Apple's WWDC 2010: Beyond the iPhone 4
Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Monday introduced the world to iPhone 4, the latest iteration of the company's popular smartphone. The new device was unveiled during Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, and as usual, Jobs also presented a few other interesting goodies. Jobs announced that annotations and the ability to open PDFs in iBooks is coming to Apple's e-reading application. Jobs also introduced an iPhone version of iMovie, and Netflix announced that it has created a streaming app for the iPhone.
But beyond the main highlights, we saw a few interesting things that shed light on Apple as a company, its current focus, and a few claims that may truly belong to Jobs' famed reality distortion field.
Apple's A4 Chip
Although it wasn't that surprising to see it the second time around, the fact that Apple is building its own processors for both the iPhone and the iPad is a big deal. Unlike previous partnerships with third-party chip suppliers like Intel, Apple can use its proprietary chip technology without fear of having the chip show up in a competing device several months later. That's what happened after Apple asked Intel for a super-thin chip, the Merom processor, for the MacBook Air.
It will be interesting to see how far Apple takes its chip-making capabilities. Right now, Apple is developing a mobile device processor, the A4, but will the company extend its work to include creating dual- or quad-core chips found in the MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro? And what impact could that decision have on the rest of the computer industry?
Jobs does PR
Steve Jobs took an opportunity during his keynote to confront some of the criticisms against Apple. The first issue Jobs confronted was the criticism against the App Store approval process. Jobs first noted that the App Store is a "curated platform" and not a wide open, uncontrolled platform like the Web. Jobs said Apple receives 15,000 app submissions every week, and that 95 percent of those apps are approved within 7 days.
Jobs also said that iPhone and iPad apps that get rejected are usually turned down for three reasons: the app doesn't function as advertised; the application crashes too often; or the application uses device features that Apple hasn't made available to third-party developers (private application programming interfaces). "I think if you were in our shoes," Jobs said. "You would be rejecting these apps for the same three reasons."
What Jobs didn't address, however, were the questions surrounding Apple's decision to remove apps that have adult content or some of the confusing restrictions Apple has placed on apps that use coarse language or other content Apple finds objectionable.
Jobs also took on some of the surveys claiming the iPhone's market position is weakening, such as the NPD Group's recent report that Android outsold the iPhone in the United States for the first quarter of 2010. When NPD's report was published, Apple released a statement calling NPD's conclusion into question. On Monday Jobs also fired back at these and other recent findings.
"There have been a lot of statistics floating around, market research, market share studies," Jobs said. "And some of them are okay and some of them are questionable, and I'd like to just give you two pieces of data that could help you make your own judgments about market share." Jobs then went on to quote a Nielsen study that says during the first quarter of 2010 Apple's iPhone market share was over three times that of Android's.
Of course, what Jobs didn't point out is that total market share and total numbers of units sold during a quarter are two different things. Nevertheless, Nielsen's report does in fact contradict the NPD group's assertion that Android outsold the iPhone. Nielsen says that both the iPhone and Android grew by just 2 percent during the first quarter of 2010, and therefore neither platform outsold the other.
During the WWDC keynote, Jobs said that Apple supports two platforms, the first of which is HTML 5, the computer language that governs the Web. Apple considers HTML 5 a "fully open, uncontrolled platform forged by widely respected standards bodies." Jobs claimed that Apple's browsers are in the lead in terms of supporting the full HTML 5 standards. In fact, Apple recently created a Web page showing off Safari's HTML 5 capabilities.
The problem is some are taking issue with Apple's interpretation of HTML 5. Christopher Blizzard, director of developer relations at Mozilla, the makers of the Firefox browser, recently said on his personal blog that "the demos [Apple] put up are just filled with stuff that Apple made up, aren't part of HTML5, and are only now getting to the standards process."
There are also some questions about whether Safari is truly the most HTML 5 compliant browser, as Apple claims, compared to browsers like Mozilla's Firefox. However, those criticisms were based on Safari 4, and Apple on Monday released Safari 5, the newest version of its Web browser. Apple says that with Safari 5 the company "continues to lead the way in support for HTML5." It will be interesting to see if anyone takes issue with that claim once again.
Can't get enough WWDC information? Check out PCWorld's slideshow detailing iPhone 4, a discussion on the iPhone 4's retina display and a comparison between the new iPhone versus other leading smartphones.
Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).
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