[NTLK] iPhone is not the new Newton (& announcing a Newt sell-off shortly)

James Fraser wheresthatistanbul-newtontalk at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 27 05:17:50 EST 2009


--- On Sat, 12/26/09, Michael 'Mickey' Sattler <mickey at sattlers.org> wrote:

> Sadly, Steve Jobs wanted to sweep out everything liked by
> John Scully, and our little community was hung out to dry.
> Thanks, Steven.

The above is, perhaps, why I consider the iPhone a descendant of the Newton only in the broadest possible sense.  Let me see if I can adequately explain this outlook so that people will be nodding their heads, if not in agreement, at least in understanding.

The Scully era, from which the Newton sprang, was an era at Apple when Apple seemed to be willing to acknowledge that I, the end user, might not only *want* to get inside the case, but that it was actually in Apple's best interest to assist me in getting in there.  That is, when the original Macintosh debuted, it was obvious that The Steve did not want me inside the the case.  It was, for all intents and purposes, a "sealed appliance" and if The Steve wanted me to have something, well, by golly, he would have put it there in the first place.  The design of the compact Macs was in startling contrast with that of the Apple II line, which anyone could open up in mere seconds, and without tools.

The Mac SE and the Mac II debuted in 1987, well after Jobs' departure  from Apple in 1985.  Both machines came with an expansion slot(s), meaning that, three years into the product line, Apple was finally acknowledging that you, the end user, might occasionally want to put things into your Macintosh that Apple had not originally given you.  This was considered to be a Very Big Deal at the time, despite the fact that PC owners had been doing exactly this almost from the very beginning.

Fast forward to the Newton and that same philosophy of openness still seemed (to me, at least) to be present.  That is, Apple seemed anxious to provide the end user with the experience that the end user desired as opposed to the experience that *Apple* wanted them to have.  However, as Mr. Sattler asserts, Steve Jobs was anxious to sweep out everything liked by John Scully, and that included Scully's willingness to open things up (if only a little).  

It's up to the reader to decide for themselves which philosophy they like best.  Steve Jobs, as near as I can tell, has always been a marketer, first, and a technologist second.  For a marketer, providing a user experience that you, the marketer, tightly control is a desirable outcome.  However, the end user himself might wish to control his own user experience and, as far as a marketer is concerned, this is a Bad Thing.  That is, end users who tweak their own gear are end users that you, Mr. Marketer, can't make as much money from, as opposed to selling them a sealed box (or tightly-controlled user experience) and, the end user desiring something better, subsequently selling them *another* sealed box (or tightly-controlled user experience).

The story that, for me, best exemplifies the Steve Jobs philosophy, and how it relates to what you and I can expect from a company he helms, is the "car keys and the keyboard" one that Steve Jurvetson relates.  

It seems that Mr. Jurvetson had Jobs over for what he calls a "fireside chat."  Jurvetson being a particular fan of the Apple Extended Keyboard, he
asked if Jobs would sign it.  Jobs commented, “This keyboard represents everything about Apple that I hate. It’s a battleship. Why does it have all these keys? Do you use this F1 key? No.” Jobs then took his car keys and pried the key off.  From my own perspective, there are two problems with what Jobs did.

First, Jobs was asked to simply *sign* the keyboard, not to prise keys off of it.  The keyboard was not, after all, his.  I'm sure that Jobs would not have been a happy man had Jurvetson stalked out of the room, lifted the hood of Jobs' car, pointed to an engine component, decided, "Well, you don't need *this*!" and proceeded to yank the thing out.  Apparently, Steve Jobs feels that your keyboard is not, in fact, your keyboard.

Secondly, as near as I can make out, Jobs didn't particularly care whether Jurvetson actually *did* use the function keys or not.  Jobs question concerning Juvetson's use of the F1 key seems to have been purely a rhetorical one.  The Steve, apparently, knows what people do (and do not) want when it comes to keyboards (and without feeling any need to ask them).

This attitude on Jobs' part is exactly why I do not yet own an iPhone: the technology the iPhone incorporates doesn't outweigh the "I know what's best for you" paternalistic philosophy that's so obviously a part of the device. Mark Rollins' earlier post really hit home, as I found myself shaking my head while reading his list of reasons why his iPhone is ja!lbr*ken and asking, "Why should I, as the purchaser/end user, *have to* jailbreak the device in order to obtain that functionality?"

Again, from a marketing perspective, controlling the end user experience is a desirable outcome.  It's just that, for me, if I'm shelling out money for a device, you can charge me whatever you like providing a) you give me what I want (as opposed to what the company selling me the device thinks I ought to have) and b) you don't try to tell me what I can/can't do with the device once you have taken my money from me.  I mean, either I own a device, or....I don't.  I hate it when a company claims that they are selling me something that will become mine when the reality is that I am doing little more than leasing it from them.

(Before anyone says anything: yes, I realize that the ability to tell me what I can/can't do with something that I have purchased is, more or less, the crux of current IP and copyright laws.  However, that doesn't mean that I, as a consumer, have to be happy about the way such laws currently work.)

Granted, it's hard to argue with what Steve Jobs has done in terms of sales: whether you agree with what he's done or not, he has succeeded in moving tens of millions of iPhones.  The fact that Apple has continued to do so in spite of the economy still being in the dumper is little short of miraculous.

But the iPhone, according to my own outlook, represents something that the Newton did not.  And the company that made the Newton is different in outlook than the one that made the beloved Newton.  The particularly exasperating thing is that the iPhone is *almost* (but not quite) there when it comes to being a Newton replacement as far as the techonology itself is concerned.  While the third iteration of the iPhone saw some welcome features (and some badly needed changes) the HWR apps, as near as I can make out, are in the early stages (someone correct me if this has changed, as I've only paid sporadic attention).

I'd like a device that incorporates HWR the way the Newton does, not one that incorporates it only as an afterthought.  Between that and the attitude I've attempted to explain above, I don't think I'll find myself with an iPhone until the 5th iteration or so.  

Regardless of whether my wallet stays in my pocket, and my reasons for it doing so, I appreciate and am grateful for these threads because both the pros and cons of owning an iPhone are calmly and rationally explored.  The problem I've experienced with asking iPhone owners to demonstrate their device for me in the Big Room is that the ones I encounter seem to suffer from an overabundance of enthusiasm for the thing; after ten minutes or so, my eyes start to glaze over and, before I know it, I'm Stephen Hawking. :)


James Fraser


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