back to article How Apple exploded Europe's crony capitalism

Apple's iPhone wasn't just a shiny new thing that was irritatingly and madly overhyped. Before long, it shattered a benevolent kind of crony capitalism in which Europeans took great pride, but that was short-serving the public. And it needed an outsider to do this. Ten years ago, Europe could be excused for feeling a little …

Fake History

Are you out to redress the balance Andrew:?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/01/09/fake_history_sorry_bbc_but_apple_really_did_invent_the_iphone/

"silicon moved at a stately pace" - really? I don't remember Moore's law stalling until Apple's iphone came riding to the rescue?

"Almost every vision of the future made in the past involves a crumby CRT display" - hmm, maybe as 0laf says in cheap TV sets but in the early 80's William Gibson had already envisaged cyberspace as virtual reality.

Finally I'd argue that the games creators and on-demand content providers have done more to drive display technology and bandwidth improvements than Apple ever did.

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Props.. Re: Fake History

Often, when it comes to films, the limitations of the time make for a less dateable result: On 2001 A Space Odyssey, the production designers Doug Trumbull and Harry Lange couldn't use TV screens to implement the "instrumentation displays" they needed in their spaceship sets. Colour tubes were still very expensive, but more problematically, video tape systems (needed to make sure the same sequences appeared take after take) were horrifically priced.

So, the only option was to mount cine projectors behind ground-glass screens and project the futuristic instrument readouts onto it. A later scene uses the same trick (and some clever editing) to show Dave Bowman watch a plot-expositionary documentary about his crew on what we would only describe today as "a tablet".

(Bonus trivia: if you look carefully in Blade Runner, you'll see some of the cine displays from 2001 re-purposed in Deckard's car-- Doug Trumbull worked on both films)

A decade later, easier access to CRTs and videotape meant that the live displays used in Ridley Scott's "Alien" have actually dated much more poorly. Seeing those curved displays and green text reduces the feeling that this is a setting from future... despite being part of a production that meticulously created a real, lived-in environment (even those "random" symbols on the walls of the Nostromo sets are actually part of a pictographic sign system developed by designer Ron Cobb for the production - see https://wharferj.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/ron-cobbs-alien-semiotic-standards/ ).

("Star Wars [Episode IV: A New Hope]" quite cleverly hid its CRT graphics by projecting them or overlaying them on flat surfaces)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Props.. Fake History

Beat me to it on the 2001 'tablet' :-)

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Re: Fake History

>"Almost every vision of the future made in the past involves a crumby CRT display" - hmm, maybe as 0laf says in cheap TV sets but in the early 80's William Gibson had already envisaged cyberspace as virtual reality.

Gibson would back Orlowski up on this: he wrote a story set in the nineties, in which the protagonists keep having flash[sideways?] visions of an alternate world - a vision of 1990 as imagined by the futurists of the 1960s, complete with meal pills. To some extent, the forgettable 2015 movie Tomorrowland plays along similar riffs.

Still, does it matter? Alien featured CRT monitors, and it still looks better than Lawnmower Man.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Fake History

Are you trying to set the world record for building Straw Men?

# Straw Man 1:

>> "silicon moved at a stately pace" - really? I don't remember Moore's law stalling until Apple's iphone came riding to the rescue? <<<

Mobile microprocessors got better much more quickly after the iPhone.

# Straw Man 2:

>> maybe as 0laf says in cheap TV sets but in the early 80's William Gibson had already envisaged cyberspace as virtual reality <<

Envisaged it in a work of fiction. Fiction writers are good at this sort of thing. You might almost say writing fiction is what fiction writers do best.

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The best future prediction I've seen, without realising it when I read it 30 years ago, is The Mote In God's Eye. I was re-reading it last week, it's eye-opening.

"She took out her pocket computer and scribbled a few notes. It hummed as it connected to the ship's computer to fetch the information she requested"

"They filed into the meeting room, sat down and placed their pocket computers on the table in front of them"

That's a smart phone. Not just the technology, but the cultural interactions people adopt when they have them.

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""She took out her pocket computer and scribbled a few notes. It hummed as it connected to the ship's computer to fetch the information she requested""

Niven and Pournelle wrote about this in 1974, but the PADD had appeared in the first Star Trek series in 1966.

