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ATPM 15.09
September 2009





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Apple Talk

by Angus Wong,

Quick Look

I think most of you will agree that things are going very well for Apple these days. I don’t mean that to be an understatement. I just wanted to point out that not everyone is as clued in. Sure, many people in the computing, mobile, and media industries know that the iPhone is a success, that Macintosh computers are selling very well, and that the iTunes store has become the vendor of choice for consumers when it comes to digital media.

But do industry watchers really understand the bit storm that is going to hit? The storm that is very likely going to wipe out legacy technologies such as the Windows API, Palm OS, and probably even Symbian (which could eventually be relegated to esoteric embedded applications)? Extreme? I don’t think so. The computing landscape (and technology in general) is replete with history lessons of things going obsolete post-haste, even though, due to certain shady arrangements, we’ve been stuck in stasis for a long time. But just as the automobile industry is being dragged slowly into the future, the tides of war have turned for operating systems.

Even so, it’s not all smooth sailing. Rumblings have begun in certain official quarters, for instance, about Apple and Google getting too chummy. With the departure of Eric Schmidt from the Apple board, there’s looser coupling between the two management teams and that’s got to work in favor of Apple’s “competition” further up north, even as more nefarious allegations emerge about Microsoft’s ongoing counterattack. The ironic thing is that Apple and Google joining forces is actually a good thing, because a synchronized game plan from them will be able to accomplish quicker what nobody else could before: level the playing field. The sooner the tech field is truly leveled, the sooner the old guard will be forced to innovate, or at least step aside to allow the truly innovative to finally come to the fore.

The other thing that’s not going as well for Apple as I would have thought is the pesky Psystar litigation. That’s a whole soap opera in itself, and I am sure lots of people eagerly await the results of the trial to see whether or not there are indeed shadowy “backers” for this little unsanctioned clone-era anachronism. I look forward to renting the movie version from the iTunes store one day.

Speaking of iTunes, is anyone not downloading iPhone apps? All right, I was being facetious. Not everyone is using an iPhone. There are folks working on their bosses’ pipe dreams, which are called the Zune phone, the Palm Pre, and the Dell mini3i. I can only hope these people are smart enough to be secretly writing OS X apps on the sly—if they want a migration path for their careers.

And speaking of iPhone wannabes, I reckon only Dell’s horse has any chance of even finishing the race. Dell is selling its Android-powered phone to the Chinese market. Unless something disastrous happens, Dell could be selling quite a few of its newfangled gizmos. With legions of underpaid third-world programmers conceivably hacking out Android apps (do not be surprised if some sport more than just a passing resemblance to iPhone apps), it could mean quite a toehold for a PC-era company that I’m sure many of us have written off. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dell eventually got out of the mass-market computer segment (the way IBM did) and just sold phones. What strikes me, though, is that, once again, Dell does not own the operating system. However, Android uses the Apache Software License, so Dell could make incremental proprietary improvements to differentiate itself, although it didn’t really do so with the desktop Windows business.

We’ll see if it figures out how to make more than just dull hand-held boxes.

P.S. As this article went to press, out comes news of Nokia’s “Windows-based” also-ran jumping into an already-crowded children’s pool. Notable is the press release title: “Nokia Booklet 3G brings all day mobility to the PC world.”

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