The iPhone Is Not The End Of Innovation

from the it-keeps-on-going dept

There's just something when we see a dominant technology out there that makes people assume that no one will ever out innovate it, and then fear that we're stuck with the dominant player forever. Adam Theirer has a post discussing this concept in relation to a recent paper by Robert Hahn and Hal Singer, Why the iPhone Won't Last Forever and What the Government Should Do to Promote its Successor, which highlights how dominant platforms often appear insurmountable, but often quickly are defeated from unexpected sources. Thus, worrying about things like exclusive arrangements or if the platform is too closed off may be a waste of time. Eventually, the market ends up taking care of it. The paper points out that previous technologies are often declared the "end of innovation" as well, such as the Motorola MicroTAC flip phone (I had one, ages ago), which Fortune described in 1989 by saying:
Portable phones won't get a lot smaller than this one. After all, they have to reach from your ear to your mouth.
Take a look:
And no more innovation ever happened in mobile phones over the past twenty years, right?


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Esahc (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 7:46pm

    Progress

    "Thus, worrying about things like exclusive arrangements or if the platform is too closed off may be a waste of time."

    I really don't think its a waist of time at all, mainly because many times when you complain or hear others complain it will inspire someone to do something about it.

    "I can do it better" has been the inspiration for many innovators.

     

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      Clown Down, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 8:56am

      Re: Progress

      How is it, when you have the correct spelling of a word in text that you quoted, you still manage to misspell the word?

      Stupidity?
      Ignorance?
      Fuckstickiness?

      I'd suggest you get a dictionary, but in this case it would have been redundant.

       

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        Some Other Guy, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 10:55am

        Re: Re: Progress

        I tend to assume some degree of dyslexia - just so long as the message gets through and the text is not so annoying as to cause me to stop reading it, all is well.

        But I agree such things do have a tendency to leap out and stab you in the brain via the eye.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 1:43pm

        Re: Re: Progress

        Jackassery, douchebaggery, or asshattery. Take your pick.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 9:26am

      Re: Progress

      You're right. I don't think it'll be a "waist" of time. It may or may not be a waste of time, but certainly not a "waist."

       

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    Kenneth Welch, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 8:09pm

    It's not just the hardware...

    the iphone is popular because of the software capabilities. and with the implementation of the app store (well after jailbraking allowed for 3rd party apps), it became even better. i honestly don't know anyone who likes the thing for the physical design of the phone... it's like 98% dicking around, and 2% phone. innovation comes from the software and its ability to use the resources of better hardware processing. when motorola came out with the razor, everyone thought it looked cool. when apple came out with the iphone, people saw it as the smallest computer that could even make a phone all if need be. get the fuck to it

     

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    Kenneth Welch, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 8:09pm

    It's not just the hardware...

    the iphone is popular because of the software capabilities. and with the implementation of the app store (well after jailbraking allowed for 3rd party apps), it became even better. i honestly don't know anyone who likes the thing for the physical design of the phone... it's like 98% dicking around, and 2% phone. innovation comes from the software and its ability to use the resources of better hardware processing. when motorola came out with the razor, everyone thought it looked cool. when apple came out with the iphone, people saw it as the smallest computer that could even make a phone all if need be. get the fuck to it

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 8:29pm

    Android wut.

     

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      zellamayzao, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 6:59am

      Re:

      Aside from the fact this comment does little to point out the innovation the android platform has accomplished, I do have to agree. I am an apple fan hands down and would love to have an iphone. Sadly I cannot force myself to leave verizon which has excellent coverage in my area to switch to at&t which has less that lacking coverage in my area. So I am patiently waiting for verizon to get either a) an android powered phone. Or b) the iphone

       

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      zellamayzao, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 6:59am

      Re:

      Aside from the fact this comment does little to point out the innovation the android platform has accomplished, I do have to agree. I am an apple fan hands down and would love to have an iphone. Sadly I cannot force myself to leave verizon which has excellent coverage in my area to switch to at&t which has less that lacking coverage in my area. So I am patiently waiting for verizon to get either a) an android powered phone. Or b) the iphone

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 7:09am

      Re:

      lol

       

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    Ilfar, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 8:46pm

    Smaller?!?

    If it's not big and heavy enough I can feel it in my pocket, how am I supposed to know if it's still there except for touching it all the time... I don't really want to walk down the street patting myself repeatedly, it's not a good look ;)

    If the article had said "...won't get a lot shorter..." rather than 'smaller', it'd still be pretty accurate, wouldn't it?