At the time, as a nerd keen on building radios, HiFi and various "electronic projects" I can recall snorting with derision at the communicator which was the size of a box of cigarettes and could transmit to geostationary orbit. I cringe when I recall just how cocksure I was that it would never happen. I think that was largely because I'd worked for a month on a walkie-talkie that weighed a couple of kilos and it could barely transmit two miles.

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Uhm, show me the portable device the size of a box of cigarettes that can transmit to geostationary satellites today?

Closest you'd come is an Inmarsat or Iridium phone, and they are far bulkier than that and the satellites aren't in geosync orbits...

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What really caused a double-take was "They filed into the meeting room, sat down and placed their pocket computers on the table in front of them". What's the first thing millennial snowflakes do when they go to a restaurant? Put their pocket computer (smartphone) on the table in front of them to keep in touch with the rest of the world - and probably in touch with the others around the table.

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Not all youth do this

Not if it's my lad. The first one to use a phone at a sociable dinner out gets to pay the bill. A great incentive to talk to the people around you not your online 'friends'

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There are always gonna be people in it for themselves....but on the average capitalism is the best way to go....at least that way everyone can be in it for themselves, or not. Choice is good. Steve Jobs did upset the apple cart and focus on the delight of the end user. But he is gone, and likely his vision with him. But as many people as there are in this world, there will be another one along any second...but he might not work for Apple!

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I don't think this is a fair criticism of GSM at all

I think this is a grossly unfair criticism of GSM and it's crediting Apple with market smashing innovation it did not have.

GSM was hugely liberating as it made it possible for the first time for consumers to pick their own hardware and mobile carrier. From day one, it mandated a SIM card which gave the consumer control to bring hardware they owned from network to network without any need to do anything other than swap a smart card.

Before that you had absolutely lock-in and on US CDMA networks you still do.

When Apple launched the iPhone first it was incredibly locked to networks, far more water tightly than any other device I've encountered. They're extremely difficult to unofficially unlock and unless you're buying the phone outtight from new you're very much controlled by your network. It's understandable where they subsidise the phone.

European networks also implemented full number portability long before the US and many other markets and had generally more competition.

All telcos all over the world had a notion they were going to be content providers and put you in a walled garden of WAP and iMode and so on. That didn't work out as mobiles became capable PCs and an expectation of full open internet access was the norm.

Apple doesn't generally distribute phones straight to consumers anymore than Nokis did. You could always buy a Nokia or any other phone totally independently of a network but you had to pay full price. The exact same case applied to iPhone from day one. They were when more likely to he networks subsidies and locked because people generally don't like handing over €700 -1000 for a phone and would rather fund it through a carrier subsidy.

GSM has been a phenomenal set or technical standards that are fully open to use. Networks can a use equipment from multiple vendors. There is no lock in to proprietary standards unlike CDMA One / CDMA 2000 or other single platforms.

There's been an absolute revolution in technology in the last decade and a half in terms of mobile technology and European driven standards have been at the core or that.

Nokia's handset division failed because Nokia didn't have the technical ability to develop a useable OS and touch screen environment.

Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens, Alcatel, and others European handset makers along with US players like Motorola, Japanese companies like NEC and Fujitsu came to the handset business as a development of their telco equipment operations. These companies, especially Nokia, Alcatel, Siemens and especially Ericsson are massive network equipment companies and have been for decades (over a century in the case of Ericsson). They're Europe's Bell Labs counterparts. They had no experience of producing direct consumer products. The provided telephone exchange and their model historically was selling to telcos.

Meanwhile other entrants like Sony, Philips and Panasonic etc had experience in consumer products especially in audio visual stuff.

NONE of these organisations were computer companies producing software for consumer and business desktops.

What happened quite simply was the technology hit a tipping point, a paradigm shift, where the device was a mobile PC, not a phone. So it was inevitable that silicon Valley had a huge huge lead. An iPhone has a lot more in common with a Mac than it does with a telephone.

That's why Apple and Google dominate. These devices are PCs.

