The Ultimate iPhone Killer: iTself

1:16:00 AM

The buzz word is, what, if anything, could ever compete with Apple or produce the sought after "iPhone Killer"? The answer is: no one. But, will apple crumble under the weight of its own empire?

History and Nature run rampant with examples cultures and creatures who, as the undisputed top of the food chain, become their own worst enemies. The biggest threat to the Roman Empire was its own corruption. A human being's natural predator is other people. The Church during the middle ages found that one of its own priests, Martin Luther, was the one to tear it apart, and when new adult lions take over a pride, they often kill the young and thus eliminate the chance of any rivalry against offspring he later fathers.

The catch-word in the world of smart-phones is who or what could stand up to the marvels of the iPhone and shine brighter than it. Who or what could stand against its resplendent coolness and utility and garner the favor of the public. What, if anything, will be the "iPhone Killer." The answer is nothing will, I think.

After all, it is undeniably sleek, inexpensive (not counting service fees) and easy to use. Most Web ware is disigned specifically for its screen. It is the bench mark. It has no other natural predators - not even the Blackberry - or at least not in the same way.

But an ill wind is blowing through the social sphere for Apple. It would seem that the Mac world without any natural predators, and perhaps without the demanding vision of an ailing Steve Jobs, they've seemed to start showing little cracks and chicks in their armor, especially in their hallmark of out-thinking or defining design and ultra-no-brainer-usability.

When my wife had to call upon Apple Care to replace her 15" Mac Book Pro, her model had been discontinued and was sent the latest "upgrade." A stickler for form, she opted to haggle her way to whatever the warehouses still had in stock that resembled her older model. In the end, she fell in-line with the clamor and debate that said, "Why didn't Apple offer a matte screen when releasing the next version of their line of laptops?"

While we’ve come to accept that today’s LCD displays, particularly on notebooks, are mostly of the glossy variety, Apple took it a step further with a glass sheet on top of what already appears to be a glossy LCD screen. The affect is an unsettling double-reflection from a display that’s mirror-like.

"We’ve spent a considerable amount of time with the full range of Apple notebook displays, from the matte and glossy from the previous generation MacBook Pro to the “glassy” unibody MacBook. And we’ll be the first say that the aesthetic designs of the new unibody MacBooks are worthy of a museum, but in terms of usability, the glass-covered screen is a pain to work with even when indoors"."MacBook Pro Glossy vs. Matte FIGHT!," February 26, 2009 by Marcus Yam

 At the end of the day, she "settled" on a 17" version that was selling in 2006, despite what she could have had with up-to-date hardware and processing power. She, the epitome of Apple's target audience that is characterized by an overarching attention to form over function, was happier with an older machine.

A month ago this popped up in my Facebook feed:

"I want to punch the dumbass at Apple who designed the latest shuffle. New shuffle is about as useful 40 lb sack of deflated footballs. Not only do I want a refund, but I now officially want Apple to get swallowed by an 8-track and Etch-a-sketch revival." - September 4, 2009 (Name withheld out of courtesy).

Presumably, the issue here was that the new shuffle has no buttons. Controlling its playback happens through controls on the headphones.

A few days later of Facebook:
"Adam P. officially hates his iphone." -September 16, 2009
A followup comment to someone considering buying an iPhone vs. continuing with a Blackberry, the same user said this:
"I'd stay stick with it. The iPhone offers the best user interface of any smartphone on the market. It's a joy to use, when it works. Unfortunately, it's tied to AT&T's decrepit network. 3G is frequently unusable, voice quality is poor, and I can seldom get through a call of more than ten minutes without having it drop. A fast car on poor roads makes little headway, while continuing to cost a lot."
This user makes a living as a computer professional, and granted he's quoting issues with his cellular carrier, but when there's only one option Apple has given for using its "fast car" then the utility of its gadget is united with the mobile carrier that supplies its pipeline. In short, it's no use pardoning the shortcomings of the iPhone because the affairs of AT&T is out of its hands. Presumably the folks who designed it dreamed, hoped and prayed that the success it has garnered is what we see today. They want to have everyone want one and own one without thinking that their options for service aught to be sufficient to accommodate infinite demand for their product.

