Buy an iPhone, Kill a Kitten

Wanted: An iPhone Killer. Open Source developers, please apply within.

Perhaps I’m a Luddite, but I’ll probably be the last person on Earth to own an iPod or an iPhone. I realize there’s an entire generation of people with white ear buds practically surgically attached to their ears, but I haven’t bought into the iPod or the iPhone for a whole number of reasons.

First and foremost, I’m a busy guy and I don’t have a hell of a lot of time to sit on iTunes and download music. Don’t get me wrong, I love music, but my playlist comes from decades past — ’60s and ’70s hard rock, funk and disco, with some ’80s and early ’90s alternative in the rotation — and a mix of jazz and classical, so a lot of the new crap out there is totally lost on me. I also have no huge interest in converting my CD collection to the proprietary format of the iPod. Why, I’m perfectly happy listening to my carís Sirius satellite radio, letting disc jockeys tantalize my ears. In my honest opinion, iTunes is a badly architected piece of junk: it’s bloated and crash-prone, especially on Windows.

If you’re a music fan and a Linux user, you’re totally at the mercy of the Open Source community, albeit with solutions that work fairly well, such as Banshee and Amarok. However, no open source solution is supported by Apple. If you don’t own a Mac but own an iPod or an iPhone, you’re pretty much a second- or third-class citizen. I have iTunes installed on my Windows virtual machine because I publish podcasts from my blog, OffTheBroiler.com, but I much prefer the open software packages like Juice Receiver for podcast subscription management. Juice is really cool: it’s open source and multi-platform (it runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux), and is ideally suited for podcast downloading because itís tied into all the third-party podcast directories.

Another thing that totally pisses me off about Apple is that the company treats its developer community like garbage, and there’s no easy way for a small, third-party developer or for the Open Source community to write applications for Apple devices without reverse engineering the product or voiding the warranty.

As an Open Source developer or a hacker, if I was going to own a digital music player or convergence device like the iPhone, I’d want something that was totally open and non-proprietary, yet no one’s cornered that market because all the Linux-based devices that exist right now are clunky and un-sexy. The iPod and iPhone have a huge following because both are sexy.

Truthfully, what I’d like to see is some giant like Cisco — with its consumer electronics subsidiary, Linksys, and set-top box division, Scientific Atlanta — to partner with a commodity mobile phone handset manufacturer like Motorola, Nokia, or Samsung (or all of the above) to create some sort of sexy mass-market consumer-brand digital convergence device. The device would have impressive ’specs:

  • Built in Wi-Fi and peer-to-peer mesh networking to trade songs and videos and other files with people wirelessly, and to directly access the Internet and download music, videos, and software without the use of a PC.

  • A nice screen like the PSP so you can play Internet-aware multiplayer games and watch videos, and an SVGA, full-motion digital video camera on swivel mount (2MP or better), with an integrated stereo microphone, a high quality speaker, and an USB 2.0 connector.

  • 16 GB flash memory with an SD card expansion slot, and a high-capacity, lithium-ion, rechargeable and removable battery pack.

  • A high-speed, 3G cellular phone for calls and digital teleconferencing (with the built in camera), data service when you aren’t within Wi-Fi range, and VOIP integration, like a built-in Skype, with a choice of “unlocked” models that work on any GSM and CDMA/1xrtt 3G cell network you want to use. (No offense AT& T, but Iím happy with my cell provider.)

  • An open source developer toolset based on open source components, so anyone can write applications for it, unlike the iPhone.

  • A great end-user interface that ran on Mac, PC, and Linux desktops, and a sleek, innovative industrial design that would smash the iPod.

Sound nuts? When you have the resources of a Cisco, Motorola, Samsung, or Nokia, who can design and mass produce microprocessors and chipsets and can leverage all sorts of relationships with other companies like Microsoft and Intel, anything is possible. I believe that something like this can be produced for less than $500 and competitive with anything Apple puts out.

Until then, I’m sticking with Sirius and my $50 Razr.

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