Just like 1980s and 1990s landline telcos and cable companies didn't make it into online services and interactive TV, mobile telcos soon discovered they're also just dumb pipes and don't really have the v ability to develop the killer apps.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I don't think this is a fair criticism of GSM at all

"GSM was hugely liberating as it made it possible for the first time for consumers to pick their own hardware and mobile carrier."

Before GSM there was the analog NMT in Scandinavia and other countries in Europe and outside of it. There were multiple operators, multiple handset manufacturers and it supported roaming. The SIM card made the difference (as your wrote) since before that the phone number was on the eprom and thus possible to spoof.

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bep

Re: I don't think this is a fair criticism of GSM at all

I also think GSM encouraged competition. Because you could take your phone to another operator and just get a new SIM, you could compare plans, including data plans. The operators might have been reluctant to do it, but they had to compete on data as a result of SIM portability. Because you could get reasonable data plans, it became viable to use bigger screens and download more complex web pages. So it's a bit of chicken and egg in my opinion.

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Thumb Up

Re: I don't think this is a fair criticism of GSM at all

@Six. thanks for the comment, it was needed here.

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Re: I don't think this is a fair criticism of GSM at all

"Nokia's handset division failed because Nokia didn't have the technical ability to develop a useable OS and touch screen environment."

I thought it was more of a lack of ability to develop several successfully at the same time and a managerial ability to settle on just one.

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Re: I don't think this is a fair criticism of GSM at all

No, just a lack of managerial inability for recognizing that all the hard work on the advanced Linux-based devices (the Nokia Internet Tablet line) had finally fused them with very good telephony and they had a winner with the N9.

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Re: I don't think this is a fair criticism of GSM at all

And absolutely nothing to do with the fact that "signed by Symbian" meant that even if you managed to find a useful app, you were unlikely to get it to install properly

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Anonymous Coward

Paperbag vs PureView

Making Nokia phone could take years but it was worth it. Hell, I'm a south Asian and I still sometimes see a person running a Symbian smartphones released decade ago? It is guaranteed that every mobile account recharge outlates of my country contains 1/2 Nokia 1100/1110. These phones are surviving that amount of torture since their release over a decade ago. In past Nokia, Sony, Motorola, Samsung everyone made good quality hardware, but Nokia was almost always ahead by innovations and ease of use(Sony was first better at Camera but Nokia cached-up soon). Now everything is better but hardware quality gotten worse. Nokia phones had many features it's south-Asian and African users didn't even know. It was also uncommonly honest about specifications. It used to give users full right on their device which money-hog bloody businessman Jobs never did. In our south asia, it's the Cheap Chinese feature phones that striked Nokia first. Then very cheap Chinese Androids killed it. But when it's dying it was still selling most phones than any other company. We won't probably see any other mobile company which got a big division just for making ringtones. However now old Nokia is gone, Samsung and Sony got adopted and traded quality for price. It's been over a year Foxcon is making Nokia named phones which is actually just another smartphone of the market.

Old-Nokia Fanboy

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Re: Paperbag vs PureView

I don't really agree that the hardware's become worse - Rather that the focus is now entirely on smartphones, so any feature phones that are available very, very cheap and basic. 10+ years ago those were the mainstay of the mobile phone companies' business and they poured resources into designing and building them.

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Re: Paperbag vs PureView

Last week, I got a customer-support email from someone regarding my most popular Symbian app.

Personally, I only retired my N8 in 2014, and it remains the phone I've owned for the longest period of time (I got my first GSM handset in 1997).

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what the hell's it got to do with Europe ?

exactly the same protect-ist racket was in force in the USA - hell even more so - they were lucky if they got SMS in there crappy flip phones.

So though I agree with the general gist, it does seem to be a chance for Andrew 'Brexit' Orlowski to try to blame the EU for something which is FA to do with it.

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Re: what the hell's it got to do with Europe ?

I'm very confused as to how you can compare "European GSM" to Apple. Apple is a device maker and software company. GSM is a set of largely open industry standards (3GPP) covering GSM 2G, UMTS (3G), LTE and a whole load of supporting and associated technologies and protocols. The GSM Association is simply an industry body.

Apple's phones are running on GSM standards for communication - GSM 2G, UMTS, LTE etc.

It's a bit like trying to compare Samsung to the IP and the ISOC.

