From a leaked chairman’s 2008 report: “My fellow stakeholders, I have invited you here to present lessons we have learned from the disappointing sales of the iPhone (hisses and boos from the audience). Today, we are reintroducing a revolutionary device . . . (cheers mixed with groans).”
Of course, this meeting will probably never take place. But it’s interesting to speculate on what the Apple iPhone might have been, with my tongue firmly in my cheek and my fertile imagination running a little too freely. For brevity, I’ll call my gadget the MiTen because it will have up to 10 functional modules as required. None of these modules are infeasible but, as of today, they often require compromises that make them barely usable.
First of all, I have to admit that the iPhone’s color touch-screen that can be oriented vertically or horizontally is quite brilliant and could be used in the MiTen. Not that I have actually handled an iPhone, you understand, since Apple has been keeping iPhone samples out of the hands of the press. Unfortunately, this has become a standard operating practice for risky high-tech products. I’ll take Apple’s OS-X as an operating system, too.
But, back to the MiTen. On opening the unit, it should declare itself simply as a telephone and perform that function without qualification. It must operate seamlessly on any landline, cellular, VoIP, Bluetooth, or WiFi/WiMax system or band around the world. The first interface a user will see should be a graphic of the familiar keypad with buttons for the digits 0-9 plus * and #, so calls can be made just as with plain old telephone service (POTS).
The next function should be an efficient and simple PDA (personal digital assistant) with the usual Address Book, Calendar, and To Do lists. You will only need one of these since the MiTen will automatically synchronize with whatever computers you use at home or in the office. A manual should not be necessary. Remember how simple the early Palms were? Now, there’s a terrific goal.
Naturally, there will be mail, e-mail and voice mail that can be answered by either text or audible means. And, of course, the mail systems will both have flexible anti-spam routines.
All of the foregoing modules should be tied together with a GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) navigation system that will give you much more than a map. For example, a GPS could locate callers and insert their addresses in your address book. Naturally, there will be satellite picture coverage with Google Earth.
Now let’s address the audio/visual functions, which count as two modules. First, the audio function must address radio (AM/FM and satellite) and recorded sources such as iTunes, but not be limited to that service. OK, I am well aware of the importance of digital rights management (DRM); a few smart lawyers in locked room for a few days can solve the DRM issues.
On the visual side, there should be a camera with a zoom lens that will do triple duty: take still photos (up to 5 or 6 megapixels), shoot HD (high-definition) movies, and act as a Web camera for teleconferencing. This unit must tie in with the GPS module for location and time identification.
The MiTen will require a powerful Web browser that can take regular Web pages and rapidly regurgitate them for the smaller screen of the MiTen. The Web browser can also be tied into the GPS module for locating people, products, or sites as they appear on the Web pages. I also see no reason why the browser should not contain all the tools you need to maintain your personal Web sites on the run.
Since the MiTen will have lots of free time (for example, when you are asleep), it should be able to download movies and TV shows that could be stored individually on gigabyte flash-memory cards.
Finally, there needs to be a game module, capable of action comparable to the X-box.
Now, all we need is a company to build these gadgets. Any takers? I reckon we could retail each module for about $100 so a top-of-the-line MiTen could be available on the street for less than $1000. The catch? You’d have to pay quite hefty fees for many of these services.
By the way, I know that’s only nine functions: I leave you to fill in your favorite missing function!