Cloud Computing and the iPhone

Mobile phone I am sticking to my story -- the iPhone 3G is fantastic. There are some issues however. The iPhone is much more than a "cell phone" -- it is a platform. The six basic elements of the platform are the iPhone itself, the network (AT&T in the United States), iTunes, the "App Store", MobileMe and, most importantly, the applications.

Some are saying that since the new iPhone 2.0 software is available for the original iPhone that there is no need to upgrade to the iPhone 3G. It is true that there is no need to but there are a number of good reasons to. The new iPhone uses the new "new AT&T" 3G network which is claimed to be twice as fast -- as something. Speed claims are rarely delivered upon but no doubt that the 3G network is faster. The receiver in the iphone is also better even when communicating with an AT&T non-3G tower. I have noticed at least one bar improvement here at the lake where there is no 3G tower. The WiFi implementation is better too. Not sure if it is the hardware or software that is improved but it is much more reliable and doesn't get confused about whether to use the cellular signal or the WiFi signal. I am getting ahead of myself but one of the neatest new applications is TruPhone. TruPhone allows you to make a phone call from your iPhone via WiFi even if there is *no* tower of any kind. This happens. I was visiting friends in New Hampshire last weekend and we had brunch at a nice place in a remote area. There was no AT&T or roaming partner signal. None. No service. The restaurant, however, had a very nice free WiFi signal. With TruPhone you can make calls to anywhere in the world at a very low price -- pennies per minute. If you are calling another TruPhone user, it is free. I made some calls with it today and the quality was quite good.

There are other reasons to get the new iPhone. It is a bit thinner and more rounded and feels really nice to hold. It is a joy to use. The 3G has a real GPS receiver so when you use maps it is not an estimate of where you are based on cell phone tower triangulations -- it is using satellites to pinpoint exactly where you are. This opens up a slew of "location based" applications -- where is the nearest pizza place? What are the nearest geocaches? How do I get from where I am to wherever? The battery life is claimed to be better but I am not so sure of that. The iPhone has so much more to offer that I think the usage will be higher and maybe effective battery life will actually be less -- that is the case for me so far. Good idea to have a car charger on hand. One of the irritating things about the original iPhone is that you can't plug your favorite headset into it without a special adapter. The new iPhone accepts any headset and does so without any adapter. Bottom line, it is a really great device. There are many iPhone killers out there and more coming but I don't think they will match the overall experience of the Apple iPhone.

The network is another story and I have written about it in not so glowing terms in each iPhone update. I do think they are getting better. As I have always said, it depends on where you live. In the Northeast, Verizon has better coverage but AT&T is putting up new towers -- one just came online two miles from where I live in Connecticut. Naturally, major cities are covered. I also detect that AT&T customer service is really trying hard to satisfy their customers. The overall model of the industry is bad -- limited choice, get locked into two year contracts, and penalties if you want to move to something better.

iTunes continues to dominate online digital music sales but is facing more and more competition. I have been buying my music from Amazon. They have a nice downloader that puts the mp3 music directly into iTunes and there are no digital rights management restrictions. I like this because I can put purchased music on the iTrike. One of the other great applications on the iPhone is Pandora. This has become my music of choice and I play it through the Squeezebox. The Music Genome Project is awesome. If you love music, I highly recommend it.

iTunes is is integrated tightly (as all things Apple are) with the App Store. Both present easy ways to spend your money from your iPhone. I see this as a huge emerging trend. Call it m-Commerce (mobile commerce) if you want. While sitting in the dentist office awaiting your turn you can buy music and applications from your iPhone. An eBay application let's you spend your money -- or monitor your auctions-- there too. On launch day earlier this month there 500+ applications available for the iPhone. There will be many thousands of applications. So far, about 25% of them are free and supported by various flavors of advertising. You click to find the nearest pizza place and Apple gets a slice of the pie. Some are expensive but add huge value. I bought an aviation application for $69.99 that does everything a pilot can imagine. You can file flight plans with the FAA, check weather radar, airport runway lengths, pilot advisories, and much more. I am not a gamer but millions of people are and the iPhone accelerometer allows you to shake or wave the iPhone as inputs to the game. I have to admit that the Phone Saber is fun, albeit a bit geeky -- lets you take on Darth Vader. The impressive part to me is that the applications are stored in the iPhone but also in iTunes. When you sync you are syncing calendar, email, contacts, and the applications. When you click the App Store icon on the phone it tells you if any of your apps have an update available. When you do a search at the iTunes Store, the search results are organized by artists, albums, movies, etc. and applications.