GSM made it possible for open standards that have made handset development a hell of a lot easier. Had it not been for GSM and its associated standards, you'd have a kludge of proprietary commercial networks like CDMA-One in the USA which would have required non-standard chipsets, special licensing, custom handsets etc etc.

GSM threw the door open to a plethora of equipment manufacturers, handset makers (including Apple and all the Android makers) and umpteen telcos that were able to roll out networks far more readily than they would have been with locked-down standards.

Before GSM, you basically had to approach someone like Motorola and buy a complete network and were locked into a particular system on their terms.

Incidentally, GSM spun out of a European Union project which was aimed at smashing down the barriers between mobile networks in the 1980s and creating some kind of a framework for pan-European (and beyond) mobile services. It achieved that by creating an open standard and getting players to corporate. Before GSM there were just islands of proprietary analog systems in different European countries, roaming was impossible, there was no obvious path to data services etc etc.

Incidentally, Nokia hasn't gone anywhere. Its handset division failed and disappeared but the company itself is still one of the key players behind mobile and fixed line infrastructure and has acquired Siemens networking division and also the enormous Alcatel-Lucent which included Bell Labs and all of Alcatel's gear and patents.

It's very likely that your mobile handset, home phone in your house or your internet traffic is traversing Nokia or Ericsson networking equipment.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

(Written by Reg staff)

Fake News. So sad.

"Incidentally, GSM spun out of a European Union project"

No it didn't.

The EU didn't exist until a decade after work on GSM started. It happened anyway, without the huge bureaucrat overhead, through non-EU bodies like CEPT. And because of the multilateral agreement between four trade Ministers who endorsed the work. That's all you need to get the ball rolling.

GSM is a great example of how great things can happen without a massive bureaucrat superstate issuing top-down decrees, and generally getting in the way.

http://www.gsmhistory.com/who_created-gsm/

But I suppose that since it has so few successes of its own, the EU wants to take credit for other people's successes.

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Angel

So, Can I Blame AT&T For...?

After watching the rather uncanny AT&T video of 'The Future' as of 1993, I got the feeling that perhaps our actual future has been aping what AT&T thought should happen.

Therefore, can I blame AT&T for:

• The terrible idea of transparent computer screens?

• Butt-ugly, geometrically boring architecture?

• The continued rise of those with profound insecurity accompanied by the bombastic overcompensation of their ego in positions of power?

Still missing: The ability to translate with any decent quality from one language to another. That would be enough. But it would be nice to add on the ability to sample the source voice and provide live translation in using the sound quality of that source voice. I'm not holding my breath for that one.

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Re: So, Can I Blame AT&T For...?

"Still missing: The ability to translate with any decent quality from one language to another. That would be enough. But it would be nice to add on the ability to sample the source voice and provide live translation in using the sound quality of that source voice. I'm not holding my breath for that one."

Not just from one language to another. Take British dialects; some are hard to understand for some people. Something that can translate a strong Scottish accent into English that I can understand would be great. And if software became better than my ears, you could translate drunken English to sober English, or English with a running nose into English spoken by a healthy person.

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Re: So, Can I Blame AT&T For...?

"A strong Scottish accent" is actually something that may or may not be the closest living language to English or its most distant living dialect, depending on which linguist you ask. It's called Scots, and the only thing people do agree on is that it's not a "strong accent".

The reason you have difficulty in understanding it is that it follows almost -but not quite- all of the grammatical rules of English, and uses a vocabularly of words that sound almost -but not quite- the same as English ones, but the commonly used words are those that are most different from English. Sometimes this is because English has diverged from an older pattern that Scots still follows (e.g., English is "go/went"; Scots is "gae/gaed" or "go/goed").

Many people who do speak Scots don't consider it to be a different language to English, and so they "code-switch" regularly between Scottish English and Scots just to add to the confusion.

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More about the ipod

It was all about the ipodness of it (the ipod touch came out in september that year, a few years ahead of the ipad)

You may recall some people carrying wifi GSM doongles so they could use their ipod touch in the field

And early iphones are for those blessed with young eyes, this old windbag needs at least 5" to use the web

Case-sensitive passwords are a joy on an iphone keyboard

Remember when music was the food of love?

What happens if you play on?

