#WWDC highlights: iPhone 4 now a true smartphone. Steve leapfrogs rivals by years with iOS, gets really anxious about Google
There were quite a few interesting things presented during Steve Jobs Apple Apple WWDC keynote.
iPhone 4 attracted the most attention. And, it really is a great device. Specwise, iPhone 4 caught up with other latest high end smartphones in every way that matters. Given that iPhone OS already had the best user experience all around, and other vendors relied a lot on missing iPhone features to promote their flagships, this is a really big deal.
But, IMHO, one, even more important thing, happened during WWDC keynote. Hidden behind the simple iPhone OS name change to iOS4, was Apple’s official statement that they have a new main computing platform – iOS. And announcement new computing paradigm, based on a lightweight, power and resource efficient, connected OS. Most of the competition was caught completely off-guard by this new shift, and will take at least a year to even start catching up.
Except for Google, which emerged as the main Apple competitor from now on.
iPhone 4 finally becomes a true high end smartphone
My big takeaway from the iPhone 4 announcement is that iPhone has finally became a true high end smartphone.
Yes, iPhone has been high end, wildly popular, provided the best user experience, tons of interesting apps, and what not. But, feature/spec wise, it has been still catching up to the market standard for smartphones. All the while justifying that this, or that missing feature doesn’t matter, until it became a great, must have thing, in the next iPhone.
Remember “Who needs 3G, when we have Wi-Fi?”, Bluetooth, copy paste, 2 megapixel camera is good enough, multi-tasking?
The strength of the iPhone was always about the vastly superior user experience, not the specs. But those missing features and specs in the top of the line, high end handsets, allowed competitors to promote their offerings as a superior, despite their shortcomings of overall UX.
Well, not anymore. With iPhone 4, competition at the high end of smartphone market became significantly tougher. iPhone 4 is now good enough to 95% of potential high end smartphone customers. My guess is, the writers of the next “Droid Does” campaign will have a lot of rethinking to do.
For the next 4-6 months, at $5-700 smartphone price range, iPhone’s only viable competitor remains Android. Though it is a bit lacking in the overall ease of use, Android (2.1/2.2 and upcoming Gingerbread release) already has a good enough UX, tight integration with Google, and other cloud and social services. Plus, it is a much more open platform, with strong appeal to the more technically oriented audience.
The latest Android handsets –HTC Desire, Incredible, EVO 4G, Samsung Galaxy S, Motorola MIlestone XT720 – looked very attractive, compared to iPhone 3GS. But, with iPhone 4, the game for the Android vendors became much tougher.
Other vendors/platforms in 2010 - Nokia Symbian, Samsung Bada, Palm WebOS, pricey feature phones - are non-players here (at the high end), and will be competing only in the mid-tier/mass markets, at $450 and lower price points. Rumored Nokia Meego device is a bit of a wildcard, but it is not coming until Q4, and even if very good, it will take time to ramp up the sales, so it will probably be a moot point for 2010 competitive landscape.
iPhone OS becomes iOS 4. A new connected computing platform for Apple
As of this week, Apple’s officially got a new connected computing platform.
Until this year, we were used to thinking about iPhone OS, as Apple’s platform for smartphones and other pocketable devices like iPod Touch. When it was first launched in 2007, iPhone OS was introduced as a mini version of OSX.
This year, when Apple introduced iPad – with the same iPhone OS- it became clear, that they may have some bigger ambitions for this OS. But we were still guessing. This week it became official. The new platform has shed it’s baby iPhone clothes and became iOS 4.
Kind of reminds me about another big name change at Apple. Until 2007 we used to know this company as Apple Computer Inc. Back then, the key metrics of Apple’s success have been tied to computers. Yes, they had iTunes, iPods, Apple TV and what not. But the big announcements were all about the new Macs, and new OSX features. The bulk of Apple’s revenue was also directly related to personal computers.
Then, in 2007, by dropping “computer” from the company name, Apple clearly signaled that they do not consider themselves a computer company anymore. They are much more then that.
