While the industry and quite a number of customers are waiting for the iPhone to finally be released (Apple official release date: June 29), c|net has gone through all the publicly known features and created a nice summary of what we are to expect from Apple's latest gadget based on the commercial.
Now that everyone's waiting for the iPhone and its innovative user interface – have you seen Microsoft's product / vision video on "Surface"? It's well worthwhile … The system has been announced for public availability at the end of the year.
But wait – there are quite a number of similarities to Jeff Han's impressive work; watch the video:
For those who – like me, intially – thought Surface was a nice copy of what Jeff Han had done, you can find a very nice overview of multitouch and related projects on Bill Buxton's website. Bill tracks back the history of multitouch interfaces until 1982.
Still, the question remains: What are the use cases for such a system? With a price tag of $5.000-10.000, this will not be a PC replacement any time soon. It might also be a bit expensive for a digital photo organizer. I find the kiosk examples in the marketing videos more convincing. Still, this could be a Product Management challenge – how to position this device with its cool technology, how to identify the latent user needs that will make this an irresistible device (apart from "it demoes well", which it sure does).
Update: The Register has, as always, a biting comment on Microsoft Surface, saying
for Microsoft it's just another attempt at getting its software out from the beige boxes under our desks to somewhere, anywhere, else.
You'll all have heard about it – Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. (no more "Apple Computers Inc.") has demonstrated the upcoming iPhone, to be released in June 07 in the US (in Q4 in Europe, in Asia probably 2008). The iPhone features just one button ("Home"), a giant touch-sensitive screen with "Multi touch" abilities and runs a (probably stripped-down) version of Mac OS X (although Apple's marketing pages refer to it just as "OS X").
I've been using Handspring's (and later palmOne's) Treos for nearly four years now. I've been very happy with them: they allowed me to reduce the number of devices from two to one (from a mobile phone and a PDA to just one smartphone). Nevertheless, Palm OS seems to have got stuck in development somewhere – no multitasking, slow, syncing actually only works properly with Windows … and I won't go for a Windows Mobile device. Moreover, although Handspring (and later Palm) have done a tremendous job of integrating phone functionality into an OS that had not been designed with this intent in mind, the Treo still feels like a PDA with add-on phone functionality. And I'd love to have my iTunes music with me as well (which cannot be played from the Treo; and even playing non-DRMed music from the Treo isn't much fun).
So again I'm stuck with two devices – the Treo and an 80 GB 5th generation iPod. Moreover, I recently began to heavily use the mobile Internet on my Treo's Blazer browser. It works, kind of … but it's not exactly fun. This is why I will definitely have to get one of Apple's new gizmos. Not only because I've got that Early Adopter virus(TM), because I'm an Apple aficionado and fascinated by all new technology, but because this thing appears to have been designed to serve the following purposes perfectly:
- making calls
- listening to music
- browsing the web
- reading and writing e-mails
… and I believe that at some points you just have to start from scratch again, drop bloated approaches covered with "scar tissue" (Alan Cooper) and held together with band-aids, and go out and try new ideas based on what people actually need and want to do. (The mobile phone industry appears rather help- and clueless as to what to offer their customers as most people don't seem to be willing to use all the cool features in their phones.)
Oh, and another thing: In "The Invisible Computer", Don Norman argues that the future will provide us with lots and lots of specialized devices – one for each purpose. I guess he was wrong I'm very much looking forward to actually test-driving one of these things, to see whether Apple's new product can live up to the promise. Have they really re-invented the phone? At least they've got a lot of attention and shaken up the industry quite a bit (again).
Update: Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini has put together a very nice and detailed analysis of the iPhone's strenghts and weaknesses (as far as can be seen from the available material). Definitely worth a read!