Four and a Half Years On
People often come up to me in the street and say, “Stephen, why don’t you pop some clothes on, there’s a good fellow.” Another thing they will ask is, “How many phones have you got with you today?” And it’s that second common question we’re going to concentrate on in this blessay.
I have blogged many, many times about smartphones: you can follow the trail here by scrolling down and clicking on “Older Entries” at the bottom – “older entries at the bottom”? There must be a more appetising way to phrase it than that. Oh well.
The trail leads all the way back to a posting called Devices and Desires in which I wrongly claimed that the virtual keyboard on the new Apple iPhone was a bad idea, but rightly asked for 3G and downloadable third party apps. I also mourned (more than mourned: I stamped my foot and frothed with rage) at the asininity and maddening, moronic, stubborn, suicidal stupidity of Nokia and Palm and Sony in their inability to come up with anything close to the ‘iPhone killer’ that the industry (and I) were demanding. Not because we wanted Apple to fall (at that time they were a far smaller company that Sony or Nokia, let alone Google, HP or Microsoft) but because we wanted the whole sector to rise and meet the challenge. To pick up the gauntlet that Apple had flung down.
Things move so desperately fast in the digital world. That blog was written just four years and a half ago, before there was Android or App Stores, before the iPhone was even available in the UK. Now we live in a world where Apple, as a company, has the highest market capitalisation in the world and is worth more than its rivals combined. It’s worth more than … well there’s a whole site dedicated to telling you what it’s worth more than.
If you read that blog of mine now you can see me trying hard not to gloat about the fact that I had managed to get hold of an iPhone. Today my Facebook timeline (no I shan’t tell you my FB ID, but it isn’t Stephen Fry, and I fear I very, very rarely use it). If you’re befriending or have been befriended by a Facebook Stephen Fry, it isn’t me.
For one anxious day it was just an expensive brick as I parlayed and finagled and finessed my way through to someone at AT&T in America who would grant me roaming rights on this alien new device. This finally came through on July 7th
It’s interesting to reread that blog (interesting for me at any rate) because it reveals just how ahead of its time the iPhone was. Let’s have a look at their rivals and see how they’re doing. In fact let’s take a look at the whole idea of the future of this field as it might be understandable from a look at the past. I’ve just read Dan Gardner’s Future Babble so I’m well aware of the futility of prophecy. Nonetheless…
In mid to late 2007 the Redmond Behemoth had just come up with Windows Mobile 6 for Pocket PCs, as they charmingly called their absolutely fucking dog of an operating system. Pardon the language, but nothing else will do. CEO Steve Ballmer and others at MS were the first to admit it when they launched Windows Phone 7 a year and a half ago (with my help as it happens).
This slick, smooth, slidey-tile operating system is now established and flourishing enough (weedy in its proliferation compared to iOS and Android, but flourishing nonetheless) to be called simply Windows Phone.
Microsoft are bringing out a new Windows 8 system soon that, much like Apple’s Lion and upcoming Mountain Lion, will move towards converging the smartphone and PC ‘experience’ as people like to call it. The tail of the mobile is wagging the dog of the desktop: plenty have predicted this for some time as more and more power becomes available in your pocket, according the ineluctable certainties of Moore’s Law. It’s worth taking a look at this fascinating proposition.