    Finally - You drop that thing, you crack pavement and break toes. We called them our 'brick' for a reason ;) I drop my phones these days and screens crack, components go flying, and cases break.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 9:56pm

      Re: Smaller?!?

      "If it's not big and heavy enough I can feel it in my pocket, how am I supposed to know if it's still there except for touching it all the time... I don't really want to walk down the street patting myself repeatedly, it's not a good look ;)"

      Perhaps a new phone that has an autovibrate feature where you can tell it to vibrate every so often (ie: you can choose to vibrate every 5 minutes or 10 minutes, etc...). Then you'll start walking around with a random buzz and your pants randomly vibrating repeatedly instead. Hey, it's an improvement. Or perhaps an electric shock every once in a while, that ought to wake you up.

       

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      >>, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 7:11am

      Re: Smaller?!?

      Ahh, you are talking about a phone - right?

       

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      Big Al, Oct 5th, 2009 @ 3:16pm

      Re: Smaller?!?

      Doesn't the iPhone cover this by:
      a) being big
      b) randomly overheating
      Yes, I know, there's an app for that - it's called instant warmth

       

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    SimonTek, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 10:02pm

    Government?

    WTF? The Government has no responsibility on this. Since when have they been useful? Lets have the good ole enterprise work on this, aka capitalism.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 12:00am

    1. only pinheads think that we are at the end roads of innovation.

    2. large corporate entities will do all they can to KEEP the govt from promoting a successive competitor

    3. for the life of me I can not figure out why the iphone is as popular as it is. small hdd, locked to a less than stellar network and a touch screen interface with no tactile responsiveness.
    oddly, i would much prefer that my 120gb ipod had a phone jammed into it as an afterthought than any of the current iphone offerings... but thats just my twisted personal opinion :)

    4. i had a couple different starTAC models... they were cool.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 6:25pm

      Re:

      i had a couple different starTAC models... they were cool.

      Myself as well. And as phones, they far outperformed anything I've had since. That's progress?

       

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      rwahrens (profile), Oct 5th, 2009 @ 3:52am

      Re:

      It's popular because it has a better OS that's easier to use, syncs with your email, contacts & calendar, surfs the web better than any other smart phone out there. Plus, it has an iPod built in.

      Plus:

      It has more memory than any other smart phone built in.

      It isn't an HDD, its flash memory.

      Has a touch screen that's more responsive than those of competing machines, contrary to your assertion.

      The ATT network where I live is not only quite good now, but has improved nicely over the last year since I got my 3G. Sorry your milage is different.

      All that said, as tech improves, additional capabilities emerge and new companies appear, naturally, innovation is not dead.

      Of course, nothing says that the next innovative product WON'T come from Apple. The article, in its comment about the Gov't supporting the successor, seems to assume that the next innovator after the iPhone will be a competitor of Apples'.

      Apple has a record of topping its own products, innovating beyond its own beginnings. This doesn't mean that competitors can't beat Apple - eventually, I'd hope one will, if only to keep Apple on its toes! But don't count them out just because the iPhone now dominates the tech industry, if not market sales.

       

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    ..., Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 7:16am

    "worrying about things like exclusive arrangements "

    between business - agree

    legislating of exclusive arrangements is a different story

     

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    i.jan.cremer, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 9:28am

    iphone ischmone

    also, the iphone being the be all end all phone is really a usa viewpoint. in the rest of the world, nobody really cares. perhaps it never really was that innovative in europe, where the likes of nokia have put out much more interesting phones (see the fully open source n900 for example).

     

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    David, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 10:58am

    iphone popular because it standardized

    The iPhone (which I refuse to get) seems to be popular because there is a dedicated company (Apple) that controls it and seemed to have designed it for a specific population... mostly middle to upper class buyer who spend more money (200-300$ phone, a slighly more expensive phone plan and a required data plan... thats more expensive than what I and a few of my frineds have).

    In return, Apple essentially garenttess to the developer and user a consistent platform (screen size, operating system, internet and data access for every user-- since that's a requirement for buying the phone), not too mention almost garenteeing that the user is costumer who is more likely to spend money.

    It is important to note that they also provide a decent product.

