I’ve been reading a bunch of statements from various analysts/pundits about the significance of the iPod touch with a combination of amusement and puzzlement. Some of the puzzlement comes from the statements directly and some indirectly. For example, here’s one of many quotes from an article over on PlaylistMag.com: “It’s the Web in your pocket,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research. “For $300, you get a mobile Web browser with touch-screen input.”. Uh, so what are the dozens of devices from Palm, Nokia (770 or 800), and bunch of Windows Mobile WiFi enabled PDAs? They vary in price. But, a bunch are in the $200 to 400 range. And, they’ve been around for years. So, what is the real difference? The real difference is the capability of the Safari browser (so I’m told since I haven’t tried it for more than a few seconds). Most of the mobile browsers that have been used for the past few years are basically toy browsers that require specially formatted web pages to avoid scrolling continuously just to read some text. The exception in the non-iPhone/iPod touch world is the Operamini browser currently in beta release.
Here’s another quote: In fact, Gottheil said that the iPod touch’s selling potential is actually increased precisely because it is decoupled from a two-year phone contract with AT&T, something required with the iPhone. This is an interesting observation because the exact opposite is going on in the non-Apple phone-PDA world. The phone-less PDA type devices like the Palm OS based Palm boxes and Windows Mobile based Pocket PCs were the norm for years. Then, the Palm Treo (original Palm OS version) and Microsoft Windows Mobile touch-screen (Pocket PC Phone Edition — AKA Professional Edition) and non-touch screen (Smartphone AKA Standard Edition) took over leaving manufacturers like Dell to completely abandon the phone-less Pocket PCs (their great Axim line with WiFi and Bluetooth but no phone radio). I’m really hoping that the iPod touch redefines and reinvigorates the phone-less PDA market the same way the original iPod redefined the PDA market. And, yes, I didn’t get an iPhone because I didn’t want to switch to AT&T Wireless and be locked into their contract.
Here’s a third quote from the article: Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner, said in an e-mail interview that having both an iPod touch plus a cell phone would be a “great set for many of us to use.” But he discounted the iPod as a business tool that IT shops would support. Unfortunately and unhappily, I agree with this statement. But, that is only because IT shops don’t seem to support mobile devices of any type including Microsoft’s Windows Mobile which is actually designed for integration with Enterprise infrastructure.
A fourth quote: “A usable portable Web browser will appeal to both personal and business users, and Web sites and applications oriented to the mobile browser will proliferate,” Gottheil and Byrne wrote in a TBR statement on the iPod touch Wednesday. Hack, hack, cough, cough. There’s a couple of weird things about this general idea. I noticed that a number of iPhone specific pages from major sites like Digg and Facebook appeared. But, this puzzled me since the big deal about iPhone’s (and touch’s) Safari browser is that you don’t need specially formatted pages. That said, there are a lot (though not enough) pretty well done pages formatted for WAP and other mobile browsers already. If the iPhone and iPod touch take off, we may see more. But, umm, I though they didn’t need it :-)
But, putting aside my hopefully not too snarky comments above, I think the general sentiment coming from the experts is right. I’ve long lamented the loss of choices of non-phone Windows Mobile products. I hate having to tie a Pocket PC purchase to phone service contracts or pay a premium for an unlocked phone. I think the iPhone’s impact, large as it is, will be dwarfed by the iPod touch which allows anyone to buy it without a phone contract. I also think that lines of people should be outside of Apple’s campus in Cupertino with placard demanding an SDK so we can see apps developed for it without resorting to hacks.
My pre-order for the iPod touch went out the day it was announced and I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival in a couple of weeks. And, in a effort not to monopolize the MacDevCenter blog with my iPod touch mutterings, I’ll mutter away on my personal blog which currently focuses on Windows Mobile (and will still focus on that since I enjoy using that platform). If anyone wants to talk touch, drop me a line at editor(AT-SIGN)mobileviews.com. Perhaps we can set up a TalkCast at TalkShoe with other new iPod touch owners.