microsoft, but when it comes to downloadable music they do their damnedest to create a monopoly. They completely oppose open architectures in the MP3 music arena. Can I run a silly little client and download and refresh the licenses of songs on my iRiver MP3 player using my MacBook? Only if I use BootCamp to boot into Windows XP SP2, thus abandoning all Apple technology (since MacBooks have Intel processors).

My other point: iPhone is a conglomeration of existing technologies, centered on a novel and possibly revolutionary user interface. Technology typically progresses by scattering and specialization (more kinds of computers, cars, etc.), not by tying together existing technologies (how successful have those all-in-one car/boat/planes been?).

If the iPhone user interface is truly an incredible advance in sensor technology, data acquisition, reduction, analysis, and processing, including never before seen application of artificial intelligence to interpret human motives based on sequential and simultaneous data inputs -- then that will be it's significant contribution to the future.

  may [01.10.07 12:01 AM]

I'm bummed that there will be no real keyboard / keypad of some sort for physical feedback. As someone who's been using a tabletPC for years, I know that it's hard to use a soft keyboard even on screen that's 14". Tapping out a message on something that's only 2.4" wide (with no stylus even) would be painful! I think this cripples the text messaging, email, and chatting aspects of the phone - more important features than a music player in my opinion!

  Jim [01.10.07 12:31 AM]

Remember that in June, when these devices will actually hit the street, we will all be waiting for WWDC (where one would expect any SDK announcements for the iPhone to show up.) At WWDC 2007 apple will launch a new OS that supports _resolution independence_! Please consider these two facts before jumping too quickly to the "it will be locked forever" assumption. [And as you do so I will imagine the squeals of girlish delight coming from the audience when Steve announces that every app built for leopard can also be run on an iPhone just by including a recipe file...]

  LKM [01.10.07 12:58 AM]

It's not going to be as closed as the iPod, but probably not as open as a normal Mac. Apple seems to tell devs to contact them about developing for the iPhone. I'm guessing that developing widgets should be rather easy, while "real" apps need to be approved and signed by Apple.

  Derek [01.10.07 04:51 AM]

It'll be interesting to see how Cingular reconciles this with customers who have contracts which mandate phones must be unlocked. For instance, my employer has it in their contract that any Cingular phone we purchase must either be unlocked at time of receipt or unlockable upon a call by us to our rep.

  gzino [01.10.07 06:29 AM]

As predicted here:
And described in much better detail here:
Apple could have reinvented the telecom industry and failed do so. Just another product within the walled garden, at least for now.

  Tomi Itkonen [01.10.07 07:11 AM]

Referring to this previous post:

Standardized Hardware for eBook Readers

iPhone might be a good eBook reader. Its display size and resolution, WLAN and other functions seem to make it very fit for the role.

  Karl G [01.10.07 07:35 AM]

I'm not that interested in most of the features but I've wanted a reasonably open phone for years and years.

Open == buy buy buy
closed == wait for second gen, price drops, other carriers

  Tim O'Reilly [01.10.07 08:10 AM]

Brian Jepson added to the editors thread:

And even if it isn't possible to install your own apps in rev 1, there are people out there who are confident we will find a way :-)


  Nate Westheimer [01.10.07 09:12 AM]

I'm with Phil. People watching closely. Apple won't screw this up. They know what's at stake.

  Adrian [01.10.07 10:09 AM]

No, no, no! You Americans don't get it! Mobile phones are not about internet connectivity or even music files. They're not even, really, about calls anymore -- they're about texting. And texting on a touchscreen? On a Qwerty interface? Dead in the European water before it even reaches the market.

  Jim [01.10.07 10:57 AM]

Actually, it is you Europeans who do not get it. Texting is a poor substitute for voice communication imposed upon you by carriers who overcharged for voice calls. Texting is an artifact of poor design, not a feature that needs to be supported (the _only_ advantage it has over a voice call is silent message composition, and for this use-case a qwerty keyboard and email client are superior to a crippled text-via-phone-keypad interface.)

  mrg [01.10.07 11:05 AM]

the walled garden comment hits it.
i was really expecting revolution in the flavor of VoIP, but instead the revolution tastes more like iTunes.

  Roger Weeks [01.10.07 01:15 PM]

My observations on the iPhone:

  1. The Cingular exclusive basically kills this device for me. I have no desire to sign a 2-year contract with Satan.
  2. No memory slot? Why?
  3. This device would be insanely useful for me if it let my run iTerm and use the keyboard to SSH to places I need to go.

  • Regarding unlocked phones, don't forget that the US Copyright office just said that phones in the US must be unlocked if the user requests it.
  • The price is too high. $599 for a phone with 8GB of storage?
  •   LKM [01.11.07 12:38 AM]

    Actually, it is you Europeans who do not get it. Texting is a poor substitute for voice communication imposed upon you by carriers who overcharged for voice calls

    Yeah. And you probably also don't use e-Mail. Instead, you always call people, interrupting what they're currently doing.

    SMS is simply more convenient and less intrusive than calls. That's why everybody over here uses it. My guess is that we've just got more decency than you ;-)

      adamsj [01.11.07 03:40 AM]

    Roger Weeks nails it for me:

    This device would be insanely useful for me if it let my run iTerm and use the keyboard to SSH to places I need to go.

    I've already suggested to my boss that we try to budget these for some or all of our team, contingent on this.

    LKM also has a clue when he says (with emphasis added):

    SMS is simply more convenient and less intrusive than calls.

      Anonymous [01.11.07 06:48 AM]


    Regardless of whether texting or calling is better, texting is the crucial element of the market in Europe. It's the people's choice. This is why the iPhone won't hit mass market numbers.
    And by the way, at least we don't still have to pull aerials out of our 2G 'cellphones'. :)

      Jose A Vivas [01.11.07 09:49 PM]

    Hi all!

    In my IMHO, Apple is in the right track, because she have very clever people at the Board, as Google�s CEO, and among others, the MacOSX inside. Theare plenty of space to develop widgets, et. al and more important thing this the iPhone 1.0. My very tiny company is now put one eye in MacOSX and of course the Web 2.0 and beyond. The true integration is coming: Internet Company, Apple, Carrier. This a clear advantage and of course we bet for this, and last but not least, this the beginning of one important step ahead: Software As A Service, and my be our applications is ported in Safari [inside the iPhone].

    Regards to all,

    Jose A Vivas

      Bernie Goldbach [01.14.07 11:55 AM]

    I wonder if Apple is trying to redefine how people use mobile phones as well as redefine the user interface of mobile phones. Getting either of those two things wrong will sink even the best piece of consumer telephony.

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