    As oppost to microsoft (or microshi%). MS just tried to convert a desktop into a smaller screen. But since it is not as controlled as Apple, I can use any video player with any codec; i can use a sd card if i buy the right phone; i can use the whole phone an extra usb drive (again, I have to buy the right phone); I can use the phone on any service without 'jailbreaking' anything; I can have cut-and-paste WITHOUT waiting for a single company (that is Apple) to design it or allow someone else to design it... who the f are they to tell me what to do on MY >300$ device?

    That said, they provided a consistency that every developer can use, and they designed a prodoct that was ment to be used by hand on the go!

    The problem is that now they are preventing others from doing the same with Apple/ATT power of monopoly and intimidation... and that is where a govt is needed to change that power.

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 11:25am

    Undisclosed Issues

    The assertion that "There's just something when we see a dominant technology out there that makes people assume that no one will ever out innovate it, and then fear that we're stuck with the dominant player forever." Therefore "... worrying about things like exclusive arrangements or if the platform is too closed off may be a waste of time. is a bogus argument. In the logical extreme this is equivalent to saying saying that we are all going to die so there is no point in worrying about things like the FDA making sure that your food is safe.

    The the purpose of this type of misdirection is to detract from side issues such as the responsibility of the vendor to deliver value to the customer. While everything comes to a natural end, eventually; vendors now have the capability to unnaturally "turn-off" your devices whenever it suites them. Thus your expensive device becomes a paper weight.

    Yes the market should determine when a product has become terminal. However, companies should be constrained in taking arbitrary unilateral actions that damages the property that the customers have bought.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 10:51pm

      Re: Undisclosed Issues

      Then I have the natural ability to "Go to a competitor" whenever it suits me.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 10:52pm

      Re: Undisclosed Issues

      Also, if I have an agreement with my vendor that they will provide a service and they don't, that's breach of contract. Then I can demand my money back. And if they did it on purpose that's fraud, which means I might be able to demand damages if I needed my product for something important.

       

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        Steve R. (profile), Oct 4th, 2009 @ 5:13am

        Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

        You must not have read any EULAs lately.

         

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          rwahrens (profile), Oct 5th, 2009 @ 3:58am

          Re: Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

          EULAs are of doubtful legality. Recently, a court ruled that contrary to the EULA you "agree" to in installing software, a EULA does not license software to you, but transfers ownership. So I would caution not to assume EULAs are of any automatic value in determining the relative rights of the parties to a sales transaction for a piece of software.

          Courts will have the final say on that score, and many States have consumer protection laws that also may impact those rights.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2009 @ 5:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

            EULAs are of doubtful legality. Recently, a court ruled that contrary to the EULA you "agree" to in installing software,...
            Courts will have the final say on that score, and many States have consumer protection laws that also may impact those rights.


            That's why you should always have an attorney to look over any kind of EULA or other contract before you agree to it. There are many issues involved which may not be apparent on the face to the lay person. Lay persons without the appropriate legal training who think that they can just read such things and understand all the legal implications involved are being foolish. Always get legal advice.

             

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              Steve R. (profile), Oct 5th, 2009 @ 7:44am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

              Good advice, but of dubious value. Are you going to pay an attorney $$$$ to look at the EULA for a $50 game?

              Perhaps even more egregious, do you think you would ever find someone at the game company who would actually negotiate the terms of a contract?

              Personally, if any contract is to be considered valid these companies must provide you with a representative to discuss the terms of the purchase. The current approach of "contract by adhesion" should simply, in my opinion, be made illegal.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2009 @ 10:42am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

                Good advice, but of dubious value. Are you going to pay an attorney $$$$ to look at the EULA for a $50 game?

                Easy answer: If the the publisher of that $50 game wants you to agree to some kind of EULA then you should consider the cost of legal advice in addition to the cost of the game and then ask yourself if that game is really worth the *total* cost. If everyone did that the the publishers would probably stop including those EULAs in the first place and just rely on copyright law. But as long as fools are willing to willy-nilly accept such legal agreements without legal advice then the publishers will keep including them.

                Personally, if any contract is to be considered valid these companies must provide you with a representative to discuss the terms of the purchase.

                That sounds like you're claiming the typical EULA is unenforceable anyway. Are you a licensed attorney or is that "legal" advice just another example of what I'm talking about?

                 

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 10:54pm

      Re: Undisclosed Issues

      "vendors now have the capability to unnaturally "turn-off" your devices whenever it suites them."

