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Jewish World Review
Jan. 19, 2007
/ 29 Teves, 5767
Apple's iPhone challenge
As announced last week, the iPhone from the company formerly known
as Apple Computer - it's just Apple, Inc., now - is, I believe, a
challenge both for the company and for the people who will use it, a group
I hope to join, however briefly.
Based on both media reports as well as the demos shown on Apple's Web site
(www.apple.com/iphone), this could be a revolutionary device - if all
works as planned. I do not doubt Apple's claims, but after working with
several brands of mobile phones for a while, things aren't always as they
seem. There may be a bug or two, even though Apple is usually scrupulous
about avoiding these on new devices.
At the top of the list of challenges for the iPhone could be the
"predictive typing" found on the iPhone. Such software isn't new; it's
found on handhelds using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile, on some Palm
Inc programs, and in desktop software for PCs and Macs. Predictive typing
means the computer can guess what you're about to type as you enter the
letter: "th" is most likely to mean "the" or "this" depending on the
context; a truly "smart" predictive program will figure this out and
suggest the word for you.
In order to make e-mail, messaging, and other text applications work best
on an iPhone, Apple will have to make sure the predictive typing works as
advertised. This is something Apple can do, but it's an important hurdle.
The firm claims that not only will the predictive software be stunning in
terms of accuracy, but also that the device will understand when an
erroneous touch on the screen has been made.
For the user, predictive typing can take a little getting used to, and it
will be interesting to see how patient users will be. There's a lot this
device is advertised as being able to do: full Internet browsing, e-mail,
short message service (SMS) messaging, photos at 2 meagpixels, mapping and
GPS, and more.
Perhaps the greatest plus of this devices is that it is powered by a
mobile version of Mac OS X, the Unix-based graphical operating system
which I believe is one of the best for consumer use. The operating system
is rock-solid, and is only getting better as Apple prepares a new version
for release sometime this year. The phone itself is a multiband GSM-band
phone which should operate in just about any country on earth where
there's cellular service.
Despite these good steps, there may be drawbacks for some. Critics have
noted that Apple isn't allowing outside contributors to create software to
run on the iPhone. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been quoted as saying he wants
to make sure the phone works, as would the cellular network of iPhone
retailer Cingular Wireless, reportedly soon to become AT&T Wireless. While
nothing I've ever put on a Cingular-based Palm Treo has done any harm to
the network, so far as I know, I guess anything could happen. But not
being able to slap on a favorite program may be a bit of a disappointment,
especially since the add-on software market for Palm and Windows Mobile
devices is a rather robust one.
Then again, the iPod-like functionality of the iPhone can't be easily
duplicated on a Palm or Windows Mobile device, however good each might be
for toting songs and videos around. If the iPhone's music and video
experiences are as good as the iPod's, this could push the mobile phone
category into all sorts of new dimensions.
One thing worth noting: Apple will likely have the iPhone in stores on
time or slightly ahead of its June 2007 launch. By contrast, I'm still
waiting for a U.S. launch of Microsoft's "Origami" handheld computer,
which garnered a few headlines in February 2006, but which has neither a
phone nor any noticeable market share in this country.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2007, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com