11 November 2007
The Apple iPhone arrived in the UK on Friday and evoked a predictable spectrum of responses - from ecstatic boosterism to technophobic spluttering. The Daily Mail said Carphone Warehouse expected to sell 10,000 on the first day, which may or may not be connected with the fact that Carphone CEO Charles Dunstone sits on the board of the Mail's holding company. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if Carphone achieved its target, because no phone in history has had so much advance publicity. But why? It's only a phone, isn't it?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that it enables its user to make voice calls, like any other mobile phone. No, in the sense that it's the most powerful computer ever shoehorned into such a small and elegant package. All mobile phones are small computers, but most run Mickey Mouse operating systems tailored to the limited requirements of a phone. The significant thing about the iPhone is that it runs a version of Unix - Berkeley Software Distribution or BSD, a proper operating system that powers not only Apple's personal computers, but also industrial-strength servers across the world. If you're a techie, you can log into the iPhone using a terminal, and when you do, you see a proper Unix machine. And at that point you begin to see the device in a new light. You also begin to ask some hard questions about the mobile phone business. And about Apple..