I have a confession, I’ve fallen victim to the power of Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field. I’ve been glued to the live “blogcasts” of his keynotes from MacWorld, Apple WWDC, and the special event announcements/presentations. I don’t even own a Mac! …but now I know I want one.
Now that I have that off my chest…
I was extremely pleased as I watched the keynote from the September 5th Apple Special Event. What pleased me the most was confirmation of some of my previous musings by the announcement of the new iPod Touch. This device confirms what I suspected, the “touch” is the first of Apple’s embedded hardware platforms. When the iPhone was announced, it was the fact that this platform was running OS X, enabling Apple to leverage a self-hosted environment in Mac OS X. This has been a competitive [and strategic] advantage that QNX enjoyed in the past. The iPod touch is using the same platform and derives the same benefits.
Apple has proven they have the ability to leverage this platform, I think we are going to see some interesting products emerge from this more rapidly than anyone expected. The iPod touch was announced only 3 months after the release of the iPhone, that is an insanely short period of time between products. It also means that in order to even get the device manufactured in time for the announce availability, that the hardware had to have already been in manufacturing when the iPhone was announced.
Self-hosted development is a huge advantage that Apple now has over its competition. They can develop new applications on desktop mac computers long before any target hardware is even available. This improves time to market tremendously, a key advantage in the cut-throat consumer device markets that Apple is playing in. With an embeddable OS X as the core, handling all the hardware differences behind standardized APIs, and the ability to re-use application from previous products, this is a killer environment. Developing and debugging a WinCE device (which are the guts in many iphone competitors like the HTC TyTn, Samsung Blackjack, Motorola Q, as well as devices from Audiovox, Symbol, HP and others) is a painful experience. Much of the pain experienced with the WinCE development model is all the time spent waiting to deploy a new build of an application to the device, it’s slow, even when on a fast/powerful developer workstation. Sure there are emulators, but they are no faster when deploying or debugging an application, and networking (wired and wireless) doesn’t work at all in the emulator. A developer at Apple will be able to develop an application for the “touch” platform in easily one half or one quarter the time required for a similar app on a WinCE smartphone.
I don’t think the rest of the embedded world has much to worry about from Apple though. They aren’t likely to be sharing their hardware platform with anyone else. They might need to be worried if they are making consumer devices and Apple decides to enter their market.
I think we are going to be seeing some interesting products from Apple in the future some of which are sure to take them in directions that will be quite unexpected from the outside.
I’ll be staying turned and keeping an eye on Apple, I suggest you do the same.