It grows bigger and you can't stop playing with it?

Or you have children and have to be an adult

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I loathe Apple BUT

I loathe telcos more.

Bestest thing Apple ever did for all of us, was firmly put telcos in their place as the big dumb pipes they screamed at us they weren't.

Alright, Apple stood on the shoulders of GSM, but they took that ball and ran with it.

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Re: I loathe Apple BUT

"Alright, Apple stood on the shoulders of GSM, but they took that ball and ran with it."

GSM is just a standard.

Apple would have adopted whatever standard was in use at the time.

I really don't get what GSM has to do with this?

If apple made radios, they would have made them so they would receive FM and AM, becase those are the standard bands and modulations.

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did much the same in the US

Apple came in and broke the grip of the US operators. Before the iPhone we were stuck with lousy choices for phones. Verizon was too arrogant to allow another company to speak to their captive customers. AT&T was starving for an advantage, and put themselves at the mercy of Apple. AT&T had a couple boom years of exclusivity while Verizon got to eat crow.

Same thing happened in Japan. Softbank deployed world spec networks and then the iPhone. Everyone in the telecom world said that it would never work, Japanese required custom products,etc. After only a year or so Softbank had picked up huge market share.

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Re: did much the same in the US

Contrary to the tone of the article. Here in the UK, if you go to someone like the CarPhone Warehouse and purchase a handset, more often than not, it will network independent, even if you purchased it as a contract phone. The iPhone will lock itself to the first SIM card that is inserted.

Yeah, Apple really stuck two fingers up to the networks.

And how long did it take apple to allow the iPhone to tether?

I had tethering back in 2002- on a Nokia

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Re: did much the same in the US

Apple didn't tether because they were demanding uncapped data with acceptable bandwidth at a fixed affordable price as a condition of allowing a carrier to sell locked iPhones. Keeping tethering off the iPhone was part of Apple's side of the deal as they drove the carriers into the future.

Nokia was a typical gadget engineering company designing the gadget only, instead of the entire customer experience.

There are reasons why Apple is rarely the one introducing technical features first, but often the one that achieves mainstream adoption. Mobile internet, paid music downloads, WiFi, USB etc.

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Anonymous Coward

3D has flopped,

60+ million 3DS sales says not really, but VR is the successor.

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3DS?

The kids (son and his friends) I see using them have usually turned off 3D completely..

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The only reason any of my family have got the 3DS is because for some godforsaken reason the 2DS was designed with that giant slab form factor that can't be closed and doesn't fit in a pocket. Nothing to do with the 3D.

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Anonymous Coward

If we're living under consumer capitalism...

Not for much longer bourgies.

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The networks pushed themselves into irrelivence

I always remember back in 2003, spending hundreds of pounds on one of Three's "amazing" new NEC 3G phones which had been advertised as having amazing data speeds and video capabilities..... then when I got it home having a major WTF moment when I realised the Three network (back then) didn't support ANY internet access whatsoever at any price (the other four 2G networks at the time already all supported (rather expensive) GPRS and dialup internet access)!

That a new entrant like Three, launching with a new technology (3G) that had been massively promoted in the press as a new era for data (and by definition Internet access), could launch with such a broken product speaks volumes of the contempt some people in the industry had for their customers (it seems Three were attempting to sell premium downloaded videos including I believe even porn and appear to have decided not to offer any internet access as a business decision to trap their customers in a "walled garden"). None of the other networks made that mistake and Three was regarded as a joke for nearly a decade because of it.

Since then Three have turned their marketing on it's head and now claim to be the network for internet, however when ever I see one of their adverts that's the first thing that springs to mind.

BTW I am a current Three customer. I joined them when they were the first to offer "unlimited" data, which was also the point they started to turn around their reputation.... however if they don't get their 4G act together soon they may regain it.

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Re: The networks pushed themselves into irrelivence

if I recall correctly, Three doesn't and never has supported anything other than 3G networks, hence the name. When out of range of one of its 3G towers your phone would connect to another provider, I forget which one, for telephony purposes over 2G. Crucially this arrangement did not apply to data which could only travel over Three's own network. This worked transparently to (for?) the user. You probably lived in a 3G/Three notspot as they are now known.

addendum:

At the time providers didn't provide coverage maps so caveat emptor!

