iPhone forking the Web… again

I see some difference between Web “applications” sites such as Zoho or BeeJive (creators of the BlackBerry JiveTalk software so well executed that it is changing my life) developing versions of their sites (or in BeeJive’s and Cerulean Studios‘ case, native software applications), that are “optimized” (or in some cases, simply “work”) on the iPhone, but now AJAXy content megasite Digg has joined the iFray and surely others will follow. According to TechCrunch:

[Kevin] Rose notes that users can still browse the normal Digg website on their iPhone, but the web application is lighter and faster way to visit Digg and takes advantage of some of the iPhone’s user interface features.

So now it’s not the “watered-down Internet or the mobile Internet.” It’s the no-Flash, small-screen, big-buttoned “iPhone Internet.” “Real” browser support should make such conversions less painful but they still suffer from some foibles that specialized versions of Web sites have engendered before. How do consumers find these optimized versions? Is it at iphone.blah.com? Is it at blah.com/iphone? Will all the features of the full site be there? How much work should Web developers have to do to compensate for the iPhone’s browser navigational inefficiencies, even if it is best in class at browsing “desktop” Web sites?

Even if you don’t accept everything about the iPhone as the wave of the future, there are clear advantages to the large screen and great Web rendering it provides. If a broader base of mobile phones adopt these conventions, Web developers should be able to provide one site that balances the needs of such handsets and the PC. Who doesn’t want lighter, faster Web sites everywhere?

P.S. Do you think Apple put any effort into making sure its Web iPhone developer guidelines site looks horrible in Internet Explorer? 

Electric slides

It looks like HTC is starting to get more competition for one of its favorite form factors, the side-slider, beyond Helio and Samsung. My buddy Evan Blass at Engadget posts on what could be the next in the Nokia Internet Tablet series, incorporating a keyboard. Thoughtfix is skeptical that it is the N800’s successor, but speculates that the removal of certain buttons could signal a finger-driven touch-screen like a certain recent release. I’m a bit concerned about having the keyboard off-center.

Meanwhile, Motorola’s reinterpretation of the Sidekick should finally bring the thin aesthetic to the friendly but chunky consumer smartphonesque handset. It would be great to see T-Mo offer this at $299. I’m not sure about this purple kick that Motorola seems to be on, but the ample five-row keyboard looks like a good bar for other side-sliders in terms of maximizing the keyboard real estate.

Lighter Linux

Meandering down a path well tred over at least the past five years, Robert Scoble asks if 2008 is the year of Linux on the desktop. I wrote a bit about the growing enthusiasm for Linux, including Dell’s embrace of Ubuntu, for a recent LAPTOP column.

The answer to the question is no, but Linux is spearheading the move of low-cost ultraportables such as the Foleo into.. whatever markets they are targeting. I’m increasingly intrigued by the Asus EEE which, contrary to my earlier post, seems poised to become a reality later this year. Indeed, I can’t decide whether I like the idea of the 7″ $199 or 10″ 299 model better. The former price resonates more as a companion product. If I’m springing for a high-resolution screen, I’m probably interested in tasks that are better-suited to a more mainstream Windows notebook. HotHardware has an informative article that spotlights the two Linux UIs being considered.

Price-cutting and face-saving for the PS3

A little more than half a year after its launch, Sony has already cut a PS3 configuration, lowered the price of the former high-end, and introduced a new model with a larger hard drive and a free game. I’m sure the 60 GB PS3 will get a lift from dipping below the $500 mark. The 20 GB model didn’t fare well there, but that product missed key components such as the memory card reader, Wi-Fi and, perhaps most importantly, HDMI.

Now there is far less difference between the low-end and high-end configuration than there was last November. The incremental value of another 20 GB of disk space is more questionable so I expect that the new low-end will become the more popular model, signalling a reversal from the PS3’s launch. The real issue facing the PS3 is a dearth of compelling titles, so I don’t see the price cut so much as a strategic move per se but really more priming the pump for what Sony says should be a stronger holiday portfolio.

Let’s get ready to rumble.

