Under The Microscope

The iPhone Trojan Horse

The iPhone SDK is due by the end of this month. Or maybe it’s late. Either way, the iPhone SDK is coming soon; by the time you read this it may already be here. I posted about our pending plans for the iPhone already. But while contemplating the iPhone, I realized something simple, but important: the iPhone is a Trojan horse.

The iPod Halo Effect
Since the iPod gained Windows compatibility, there’s been talk about the “halo effect”. This idea says that Windows users who use an iPod will gain positive associations with Apple, eventually leading them to consider switching to a Mac. While Apple’s market share has crept up over the past few years, it’s difficult to say just how much the iPod had to do with that.

The problem is that the iPod is largely a stand-alone device. Users are also exposed to iTunes, but their day-to-day interaction is by and large with the iPod. All screen-based iPods (except the Touch1) run a custom operating system from a company called Pixo, an OS which bears no relation to Mac OS X. While PC users might like the iPod, they aren’t experiencing anything like the Mac itself.

Enter the iPhone
Like all iPods since 2003, the iPhone is platform-agnostic – it works with Windows machines just as well as it does with a Mac. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of iPhone users primarily or exclusively run a Windows machine.2

Compared to the iPod, however, using the iPhone is much closer to a Mac experience. The operating system on the device is what Apple calls “OS X” and it features virtually all of the same underpinnings as Mac OS X. The software draws from the Mac as well: MobileMail is reminiscent of Mail, while MobileSafari is very clearly built on Safari, Calendar works just like iCal, and many of the other applications mimic Dashboard Widgets.

The iPhone Halo Effect
In terms of overall user experience, the iPhone is as close to a Mac as any non-Mac device has gotten. It’s far closer than even the Apple TV, which actually runs Mac OS X. All that makes the iPhone much more likely to exhibit a halo effect than the iPod ever did. Both iPods and the iPhone exhibit Apple’s dedication to quality and design. Only the iPhone, however, gives something close to the true Mac experience.

Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts
As such, the iPhone is a Trojan horse in the land of Windows. That innocuous little cell phone is running OS X coupled with other Apple software. Better still, the iPhone will soon be showing off some of the best software in the world, made in large part by indie Mac developers3.

The iPhone’s cell phone origins belie a simple truth – it’s a Mac in disguise. iPhone users are coming as close to using a Mac as possible, short of actually using a Mac. Going from using an iPhone to trying a Mac will be a much shorter mental leap than going from an iPod to a Mac. Apple’s getting into the minds of PC users via their pockets and the growing popularity of the iPhone can only help the Mac’s market share. That’s good news for Apple, developers, and users alike.

1. Henceforth, take iPod to mean “non-Touch iPods” and iPhone to mean “iPhone/iPod Touch”.

2. I’m not aware of any official breakdown on Mac vs. PC iPhone usage. Regardless, I think it’s clear that the iPhone is a hit with everyone, not just Mac users.

3. It’s very likely you’ll need a Mac to develop for the iPhone, and that developing for it will be much like developing for the Mac. While developers from other platforms are fighting to learn Xcode, Mac developers will already be shipping.

3 Responses to “The iPhone Trojan Horse”

  1. AdamC says:

    True so is the iPod Touch, after using it for a few days my boy declared that it is the best hand held computer btw he is a window user while his dad is a die hard Apple fan.

  2. Akbar says:

    A very interesting take. The fact that the iPhone will run software almost entirely from Macintosh developers will be nice to see. For me, the Intel switch and VMWare made switching possible.

  3. Jon H says:

    A few weeks ago I got an iPod touch. That weekend I went to visit family in Connecticut. My brother tried out the touch while I was there. Within a week, he had an iPhone.

    Now he’s talking about getting a MacBook Air and a Time Capsule.

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