iPhone – Age of Proprietary vs. Open Standards Redux?

10 01 2007

By now, you’ve gotten your favorite blog or publication version of the new iPhone announcement, nothing less than a behemoth of an announcement in the consumer electronics and cellular phone industry.

TechCrunch has a write up. GigaOM calls it the end of the PC era. Time Magazine has a nice write-up about Apple’s legendary design and announcement process.

It’s undoubtedly cool – a dream cell phone with things you can imagine (sortable text messages and graphically based voicemails) but only Apple can pull off.

My first question is regarding price and device overload: I’m currently a Verizon Wireless customer. I’ve done Sprint PCS and T-Mobile int he past. Does this now mean that I have to either pay a termination fee, wait until my contract expires or the device goes to other carries? Once the iPhone goes to different carriers, this surely becomes a moot point, although I’d be somewhat scared (maybe unjustifiably so) that Apple got a sweetheart deal with Cingular to be the exclusive carrier.

I think the second and more important question is whether this signals the age of proprietary versus open standards. Especially in cell phones as illustrated in the above example, you’re limited to certain handsets and even features based on what carrier choose and even what country you live in.

In the Windows versus Macintosh age, the fact that Windows was more open allowed it to ultimately win the operating system war.

In the cell phone age, a major problem is that cell carriers have been the bottleneck in blowing out the cell phone’s full potential. Burgeoning industries’ slow growth are largely due to the friction due to extensive carrier relations necessary to access a cell carrier’s platform, possibly stifling innovation.

Wi-fi technologies seems to have the best chance to break this cycle. Open source has had an incredible impact on what’s now possible. Instead of innovation coming from the select big corporations, anyone with a computer can create and make a substantial impact. I think you’ll only continue to see the benefits that the open source and open standards revolution will have on computing, software and electronics into the future.

Will there be a rebellion against proprietary standards? Once it’s possible to have an open telephony platform, can Apple persist to dominate with near absolute market share everything when there’s a cheaper, more open and more innovative platform around?

I love Apple, but anything that forces me into a multiple device purchase makes me queasy: iPod, iPhone, iLife, iMovie, iTV, iMac – where does it end?

I think that this possibly heralds the Age of Proprietary vs. Open Standards… again.




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