Fake Steve on the labels’ real business

Catching up on the latest populist wisdom from Fake Steve Jobs in a post from last week, His Fauxness holds forth on the labels’ predicament:

[T]hese guys are actually operating two very low-tech businesses. One is a form of loan-sharking: they put up money to make records, then force recording artists to pay the money back with exorbitant interest. The other business is distribution. Their loan-sharking business is being eliminated by low-cost digital recording technology that lets people make an album for very little money.

FSJ ignores the missing bridge or real output of the labels, which is promotion. Sure, anyone can record digital songs with GarageBand or M-Audio’s Session, but who’s going to buy them if they’ve never heard of them? Indeed, FSJ came to terms with his own challenges of content monetization in a more recent pot celebrating breaking the million-pageview mark, but that post has disappeared from the site.

Apple’s screen and Microsoft’s vision

Engadget just posted the second part of my look at the iPhone’s keyboard from the angle of suitability to task. With all the attention around the iPhone and it’s well-received if sometimes inefficient user interface, I have to wonder how the folks at Microsoft feel. Few if any companies have championed so many pen computing initiatives (Pocket PC, Tablet PC, Windows Mobile, UMPC) through the years and yet Microsoft. But now the company has had its thunder stolen by Apple as it failed to capture literally what Bill Gates articulated as Microsoft’s guiding vision throughout the ’90s, the notion of information at your fingertips In retrospect, it looiks like touch was right. It was the pen that was wrong.

Universal at center of its own universe

Call it “big dog” syndrome. Engadget picks up on the NY Times report that Universal is playing hardball with Apple on its iTunes contact. This is simply the latest in a line of Vivendi’s maverick moves, such as insisting on revenue sharing with Microsoft for the Zune (perhaps what it is pushing for with Apple?) and being the only major studio to release movies exclusively in HD-DVD.

Where the iPhone turns a blind i

Now that the first reviews of the iPhone are hitting, we’re finding what Apple omitted from its first full foray into the cell phone business. 3G speeds are a no-brainer. We’ve known the iPhone would have only EDGE since January, but it’s unfortunate that Apple hasn’t been able to match the rich online functionality of Safari and its YouTube client with 3G although I’m sure that will come in time.

Other omissions may be more intentional– the snubbing of Flash, and Bluetooth’s A2DP or stereo profile. Again, the latter is an unfortunate hole for such a media-centric handset; one of the coolest tricks of other media phones is the ability to pause music to take a phone call. The iPhone supports this over its slick corded headphones, but not over stereo Bluetooth headphones. While I haven’t seen it confirmed yet, DUN probably isn’t supported, either.

Not supporting IM could be a snub against AOL or (less likely) an issue with AT&T, although you’d think Apple would want to support either Yahoo’s or Google’s IM networks. Apple could also be trying to protect AT&T’s SMS revenue, although there are ways to build hooks into cell phone IM clients these days to track individual IMs as “text messages.” This can actually serve as a powerful incentive to upgrade one’s text messaging package.

Big Business.com

Did you laugh when Sky Dayton and Jake Winebaum paid $7.5 million price paid for Business.com back in the boom under the vague pretense of turning it into some kind of B2B directory (remember net markets)? If so, the joke has turned out to be on you as the site, virtually devoid of content, is now raking in $15 million per year and is allegedly worth $300 million.

Think about how bad Internet businesses have to be to go bust when a parked domain name can become a business with respectable revenue and insane profit margins.

Leopard on the hunt

When Apple held back previewing a few features of Mac OS X at last year’s WWDC, I wondered whether those enhancements were being held back because of their magnitude or impact or because they were most visually compelling. Yesterday’s WWDC keynote leads me to believe they were more the latter. Outside of the glassy and reflective interface elements and Cover Flow, much of the theme of Leopard seems to be around easing access to content and information, just as Dashboard made it easier to get to applications (albeit often content-centric ones).

Stacks, the revamped Sidebar and Back to Mac join Spaces and, to some extent, Time Machine in assisting with this task. Unfortunately, Leopard does not at this time have a tagging mechanism comparable to Vista, nor does it have Visa’s presentation sharing although iChat Theater might be used in a similar way.

Perhaps the biggest head-scratcher was the announcement of Safari for Windows, which surely does not need another Web browser. In fact, Firefox is my preferred browser on the Mac. I’ll have more to say about that development and its relevance to the iPhone soon.