iPhone as Game Changer
Open, schmopen, who cares? Only Jeff, Fred, and Esme, evidently. The iPhone is a game changer. It is the first multiple radio device with a decent music player app and user interface to sell a measurable number of units. The initial surge of users was probably the folks that wanted to combine their phone and iPod so they could carry one device. The game changing thing about the iPhone is the unfettered wi-fi radio in it, and the full featured safari browser. Esme might moan and groan about handheld devices having to login to hotspots with browsers, but if the vision of ad-supported wi-fi is to become more than that, the hotspot network operator needs to talk to a browser to advertise. Besides, the browser is the default web user interface, why shouldn't devices have it. I sprung for the Opera Browser for my kids' DSes. I do agree that the user interface to the hotspot should be more flexible and open, where you could use a browser interface to provision other devices that you have that don't have browsers, but people use the web through them, and are comfortable with the interface.
The people who spend $600 on an iPhone do it because they love the device and the UI, it's love-in not lock-in. The carrier the iPhone comes with is immaterial to them. Why do people by MacBooks for $1000 when you can get a laptop for $399, it's love-in, not lock-in. My friend John Vincenzo says it's the first time he feels comfortable traveling without his laptop, because of the full featured Safari browser and the Mac integration. Dropped his Blackberry like a hot potato. The first time was because it got water damage, and he switched to an E62, but the Blackberry had Entourage integration, E62 no Mac integration at all, and it was difficult to move his contacts onto the E62. The iPhone is completely integrated with the Mac. He can now do something useful with attachments, instead of having to have a laptop with him. They have a superior product, and AT&T was the smart one for adopting the iPhone, although it allows you to get around the carrier's walled garden, ultimately it may be a bargain with the devil for AT&T. It's only a matter of a short time before a VoIP app gets on the iPhone, talks over the wi-fi, and then boom, watch the minute counts drop.
To truly be freeing, you need two radios in a handheld device because wi-fi is not widespread enough nor reliable enough to completely use it as your only means to connect to the rest of the world. An unlocked GSM radio goes in, because you can buy cheap SIMs and only have to use cell minutes when you are not connected to a wi-fi network. Soon enough, devices that follow the iPhone's lead will be bringing us a much better handheld internet experience.