Friday, January 26, 2007

iPhone redux - Ubiquitous computing or a Fashion Statement?

In a prior post Thoughts Illustrated: The Apple iPhone - Steve Jobs does it again at MacWorld I concluded my remarks about the iPhone by saying: " I want one".

After reading this more complete review of the iPhone: Between Doubt And Enthusiasm - Tech News - - Science & Technology, I'm not so sure.

I hark back to the The Plenitude (unpublished) by Rich Gold in which he describes his experiences designing Ubiquitous Computing Devices at PARC.
This cartoon is from a slide show that Rich presented frequently, and it includes the following caption:

" In Silicon Valley...there is religion of sorts called "convergence" . It is a belief that all media including TV viewing, movies, web surfing, telephoning, photos and reading will all collapse on to a small device that one can hold in one's hand and even go to bed with. That device would consitute all the media you would ever need and there would only be one media."

Sound familiar? It could pass as the design specs for the iPhone.

Rich's design experience at PARC led him to the conclusion that the religion of convergence was a false religion.. Here's Rich again in the caption that follows this cartoon:

" when the Palm Pilot arrived in the marketplace the biggest change was the physical design which spoke loudly FASHION ACCESSORY.

"To say that something is a fashion accessory is to say an object(or its creators)are concerned about the entire social infrastructure of the society. That they care about how people visually judge each other, the accoutrements that they w ear and the social hierarchies that they represent. Fashion is"tribal" , it is part of our mammalian, simian brains that devveloped when we hunted in packs, need to defend our territory and chose our alpha member to lead us. Engineering Ramifies into the issues of fashion and design imediately, so put it into the spec."

I think that Steve Job's put fashion statement into spec for the iPhone - and I agree with Rich Gold that cramming all the ubiquitous computing features into the iPhone, may be too big a bite of the Apple.

So, I have tempered my initial enthusiasm for the iPhone - and will wait and see if it is more than a fashion accessory that I don't need.

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