RIM was unprepared for the iPhone?

Well, not really a surprise with their lukewarm response in the form of the Storm. A supposed former-RIM employee posts innocuously on Shacknews but the post is now gone.

“RIM reportedly thought original iPhone impossible”

You guys could have avoided this entire conversation by just defining what Apple created as something more than a smartphone. What we call a smartphone today is a rather different than what was meant when the term was first coined.

The first smartphone was pretty much the Nokia Communicator back in the late 90s. It had data connectivity and some limited ability to run applications, and that pretty much what a smartphone was at the time. Today we take it to mean handheld wireless computer that happens to have a phone, but back then if you send a few packets you were a smartphone.

I was hired by RIM in 1999 just before they began work on their first phone and spent a good number years writing RIM proprietary protocol stacks that layered on top of the then new GPRS. Coming from a two-way pager background, RIM decided that phones should have two-way push synchronization of pretty much everything that Exchange provided along with a limited WML browser. The general thought was that phones would never have sufficient power density or radios sufficient bandwidth to allow anything more. That was incredibly predictably wrong, but it’s how things went down.

Along with RIM was Ericsson, Palm, Motorola, and Qualcomm. Motorola came from a similar background as RIM and went on to build very similar devices. Both Nokia and Ericsson had come from phones and had decided feature phones should have far more sophisticated PDA functions. Palm started with PDAs then moved to the phones, but adamantly dismissed ideas like wireless synchronization for years making their first attempts at smart phone far more like early Nokia Communicators than early Blackberrys. Oddly enough, though Nokia made the first smartphone, which was followed by two more with RIM and arguably Palm in 20002, it was Ericsson that popularly coined the term in the mid 2000s.

So the point is that all these companies were fighting over what amounts to overgrown PDAs with phones and wireless stacks strapped on. Everyone assumed power density was no where even close to what was needed for general computing, that a full featured browser and heavy duty Internet services were impossible due to bandwidth and latency. Take a look at how our Java expert groups named standards, how people at the time talked about what features smart phones should have, and its clear that no one thought an iPhone was possible. Even Danger, which eventually went on to work on to create Windows Phone 7 and Android, was just working on a better Blackberry.

The iPhone did many amazing things, but what stands out in my mind was how it proved that these assumptions were flat-out wrong beyond any reasonable doubt. Apple pretty gave everyone the finger and said, “Fuck you guys we can build your distant impossible future today.”

I left RIM back in 2006 just months before the IPhone launched and I remember talking to friends from RIM and Microsoft about what their teams thought about it at the time. Everyone was utterly shocked. RIM was even in denial the day after the iPhone was announced with all hands meets claiming all manner of weird things about iPhone: it couldn’t do what they were demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life, etc. Imagine their surprise when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it. It was ridiculous, it was brilliant.

I really don’t think you’re giving Apple enough credit here. They did something amazing that many very prominent people in the industry thought was either impossible or at least a decade away, and they did it in a disgustingly short time frame.

Source: http://www.asymco.com/2010/12/27/the-parable-of-the-the-pda-predicting-the-smartphones-future/

Pretty amazing shit that reveals the mindset of the established phone makers at the time.


Oddly enough, though Nokia made the first smartphone, which was followed by two more with RIM and arguably Palm in 20002

Wow, Palm is really far behind the times, apparently.

Anyway, far from surprising, especially coming from RIM, the company who utterly refuses to do anything but coast on their brand’s association with technology that was truly ahead of the curve seven or eight years ago.

Nice estimate for 2010, Goldman Sachs.

The iPhone is my first and only Apple product that I own and I think it’s one of the greatest inventions in my lifetime.

You know, on further reflection, I can’t help but think that this is much more a condemnation of the myopia of the mobile handset industry than it is a celebration of Apple’s innovation. And you see that today; so much of the new handsets coming out… Android, the latest Blackberries, Windows Phone 7… the whole touchscreen business is very much a bunch of “me too” copies of the iPhone.

Having worked with a few of these companies and spoken with them, I definitely get the feeling that they are dominated by a bunch of folks who are doing things the way they’ve always done 'em.

I’m not too sure about this.
In what way (as in functionality) is the iphone and other modern smartphones different to the winCE/palm era of pdas and smartphones?

All I can think of is the app stores, touchscreen functionality, and the hardware improvements that you would get but a decade of Moore’s law.

