For all the amazing innovations in the iPhone there are aspects of it that are several steps backwards. Don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned above the iPhone changed the rules for mobile devices and showed us what a truly awesome tablet device could be like. In the last year we have seen so many iPhone clones emerge from other major mobile manufacturers. What bugs me is how limited the device is given the current state of technology. Nokia has had mobile phones with 5 mega-pixel cameras that shoot near DVD quality video for a year or two already. Apple’s older generation iPods have storage capacity up to 160GB on small hard drives which could surely be great options until the price of solid state drives with larger capacities falls enough to make them economically feasible?
Of course another factor is the operating system. Although Apple produces a beautiful and powerful operating system (as much as I rant about Apple, I am not going to be abandoning my Mac for the foreseeable future), it is still not all that open to the developer community on the iPhone. Certainly not as much as mobile Linux distributions are to their respective communities. I can’t help but think that a more open platform that can be implemented on multiple devices in multiple configurations has to be better in the long run than a single platform implemented in such a controlled manner on a single device produced by a single company. One vision of what mobile devices could be is captured nicely in this video about the Moblin platform:
Canonical is working on a mobile version of Ubuntu. Google kickstarted the Android platform which has produced some demos that seem to exceed the iPhone’s performance and functionality and it doesn’t take a lot to imagine the possibilities with a community of developers working to build on this open platform.
Perhaps instead of developing a phone that also functions as a tablet there should be a tablet device that supports voice telephony. The shift in focus could give us a truly connected and powerful device that comes closer to the vision in the Moblin video above than the iPhone (which would actually look pretty primitive in comparison). There is a fortune of potential in these more open platforms and I think it is only a matter of time before we start to see a whole new generation of smart mobile devices emerge on the iPhone’s heels. At that point Apple will have to make some fundamental changes to the iPhone or risk losing ground rapidly to these new Linux based devices. Hopefully that will mean that Apple really steps up and produces something that warrants the lovefest that accompanies every iPhone announcement. If not, we will have a powerful, flexible and extensible alternative.