August 31, 2009, 9:00 am
Steve Jobs is a genius of design and marketing, but his track record on calling the right balance between utilizing proprietary arts and public resources (like open source and open standards) is more questionable. Two news items caught my eye today that illustrate the delicacy of making choices involving openness for the iPhone platform - both geopolitically as well as technically.
The first item can be found in today‚Äôs issue of the London Sunday Times, and the second appears at the MacNewsWorld.com Web site. The intersecting points of the two articles are the iPhone and, less obviously, openness. But the types of openness at issue in the two articles are at once both different, and strangely similar.
The Sunday Times piece recounts the (unsuccessful) efforts of Andre Torrez, the chief technology officer at Federated Media in San Francisco, to switch from the iPhone to an Android-based G1 handset, because he objects to the closed environment that the iPhone represents. But after just a week, Torrez reverts to the better app-provisioned iPhone.
The second article confirms the long-rumored news that Apple has found an iPhone distributor in China - perhaps one that may even have placed an initial order of 5 million units. That‚Äôs undeniably big news for Apple and its stockholders.
But what exactly will Chinese users (and their government) be able to do with their iPhones? That‚Äôs where the standards angle comes in, and the standards in question are the well-known WiFi standard, and the lesser known, Chinese, home-grown WAPI standard (WAPI stands for ‚Äúwireless authentication and privacy infrastructure).