Dave Winer on ‘what could have been’

When I attended Macworld in February, I wrote, “The least impressive thing about the iPhone is that it’s a phone.” Several times, I’ve suggested that getting an iPod with all the iPhone features except the phone” would be a good thing. So, yes, I like what I’ve heard about the iPod touch. I guess, I’m just not a “phone” person, as I primarily use the iPhone in every way possible, but don’t really talk on it that much. Again, that may just be me.

Even better than the iPod touch or iPhone/ATT would have been the iPhone/wifi/voip device Dave Winer suggests as an alternative version of what could have happened over the past few months:

“Suppose Apple had never done the deal with AT&T and they were announcing the iPod Touch today. If they hadn’t announced a deal with Skype or their own software to connect the new iPod to the phone network through wifi, we’d all be speculating about it widely. It would be the obvious next step. And suppose they had announced it. At the same time they could have said “Okay, we know wifi isn’t everywhere yet, but 17 billion Starbucks outlets have them, and you can use your new iPod at every one of them to call anyone, for a very astonishingly low price.” So intstead of propping up the old over-priced locked-down phone system, they’d be like the runner in the 1984 commercial, throwing the torch in the face of the oppressor.

I agree with everything Dave says, except I think there are now, officially, 18 billion Starbucks.

Here’s my alternative to Dave’s alternative. Suppose that software hack that opens the iPhone actually works and someone hacks a bridge to Skype or some other VoIP provider. Since the price of an iPhone dropped to, roughly, the price of an iPod touch (16 GB iPod touch and 8 GB iPhone are priced at $399), wouldn’t that be about the same thing? I agree with Dave, however, it would have been much more elegant and radical and under-warranty had Apple done it.

In reality, for business purposes or many other reasons, some people will always want the stability and infrastructure of what an AT&T can bring to the iPhone. But for many, an iPhone/wifi might be a great alternative (for a $60 a month-savings trade-off).

Sidenote: On Twitter, @SteveRubel twitter.com/steverubel said that Apple was “horrifically rude” to drop the iPhone price $200 nine weeks after the launch. I responded, “We now know the market-value of nine weeks of iHipness.”

  • “some people will always want the stability and infrastructure of what an AT&T can bring to the iPhone”

    In 1999, when Apple came out with the Airport, you could have said something equivalent about running cable through your home or office, but then you’d never have gotten the benefits of wireless.

    It depends what the goal is, and who you are. I gave my $2000 to learn about the iPhone. I would have rather gotten a lot more for the $2000, and I would rather not have had that money go into the old broken system.

    We’ll get the chance, eventually. The next go-around will be Google. After that maybe Nokia? Or maybe Apple has something in the pipe for January, of course then all the people who buy this crop of tech will be pissed off like so many of the original iPhone users are pissed at the premium they (we) paid.

    Anyway, thanks for putting my name in a headline in a positive light. It’s a rare nice experience. 🙂

  • Skype is still too geeky, the iPhone is targeted toward the mainstream and they barely (if at all) know about Skype. But, I wouldn’t doubt that will all come. Apple just cut AT&T out of ringtones, music downloads and cut T-Mobile out of the Starbucks thing. Maybe they’ll cut Skype out of the equation and do a standards-based VoIP thing. iChat/SIP/WiFi on the iPhone.

  • The best point in this entire article is the last line: “We now know the market-value of nine weeks of iHipness.”

    I resisted buying the iPhone for several reasons. One, I was terrified that it would be like iTunes and suck money out of my pocket like a Hoover. Second, I didn’t like the AT&T bit and agree with Dave Winer that having it be a VoIP portal would have been so mucho sexy, we wouldn’t have been able to stand it. Finally, I just couldn’t get over the not-so-good-for-business-types feeling about it.

    But that touch? Oh my. I’ve got my new must have.

    Great post, Rex. Big fan of your writing.

  • Rex Hammock

    @DaveWiner – As I’m now in Philadelphia for a day, I am feeling all “brotherly love.” Positive light is what I shine best. 🙂

  • *edit: Just as I was typing this you Twittered about Steve’s open letter…*

    Looks like Apple was listening. http://www.apple.com/hotnews/openiphoneletter/ Previous iPhone owners get a $100 rebate now. It’s not $200, but then it has been nine weeks. I’d like to see what institution offers a nine week price drop guarantee. No really. I’d like to shop there. 😀