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Orac

In some respects, the british shows about the future are just still a little ahead of their time.

Right now you can buy these digital assistants like Alexa, or they're built into the OS of the computer you're using, but their big flaw is that they aren't cynical enough, and don't generally come across as being a lot more brainy than you are, and that perhaps they went to a better type of school.

If they can sort that out, then I might start using them!

(And what about some nice flashing lights...)

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Orlowski- have you been possessed by Charles Arthur?

I recall him writing a similar article when he was the Vicar and Defender of the Faith at the Guardian.

He too tried to argue that the iphone was a democratising force for good. And he too decided to overlook the contribution of the likes of Windows Mobile and Palm. I guess that it is difficult to acknowledge their existence when trying to argue that the iPhone was unique and super high spec.

The uncomfortable truth was that it wasn't as simple as the iPhone Vs WAP devices. Windows Mobile never even had a WAP browser, it shipped with Internet Explorer and by the time the iphone was released, there were 5" phones with Opera's tabbed HTML browser and much higher specifications than the iphone. HTC had already developed TouchFlo which allowed users to scroll, tap and swipe with their fingers.

We are asked to believe that the Telcos didn't want people using data greedy devices but here in the UK, O2 offered the XDA range, Orange the SPV and T-Mobile the MDA.. 4 months before the iPhone was released T-Mobile offered the 5" T-Mobile Ameo for £118 on a £45pm contract that included unlimited 3G access (with tethering). IIRC the only firm that didn't offer unlimited access was O2 who introduced their service in Oct 2007.

However within a couple of years, about the same time as the iphone was becoming popular, all of the networks (bar 3) dropped unlimited access.I, for one, could now no longer stream Hulu (Flash) to my phone with impunity.

I get that you like the iPhone but please stop with the revisionism.

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"Today you can walk into a mall in Shenzhen, and half an hour later you are a phone OEM."

Or a front for a Chinese S/W company that wants to own your customers?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/11/15/android_phoning_home_to_china/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/11/20/more_androids_carry_phonehome_firmware/

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Anonymous Coward

Alternative Facts Ride Again

While I enjoy a good rant as much as the next person, this article tries to string together a whole load of things that simply don't fit. GSM does not equal mobile phone handset manufacturing. And sci-fi has three tenths of stuff all to do with the matter.

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Apple's real cleverness

It isn't, and wasn't just about the gadget, although intuitive UI and full desktop browser were important. The cleverest thing Mr Jobs did was to leverage the competition that governments had imposed on carrier licensees to (a) force flat rate, affordable data charging and (b) take over the customer relationship with the hated carrier (turning carrier into mere data pipe).

By the time of iPhone, the only way a carrier could get new subscribers was by taking them from competitors. For a pocket network computer to be successful needed unlimited data at an affordable price. That was the only way users would not be paranoid about cost implications of any action (those were the days of mobile internet users getting a completely unexpected astronomical airtime bill.)

The exclusive carrier deal delivered the end user a revolutionary device, with the first unmetered affordable data plan and a customer relationship with trusted Apple instead of hated carrier. The reason Apple could force this bitter pill down the throat of a carrier was because it offered a way to steal subscribers from other carriers. If it worked, the carrier had a monopolistic advantage over competitors for maybe 4 years (Google's Android engineers knew as soon as Jobs showed the iPhone that they needed to go back to the drawing board). If it didn't, the bitter iphone pill hadn't changed the market, and nothing was lost. It did work, and thus Apple opened the door allowing Android et al to slip in behind them, creating the smartphone economy of today.

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The double-down

A guy once wrote an interesting article about how the motorcycle industry got disrupted. US bikes faced competition from UK bikes with better tech. What did they do? They doubled down on their existing tech and lost.

Later UK bikes had the same situation with respect to Japanese bikes. Same tactic: ignore the new tech and double down on the old. Losers!

Then UK cars and so many other old line companies. And GSM, apparently. "We don't need no stinking useful tech!".

Oh, and what was the response of the EU bureaucrats to the threat and later fact of Brexit? They said "maybe we should have gone for unity faster". Doubling down on what wasn't working.

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