On the flip side, organization is an issue. So far I have 55 applications. I expect to get many more. The human mind is amazing in terms of icon recognition. You just know that the Phone Saber is at the upper left of the fourth page of applications. But at some point it is overwhelming. I expect Apple or perhaps a third party developer will soon introduce an "app launcher" that allows you to tag an application as news, weather, financial, aviation, game, etc. and let you drill down to what you want.

Last, and I hope not least is MobileMe. Apple says it is the "Simple way to keep everything in sync". The vision is great -- your photos, contacts, email, and calendar are all pushed to your iPhone from the "Cloud". You can make a change on the iPhone and it shows up in Outlook or you can make a change in Outlook and it shows up in your iPhone. Those that work for companies that have Microsoft Exchange or IBM's Lotus Notes already have this kind of capability but there are millions of us who are "independent" and have our own mail server or use gmail, or Yahoo! or any of numerous other services. With MobileMe we can be like the "corporate" world but we can set our own policies and practices. We can have Exchange or Notes without Exchange or Notes. The cloud approach is clearly the next big thing (see prior stories on this and also by Irving), but Apple has stubbed their toe big time on this. There are numerous analysts, bloggers, and experts who have ripped them apart about the failings. As previously reported, I struggled with MobileMe the first few days but then it began to work properly for a few days albeit with some hiccups. Beginning this week it is not working properly. Calendar entries get duplicated, synchronization is sluggish or doesn't work at all at times. It is not like Apple to fail big time like this and I am sure they are scrambling to straighten things out.

I got an email from the other day asking if I would be interested in a trial of MobileMe! Seems they didn't check their subscriber list first. The MobileMe web site says that "1% of MobileMe members have limited access to MobileMe Mail. Full service will be restored to these accounts on a rolling basis over the next few days". 99% and in a few days were good in the old days but not these days. I decided to try the online chat support to see if they could help resolve my problems. After sending my initial "instant message" I got a reply saying "A MobileMe Support Representative will be with you in approximately 26 minutes. We look forward to answering your questions". I got a reply while I had stepped out of the room for a minute and then had to start over and wait another 26 minutes. After 3 hours and 14 minutes the support rep said he had to escalate the problem to a specialist who would contact me by email. More than two days have gone by and I have had no email from Apple.

This all reminds me of the Fall of 1995 when we were preparing to host the Olympic Games of 1996. It turned out to be the largest web site ever built. We had 54 outstanding engineers working on it and it turned out to be successful. Fortunately, we were able to convince the company to make a large investment in the infrastructure. I remember saying that "we don't how many people will come to the web site, we don't know when they will come, nor do we know what they will do when they get there". It was "trial by fire". That was 13 years ago. The lessons learned in 1995 served IBM well and it is now the largest web hosting company in the world. IBM doesn't always call it cloud computing, but they have built the largest clouds on Earth -- in the clouds. Apple has a lot to learn. I am confident they will. Their brand loyalty depends on it.

Related links
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by John R Patrick July 30, 2008


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Why is this on the mainframe blog?

Posted by: WhoCares | Jul 31, 2008 3:20:26 PM

Why not?

By the way, an iPhone can connect directly to a System z machine in several different ways.

Posted by: Timothy | Aug 1, 2008 2:02:34 AM

i-phone looks fantastic. I just love how it looks and feel. I love the really really bright screen. I tried the iphone keyboard and it's very good. It's really easy to type and stuff on that. Though of course the good is that you get a bigger screen. I love the fact that the bold is push email, so I get a near real time notification of all my emails. It works very well and gives it to me with multiple email address. It was nice to be able to communicate using all three of my main accounts.
Thank you very much for sharing it.

Posted by: pc-spiele | Nov 6, 2009 2:30:40 AM

Great post, really well thought out and written. I'll look out for more of your posts.

Posted by: 7ah Battery | Apr 13, 2010 4:24:00 PM

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