The Day Microsoft Lost

Today was the day that Microsoft’s mobile efforts started to die. Perhaps it will be a slow death, but I expect not. I expect it to go the way of HD DVD: first a slow build-up of disdain for it from its inferiority and then comes the tipping point. And everything collapses.

Did you know that Windows Mobile used to be called WinCE? Yes, “wince”. People should’ve realized it then and there. But no one turns a blind-eye to the obvious like Microsoft fanboys (I’m not including those of you stuck with Windows or a Windows Mobile device).

It’s all about the iPhone SDK and the next major version of iPhone’s OSX. Apple seems to finally be in a position where licensing Microsoft technology (Exchange/ActiveSync) and not have it look like an all-out surrender. The iPhone is undeniable. In every way. It’s a phenomenon, a very popular fact of life.

Apple has opted—like it did with the original Mac and every model since—to invest computer power into the user interface and not just to, say, run Excel faster. That’s why they all called it a graphical toy, even though its interface in 1984 was superior to Windows (and still is). They’d bitch about the machine being so slow for having to keep the graphical user interface running and “what a waste”. Stupid people to whom it never occurred that the computer was being OPERATED BY HUMANS. So of course, in my opinion, the UI should get as much of the CPU as it needed first and foremost (assuming, of course, that the UI routines are optimized to be faster and more efficient). Still, the UI is the first priority of any technology that humans use. Period. This is unassailable fact.

Same with the iPhone. People call it a smartphone because it can run non-voice applications. Others insist it’s not a smartphone unless it talks to Microsoft Exchange servers. Some people call it a smartphone if it’s got a keyboard and its use requires someone who’s got a knack for succeeding with arcanely byzantine tasks.

The iPhone both fits and does not fit in the category of smartphones: There’s more processing power and more memory than a typical smartphone. No, the iPhone was expected to be a phone that was a better phone than anything out there. And guess what? It is. Look at the voice interfaces. Notice how you don’t have to remember how to turn it to a speakerphone, or that you have to embed a numeric keypad into a QWERY keyboard. Before the iPhone, did you know how to turn on speakerphone after you were in a call? Or to create a 3way call? Did you have to read a manual when you got your Crackberry? Or your Symbian phone?

The iPhone maintains the Apple’s long history of flipping around the common wisdom of the ages. It’s the most difficult programming in the world to make an application that’s easy enough to never have to ‘learn’ because it’s so evident what to do, or because your choices are always right there in front of you.

The iPhone is like the original Mac: an appliance.

Today, though, Apple just enabled a few thousand developers to push themselves past their talents—and mind you, most will—to produce a polish RIM and Palm could only dream of. I won’t even put Microsoft in that same category. Today, Apple just lined up millions of potential iPhone buyers because now all those developers can probably provide any solution anyone might need.

Touch is the new platform, starting today.