      Well, yes, I can't force them to serve me against their will, that would almost be slavery. But they can't arbitrarily turn off my devices if a contractual agreement says must provide me a service unless they are willing to pay damages.

       

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        Steve R. (profile), Oct 5th, 2009 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

        You are correct to say that "I can't force them to serve me against their will,..", but you missing the point. Let's suppose you buy a game and that game calls home every time you run it. Now the game company introduces a new version of the game and disables your ability to play that game. You bought that game and have an entitlement (property right) to use that game, the game company does not have the right to trespass onto or inspect your equipment to do whatever they want. You have rights too, learn to stand-up for them.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 11:14pm

      Re: Undisclosed Issues

      Ok, I can kinda see where you're kinda heading with the FDA. Here is what I think.

      The FDA analogy is kinda different because that deals with the health and welfare of people. Aside from the fact that the FDA is a corrupt agency I do think we do need a (non corrupt) FDA that does regulate food and drugs to some extent to ensure a certain degree of safety or at least proper labeling of products.

      Phones are somewhat different. To the extent that safety and health are concerned I have no problems with regulation (ie: regulating cell phone frequencies and intensity to potentially reduce the chances of it causing brain cancer). To the extent that the issue involves ensuring a clean environment and reducing pollution I also have no problems with regulation. Of course there is the possibility (and in the real world this happens) that the government will pass laws under environmental and health safety pretext when the real motive has to do with playing corporate favoritism or helping someone with a potential financial conflict of interest. But ignoring such corruption I have no problems with laws that are meant for safety and environmental protection. The free market has little incentive to protect the environment and as a society we should, to some extent, value environmental protection and product safety over economic efficiency. After if we lived in a free market everyone would be able to purchase bombs and any gun they want. But of course, to some extent, we value safety more than we do economic efficiency. So some things we value more than economic efficiency and only then are free market distortions acceptable.

      However, I also believe that people should have a good amount of health freedom and they should be responsible for their own decisions when deciding what medicine they want to take (be it natural/herbs or pharmaceuticals or whatnot). People should be properly informed about the potential risks of anything they want to take and the seller of a product should have proper labeling. However, if someone makes a decision knowing very well the potential risks of their decision and the studies or lack of studies that went into some treatment they want to undergo and the treatment does harm them it was their decision. While I do believe in the FDA regulating product safety to some extent I also believe in health freedom as well.

      Now having said that, to the extent that an issue doesn't have anything to do with health and safety I am all for free markets. Of course there are limits, I do not think that a vendor should promise you X and deliver Y if Y

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 11:25pm

        Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

        sp/After if we lived in a free market everyone would be able to purchase bombs and any gun they want./After all if we lived in a free market everyone would be able to purchase bombs and any gun they want.

        Of course there are limits. I do not think that a vendor should promise you X and deliver Y if Y than X and Y must include at least everything that was agreed upon along with nothing that would reasonably make any aspect of what was agreed upon less desirable (ie: if I agreed upon a cell phone contract and then that cell phone arbitrarily had a 1 min advertisement every time I tried to use it but that wasn't part of the agreement then that should be a breach of contract even if the agreement does not explicitly say no such ads exist. This is a bit of an extreme example) unless those aspects were also agreed upon.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 11:28pm

          Re: Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

          Oh I see what the problem is. Techdirt interprets HTML brackets as HTML code when I meant them to be greater than or equal to sings. Let me try something > or what about >

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 11:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

            signs * Ok, now I'm tired of commenting and correcting in this post. I give up, this isn't working well for me.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2009 @ 9:05am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

            I wonder if techdirt has an escape sequence so I can use greater than or less than symbols. I have the thing on plain text mode to no avail.

             

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        Steve R. (profile), Oct 4th, 2009 @ 5:35am

        Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

        My original wording was convoluted. This is about regulation. Theirer's thesis is that innovation will occur naturally therefore we don't need regulation. This is logically flawed.

        Hence my FDA example. While we live, we still need regulations to assure that our food is safe. The fact that we die (or that an innovative product dies) has very little to do with an immediate need, if required, to regulate food quality (device neutrality).

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2009 @ 8:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Undisclosed Issues

          also, another point, to the extent that free markets are distorted by things like intellectual property and such then economic regulation of the market is warranted. While I generally believe that things like patents should be rare and they shouldn't last very long because free markets are optimal, if we are going to distort the free market with government sanctioned monopolies they should be economically regulated monopolies to that extent. Unregulated monopolies are bad, they reduce aggregate output and higher price and regulation is due in order to reverse the effects of the original government granted monopoly and increase aggregate output and reduce price.