There are many differences:

  • Apps & Apple’s App store. Yup, even though you listed it, it bears repeating. Sure, you could run apps on a Palm or WinCE phone, but you really had to go out of your way to find them. Most people didn’t bother, and third party devs were few & far between.
  • Wifi. It’s easy to forget, but telcos fought phones with built-in wifi for years. They wanted all data requests to go over their cell towers, so they could charge users for every single bit delivered from the net.
  • An excellent web browser. Taken for granted now, but not easy to find just a few years ago.
  • Excellent ease of use. My son figured out the iPhone interface when he was four. Microsoft has been in the smart phone market for I don’t know how many years, and they got this right in version…7?
  • Music syncing. And syncing in general. Pretty straightforward in modern phones, not so much in older phones. Before the the iPhone, could you buy a song for $1 over your phone, upload it to the phone & play it?
  • Regular updates for the phone’s OS. iPhone & Android phone users expect this, but I don’t think this happened before the iPhone.
  • Lack of crapware. Hey look, somebody paid the phone company to put a piece of shit app on my phone and I have no way to remove it. Had a phone like this years ago & that still pisses me off. Still going on with some Google phones.

There are many things Apple gets wrong (app store censorship, iTunes aggravations, antennagate). It’s amazing how much they got right. A lot of it was just standing up to AT&T and dictating the terms. I wish Google would do this, but they’ve mostly backed down.

The iPhone has been out for how long now? I still have not used a phone with a touch screen that is as responsive or a UI that just feels as smooth.

  • Lack of crapware. Hey look, somebody paid the phone company to put a piece of shit app on my phone and I have no way to remove it. Had a phone like this years ago & that still pisses me off. Still going on with some Google phones.

This. Ok yeah I can “root” my phone and remove it or whatever but why the fuck do I need to do that? The only thing I can think of that my Droid X has over my old iPhone is that the screen is larger and it does live wall papers.

Also missing from that formulation is how they do it. Even in general terms, the iPhone blew away the competition but aside from that, it was like comparing a ride in a jeep over a rocky mountain trail with a luxury car driving down a new highway.

There are few devices that have the level of polish and usability the iPhone did. Using the iPhone was like touching the future, as it were. The whole world knew it once they saw it, as well:

Apple stock closed at $85.27 on 1/8/2007. It closed at $325.29 today, almost 4 years later.

The iPhone took the Apple cult and spread it exponentially to everyone who used a cellphone. How many more Mac users are there today because of their exposure to Apple in the form of the iPhone. The device epitomizes the term “game changer”.

How about this: Carriers don’t know jack about phones. It took a company with no market presence but piles of cash to make a phone that was actually good.

My girlfriend’s mom just bought an Evo 4G and asked me to help her set it up over the weekend. Having never used an Android device, I was curious to dig in. I was pretty impressed for the most part.

On the other hand… much to my amazement, Sprint’s top of the line, beautiful phone came with garbage like Nascar App and NFL Zone. And look at the fucking shit you need to do to get rid of it. Unbelievable.

BTW I still remember when the first iPhone commercials came out and so many nerds were scoffing that there was no way it ran that fast. In hindsight, the iPhone was so much better than everything else that there was pretty much no way it was going to fail.

My friends who have gotten the new Droid and MS phones are finding that the UI lags. Not an issue with the iPhone though.

How can the manufacturers still get the user experience wrong so many years down the road?

As trolls go, I’ve seen better.

Can’t vouch for the MS phone, but I have no lag whatsoever on my Evo.

I can think of one very important feature the iphone had right from the start and that’s bearable internet surfing.
Every PDA style device I’ve seen before iPhone and tried using for surfing got annoying after less than a minute. With the iPhone this time increased to several minutes, and the result is that everything that was possible in theory before became actually comfortable to use.

No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

I’ve got the now-old first Motorola Droid and it never UI lags, which is in stark contrast to the iPhone 3G it replaced which had many, many lag problems. In particular, the iPhone 3G (and this was pre-OS4.0, which from what I heard made the system even laggier for 3G users) would often get in a state where the keyboard lagged button pressed by like 2+ seconds until I rebooted the phone to temporarily fix the problem.

In short, blanket statements about experiences with UI speed in regards to Android and even the less-fragmented iPhone are pretty useless.