iPhone App Store Proves The Smartphone Is The Computer - InformationWeek

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8/5/2008
09:00 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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iPhone App Store Proves The Smartphone Is The Computer

Paging Scott McNealy: Here's an update to your famous aphorism. It's not about the network anymore. (Well, OK, it is, but don't let facts get in the way of a good blog post.) The new, Web 2.0 truth is this: The smartphone is the computer. Apple put its foot in the door with its iPhone App Store, and now Verizon and all the cell phone operating system makers are joining in the mad rush to make a converged device (formerly called a smartphone) which will soon edge out the laptop.

Paging Scott McNealy: Here's an update to your famous aphorism. It's not about the network anymore. (Well, OK, it is, but don't let facts get in the way of a good blog post.) The new, Web 2.0 truth is this: The smartphone is the computer. Apple put its foot in the door with its iPhone App Store, and now Verizon and all the cell phone operating system makers are joining in the mad rush to make a converged device (formerly called a smartphone) which will soon edge out the laptop.I was put into this semi-philosophical mindset by the "smartphones for dummies" article in Monday's New York Times. The piece, Cell Phone Carriers Relax Grip On Content, conflated service providers -- AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint -- and mobile operating systems -- iPhone (or as I call it, little Mac OS), Symbian, LiMo. Amid this confusing jumble, the one thing which has become abundantly obvious just a scant two-and-a-half weeks since Apple opened up the iPhone to third-party software, is that consumers want their apps.

Indeed, with more than 25 million iPhone apps downloaded in the first 10 days of the Apple's App Store, the emerging mantra of all the carriers and the cell phone OS vendors is, my phone is more open to apps than your phone.

The amusing paradox here, of course, is that the iPhone, which is closed, is, practically speaking, actually more open than any of the "open" phones. I mean by this that, even though Apple gates which apps can run on non-jailbroken phones, there are way more apps right now for the iPhone than for the OpenMoko Neo Freerunner, a device so open you're allowed (imagine the freedom!) to program it yourself.

OK, but I digress. My main point stems from this thought: Think of the last time you were excited about buying software for your PC. I'm guessing this was sometime in 1997. These days, the most pressing laptop software acquisition experiences tend to revolve around much-needed legacy apps you can't get anymore, because they're either no longer sold or aren't supported under the latest operating system (paging Adobe PBE).

On the other hand, if you're an iPhone owner, I bet you got pretty excited when you were able to start downloading apps a few weeks ago. I know I was. (I know, you non-fanboys are thinking that iPhone owners get overly excited about everything.) When I was downloading the iPhone's NYTimes app, AOL Radio, and Suduko (yes, I splurged for $2.99), it struck me that the experience gave me that gadget vibe akin to the pleasure I felt when I unboxed a Microsoft app back in the Windows 3.1 days.

The final sign that the smartphone is the computer is the fact that I'm much more diligent about making sure that my iPhone is loaded up and charged properly before I travel than I am about attending to my laptop. (Truth be told, I often don't even take the latter with me anymore if I can get away with it.)

In the old days, when work was work and time off was leisure (nowadays, time off is work, too), I'd be more concerned about the messiness of having work apps residing on a fun device and vice versa. But now it's all the same, which is why -- wait for it -- the smartphone is the computer.

So what do you think? (Is the smartphone really the computer?)

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