           

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    roxanneadams (profile), Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 11:39am

    The only thing that made the Google G1 worth owning was the open Android programming system. Everything else about the phone sucks, including the battery life, but the Android-based phones have the greatest potential, if Google will just leave the programmers alone, instead of circling the wagons and demanding takedowns of third-party ROM hacks.

     

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    fjpoblam (profile), Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    WHO assumed???

    Re "people assume that no one will ever out innovate it, and then fear that we're stuck with the dominant player forever"! You've left me wondering who those "people" are. I suspect most "people" have functioning brains, especially the folks who use iPhones. I suspect no one feared or assumed we'd be stuck with a dominant player FOREVER. That's patently ridiculous!

     

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    Griff (profile), Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    It's the apps, stupid

    If someone made a touchscreen phone (lets call it the xPhone) which came with a set of development tools that would allow the developer of an iPhone app to effortlessly port their app to the xPhone provided the hardware capablities were sufficient, the xPhone could have a bulging app store almost overnight. I'm surprised this isn't anyone's technical strategy for erasing the lead Apple have.
    (Of course, there'd be a native app devt environment too, but the "import app from iPhone source" would be prominent).

    Or do developers agree when they submit an app to the app store to not develop it for other platforms ?

     

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      zellamayzao, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 2:34pm

      Re: It's the apps, stupid

      Im gonna go with apple probably has the developers locked into some sort of agreement that if they submit and have an app approved for use in the apple app store then thats the only platform that app can be used on.

      Now I dont see why they couldnt take the code and tweak the app and make it something else entirely but similar to the app for apple and put it on the xPhone. Remember apple doesnt like to have their stuff available for use on other devices.

       

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        rwahrens (profile), Oct 5th, 2009 @ 4:04am

        Re: Re: It's the apps, stupid

        Source, please! You can't make a crazy assertion like that without citing a source.

        Nothing I've seen or heard in the tech media has mentioned anything like that - any number of developers of iPhone software have developed for Android, WinMo or console games.

        Not that Apple might not love to lock them in - but I'd doubt the legality of such a move.

         

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    Gill Bates, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 4:24pm

    It is ...

    if one drinks the Apple KOOL-AID

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 6:58pm

    Anybody Remember“The Prisoner”

    What do you want?

    Innovation. We want innovation.

    You won’t get it.

    By hook or by crook, we will.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Fashion Innovation

    Portable phones won't get a lot smaller than this one. After all, they have to reach from your ear to your mouth.

    The author of that quote didn't underestimate technological innovation so much as he underestimated the levels to which consumers would be willing to lower their expectations of sound quality because shortening phones (and the attendant elimination of "sidetone") has generally resulted in lower sound quality. I guess you could say he underestimated the ability of "marketing" to convince people that form and fashion are more important than function. That's the innovation here.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2009 @ 1:24pm

      Re: Fashion Innovation

      The thing is that quote is more of a sales pitch than a serious remark. It's not that the author underestimated anything, it's that the author wasn't really being literal and meant it as a casual sentence rather than a serious one.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2009 @ 2:45pm

        Re: Re: Fashion Innovation

        I mean, if it were written in some peer review journal of techs or something then I'll take it more seriously.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Brand New Apple iPhone 3Gs 32GB

    and if you act now instead of paying $100 a month for four months you pay $200 a month for TWO MONTHS. THAT'S RIGHT. But you have to act now because the deal ends soon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2009 @ 11:48pm

    gee, all those patents, all those obstructions, and yet still so much innovation.

    Sort of shoots down some of the favorite theories around here, doesn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 5th, 2009 @ 12:57am

      Re:

      gee, all those patents, all those obstructions, and yet still so much innovation.

      Sort of shoots down some of the favorite theories around here, doesn't it?


      Only for those who haven't read what we've written here.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2009 @ 2:28pm

      Re:

      Life does not run on a binary system, unfortunately. Pointing to an example of innovation does not, in fact, disprove the assertion that obstructions...well, obstruct innovation.

      To give you a nice metaphor:

      "Traffic jams slow down traffic."
      "I'm in a traffic jam and still moving, so I just disproved your theory!"

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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