Fast forward to today – while computer side of business still makes a lot of Apple’s income, as long as it’s at least keeping up with the market trends, nobody cares much about it. Compared to the media frenzy of a few years ago, I’d say new Mac announcements are greeted with collective yawn, as are new iterations of OSX, like Snow Leopard.
And, during Monday WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs didn’t mention Mac or OSX even once! Together with the iOS name change, the signal is pretty clear. Apple will continue milking it’s computer business cash cow for years to come, and improving it as market demands. But it is the thing of the past.
Apple’s main device platform form now on – is iOS 4. And it appears to be ready to get into every connected Apple device out there.
iOS might have been disguised as mini OSX version for smartphones and pocket sized devices, but it has been envisioned as a larger computing platform from the very start. In hindsight, you can clearly see that in multiple multi-touch patent applications Apple filed, and Steve Jobs admitted as much during his D8 interview.
This disguise now seems as one of the most brilliant moves by Steve Jobs. When you think about it, there was no big technical reason for Apple to do a phone, before putting iOS on a tablet. Actually, getting it to work on a pocket sized device, must have been a much more difficult task. But, by misdirecting everyone’s attention to what iOS can do to smartphones, Apple managed to build a next generation connected computing platform, with nary a competitor noticing. Leapfrogging most of the competition by at least a year.
And to build the most vibrant and active ecosystem around the new platform. Now Apple has 100 million iOS devices out there (a number is a bit exaggerated, since not all of the iOS devices sold, are still in operation). They have hundreds of thousands of developers working on the software for the new platform. The iOS has already generated $1 billion in direct revenues for the developers. Add to that indirect advertising income, sales generated through various iOS apps, all the services that sprung up around iOS app development, and the financial side becomes even more impressive.
What about competition?
For now, Microsoft is a non-starter in this new, light connected computing paradigm. It’s Windows 7 OS is barely OK for netbooks, and after the iPad, hopeless for tablets. Their smartphone OS –WP7 – won’t even be ready for market for the next 5 months. Their lightweight Windows Embedded Compact 7 tablet seems to be just at a concept stage, and won’t be ready for at least a year.
Nokia/Intel’s Meego might become a good lightweight connected computing platform one day. And we may see the first Nokia Meego device this year, but that is again, only a smartphone. Meego won’t be ready for a larger form factor devices until sometime in 2011.
WebOS? Now that HP bought them, they may have something interesting to show us eventually. But that again won’t come until later next year.
Apple is pissed off/nervous about Google
Having a 1 year, or bigger head start, before your main competitors can even start thinking of catching up, is a thing almost unseen in tech industry. And, with his brilliant iPhone OS misdirection, Steve Jobs managed to achieve that.
Except for one, unlikely competitor – Google. I don’t know why Google decided to get into computing platform business themselves. Maybe it’s something Eric Schmidt learned, while he was on Apple board. Or maybe it was just a natural company evolution, after becoming the fabric of the Internet. But, as unlikely as it might have seemed just a few years ago, Google is the main competitor to Apple.
They are also gaining on Apple, and making Steve Jobs really pissed off and nervous about it.
Just look at Apple’s knee jerk reactions to every mention that Android is becoming bigger then iPhone. A number of pot shots Steve has taken at Google in his WWDC keynote. Banning Google’s AdMob network from iOS apps, with blatantly anticompetitive act, even at the risk of inviting federal scrutiny of your practices…
It shows that Apple feels really uneasy about Google. And they are right to feel that way. If only because of the speed Google’s main lightweight OS is evolving.
Last year, when iPhone OS 3 and iPhone 3GS launched, Android was at 1.5. A really crude, immature, not ready for wider adoption OS. But in the time it took Apple to create iOS4, Google went through Android 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, and now has a powerful and easy to use smartphone OS. In the next 3-6 months they will transform this OS into a full fledged lightweight computing platform, that will work well on tablets, netbooks, TVs and other things.
Apple still has at least 6 month lead over Google, but that’s a lot less of a breathing room then Apple would have had, if Google had stuck to it’s traditional business.
Anyway, I’m looking for a quite interesting Apple vs Google showdown this fall. And next year, when other competitors had time to process what just happened, and react to that, the fireworks will only get bigger.