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.”