Furthermore, it's a really swell idea and truly characteristic of Apple to have the iPhone's synchronize with iTunes. It's a really swell idea, in theory. But, anyone who has had to take their computer in for a service repair and had it returned empty and at factory condition knows that it's nearly impossible to restore iTunes back to the state you had it.

iTunes is a poor excuse for a synchronization software. Data is gold these days, and though Apple is known for removing as many buttons and extra screens as possible, having access to how and when and in which direction your data is being moved or stored is critical. It's not something to keep behind the closed doors of buttons, and certainly a task that should have more real estate than to mingle on the same patio as a juke box or a media shopping mall.

Ask anyone who has lost all their contacts when a reloaded iTunes automatically syncs and overwrites its empty library to your iPhone and you're looking at one miserable socialite.

Furthermore, if you, say, want to synchronize your contacts and calendar items with anything but iCal or MobileMe, you're in for quite a hacking adventure. Apple has yet to recognize (and it never did since that is its underlying ethos, and perhaps its beauty) that nowadays people are forming gadget ecologies. That is, when every gadget you own, touch and double click is made by Apple, there is harmony, style and perfection, but throw in a free radical like Microsoft Entourage and your whole Device's OS collapses.

Finally there are some strange hardware omissions to Apple's next generation of mainstay products. The new iPod Touch doesn't have a camera, while the iPod Nano does - but only for video. There's been a lot of speculation on why Apple, who has done the miraculous over the years with making the mouse a mainstay, creating (or at least making it commonplace) the Web app industry, for taking our mobile devices to the next level in the form of the first release of the iPhone, and in short, always being the pioneer, but now it would seem that they are becoming insincere with their fans. has a full treatment on why their next generation of products has, not just fallen short of what we have all come to expect from Apple - miracles, but also some of their peculiar decisions on both form, their strongest suit, and function. Here's the concluding thoughts from Gizmodo's article, "Why There Is No Camera In the iPod Touch and Why That Sucks" by Jesus Diaz:
"• Feature Evolution: This, to me, is the most reasonable explanation. Apple is getting oh-so-lazy. Or, better said, greedy. They are the number one player in every single category. They own the market. And they know the competition is just catching on. So instead of releasing an iPhone that is way better than the previous model, they release the modest upgrade of the iPhone 3GS. And instead of releasing an iPod touch with a nice camera, they just slap some new software, slightly updated guts and more memory.

That's what you get when a company owns an empire, and the other tiny people are trying to catch up with an already phenomenal device. The company gets slow and complacent, and does the minimum to keep its products ahead."
 And so, it would seem that Apple has a finally found its match: iTself. It's hard to imagine those years when Apple was a lame and crippled company; when there was no hope that it would ever survive, much like the word around town is shouting the end of Palm. It's hard to remember that Microsoft was hot and not an "Evil Empire," but behold! They passed the baton back over to Apple.

It may very well be that Apple continues to hold its dominance for many years to come, but, it's hard to conceive of that happening. See, Apple, at its core, loathes diversity. It thrives when all of the apples in the barrel are freshly provided by their orchard. Stick anything not grown by them and their bushels rot with from that one bad apple.

It's competition - particularly next generations of Android and WebOS - will have on its side, not only a coalition of mobile providers and Goolge's army of free products to draw from in the case of Android, but also an army of pasty faced youths who have a small learning curve ahead of them in designing for WebOS. In short Apple has fallen, already, way behind in what is the zeitgeist of Web 2.0: namely, open sourcing and open platforms.

They're miserly with their products and shun any incursion into their territory.

Frankly, that will be their undoing, and their time in the sun as the undisputed top of the food chain will fade.

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