Dan Benjamin has a great weblog, and has just taken the plunge into the world of recorded audio broadcasting. Checkout the Hivelogic Podcast (direct feed), whose first episode features a chat with John Gruber of Daring Fireball. The quality of the podcast is already much higher than most first episodes, so I’m looking forward to listening to the series evolve.
The content of the first episode is centered around the rumored Apple cell phone, with John taking the position (and more-or-less convincing Dan) that Apple can’t announce a completed product at Macworld, because the product simply requires too many cooks in the kitchen. He suggests that if and when Apple pulls together all the required resources to build a complete product, there will be so many companies involved that a leak is inevitable.
But I’ve learned to never underestimate Apple’s ability to redefine the rules. There’s just no saying what they could have cooking up their sleeve. And they have a huge, competent workforce that has been mostly slapped into confidential submission. So I’ve got a bold prediction about the mythological Apple Phone (and yes, this is a real prediction, unlike my last phone entry).
To be honest, I don’t know enough about mobile phone technology to be qualified to speculate, but here goes. I know that among the alleged problems for Apple are:
- Apple has to make deals with wireless networks ahead of time.
- Apple can’t realistically produce a device that supports multiple standards (e.g. CDMA and GSM).
So what’s my totally uneducated, shocking prediction for Macworld? Apple will get around these obstacles by redefining the mobile telephone market. Apple will modularize the “communication component” of mobile phones, by turning the hardware required for connecting to and communicating with any particular network a “snap-in” component: basically an extension of existing SIM cards. For existing SIM-card carriers, a module that adapts the SIM card to the necessary circuitry to communicate with a GSM network, and for other carriers, a module that handles the whole shebang. The whole thing will connect to the Apple Phone via a custom compartment underneath the battery. “Only Apple could have done this.”
You’ll buy one “iPhone,” and as many communications modules as you need for the various networks or vendors you do business with. As I understand it there are at least some vendors who will work with “unlocked” phones. That means roughly that the vendor will work with a “commmodity phone,” such as Apple could develop independently and secretly. But Apple doesn’t want to be limited to these commodity vendors, and they don’t want to confuse customers with a rash of different phones. So next week Apple will come out two mobile phone products:
- The Apple Phone. Part iPod, part phone, part magic.
- The Apple GSM Module. This will come bundled with the first Apple Phone as the only option, allowing the Apple phone to work with any vendor able to provide a GSM sim card.
At the Macworld keynote, Steve Jobs will hold up the world’s sexiest phone, which will glisten in the rapid-fire of flash photography as he announces instant availability for unlocked GSM networks. And one more thing: Apple is “anxious to work with any wireless network company that wants to develop an Apple Phone communications module for their customers. We’ve designed the a comprehensive hardware spec and we believe that most carriers should be able license and build these modules with a list price of $49.95USD, with a reasonable profit margin built-in.”