Sunday, December 6, 2009

There's a Gadget for That

What's cool about iPhone Apps isn't that they add features to an already feature-rich phone. They transform that blank chunk of glass you carry in your pocket into another device. They are truly virtual gadgets.

With the demise of the CrunchPad this week, we are reminded of the vast difference between creating a web site and developing an actual hardware gadget.

We also see this difference every week with the release of each phone/camera/GPS with an impossible-to-use interface or ridiculous battery life.

Gadgets are HARD.

But the iPhone/iPod Touch and now the Android phones are truly little virtual gadgets that can be completely transformed with an App.

Sure, that's true for most programmable devices, but with these touch screen wonders, even the buttons themselves are created by software.

And these apps are pure software. The development process for these apps is much more familiar to most software developers than the embedded-systems type of work required by a regular physical gadget.

THAT'S the power of a touch screen device with an App store - it offers (and delivers) on the promise of a new gadget for pennies.

As these "generic" devices get more popular, I suspect we'll see more and more developers working on virtual devices rather than developing their own hardware.
The first salvo in this war has been fired: Google Maps with GPS and turn-by-turn navigation comes built-in with Android 2.0. Making life for the manufactures of standalone GPS devices very uncomfortable.

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