Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…
That’s how Steve Jobs introduced the new Apple iPhone during his Macworld Expo 2007 keynote address. If he’s right, and this device turns out to be the first shot fired in a new mobile revolution, what will it mean for content developers?
With a projected $500 entry level price point and Apple publicly setting a goal for a %1 share of the mobile phone market in 2008, the iPhone probably won’t mean that content developers can toss our WAP browser in the digital dumpster just yet. Still, the coming opportunities this shift in the landscape may present for delivering higher quality on-demand audio and video content to a mobile audience are encouraging.
As more news for developers becomes available, one area we’ll be paying close attention to is how full featured the iPhone version of Safari will be. So far not much has been revealed in the Safari Developer Connection but got an early sneak peak at the iPhone, reports that it is a modified version of Safari. If these modifications turn out to be about adding new features and optimizations (the pinch) that make the browser work better on this platform, then that will be good news. But if the iPhone version of Safari becomes a stripped down version in the fashion of Internet Explorer Mobile then that could be a disappointment.
An early clue to see which direction this heads will be to see if Safari on the iPhone will use Flash or Flash Lite, or no Flash. Tough to tell from the keynote demo – as these pictures and this discussion indicate.
Perhaps an even more telling marker will be to see what happens when you text the iPhone a link to a third party audio or video file. Will the texted URL be hot on the iPhone so that the user can easily download the linked content, similar to how it works today with some carriers and devices? Or will the link be inactive, as how it currently appears to work with other carriers and devices? And what will the file size limitation be on third party content delivered this way? From our tests regarding the delivery of on-demand 3GP video and MP3 audio content to mobile devices via SMS, iPhone partner
Cingular AT&T ranked among the more open carriers regarding this aspect of third party mobile content delivery. Let’s urge them to continue down that path.
ContentDeveloper.com will be tracking these three issues in particular because when you combine the potential upside of the browser, plug-in, and SMS possibilities with the desktop type feature set and OSX foundation of the iPhone, the result could provide fresh fuel for the democracy of distribution to take on new shapes as the mobile audience becomes empowered with tools that allow them to more easily bypass gatekeepers who want to control access to third party content. In other words…
If the iPhone can help topple another set of Walled Gardeners it will be a welcomed ally to independent content developers everywhere.
YouTube enclosure of iPhone demo from CBS News
For developers focused on delivering content that requires full 3G mobile broadband to create a satisfying user experience, Apple’s decision to arm the iPhone with 2.75G EDGE rather than UMTS may be a something of a letdown. But with the iPhone’s built in 802.11b/g WiFi, it’s a letdown that’s relatively easy to forgive. It’s worth noting here that RIM made the same choice going with EDGE over UMTS with their recent launch of the Blackberry Pearl.
Also, it might have been nice to have an unlocked version of the iPhone available so the mobile services consumer could have at least some freedom to select the wireless provider that works best for them. Apple’s reported multi year exclusive contract with T is bad news for those hoping a version for fellow GSM based provider TMobile might be on the horizon. But again it will be somewhat easy to forgive here if the payoff is the delivery of more new provider integrated services like visual voicemail.
And for those focused on creating rather than consuming multimedia content with their mobile device, perhaps the Nokia N93i offers some things to think about.
Overall though it’s hard to watch that keynote demo and not come away optimistic about the impact the iPhone could have on content developers who want to connect with a mobile audience. By raising the bar on what is possible, the iPhone might just raise the mobile audience’s expectations about what features should be part of their mobile device, regardless of the manufacturer. Let’s hope Apple’s friendly wake up call to Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Sanyo, Samsung, Palm, Sprint, Verizon, Motorola, et al. can inspire everyone working in the mobile space, content developers included, to up their game.
Even after such a buzz inducing introduction to the public, the iPhone does have its skeptics though. And that’s probably a good thing. From contrarians worrying about possible Apple arrogance to those simply concerned that a certain scandal could evolve into something that might eventually distract those in charge of executing strategy, these storylines should hopefully help keep any pending irrational exuberance about Apple in check.
My favorite dose of pessimism could be this brilliantly succinct and rather earthy perspective spotted in a comment on this Engadget Mobile blog post about the iPhone not being a smartphone:
…a high priced phone for hippies.