Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few days, you’ve heard about the iPhone. After many months of speculation by Apple-watchers, the iPhone was finally announced at the Macworld conference in San Francisco. It appears to be a truly revolutionary device. But how useful it will be for law students?
The iPhone won’t be available until this summer. It will work only with Cingular, which has an exclusive multiyear contract with Apple. While more than a few people will switch to Cingular just to get their hands on an iPhone, in areas where Cingular’s coverage isn’t so hot the iPhone might not be a viable option.
The iPhone runs OS X, but that is apparently not the same thing as Mac OS X. Steve Jobs has confirmed that the iPhone will not be open to outside developers, ostensibly because Apple and Cingular don’t want to introduce security risks. This has provoked a vigorous response from many in the Macintosh community who are anxious to use Mac applications on their iPhones. Merlin Mann says it well when he says, “I’d take “OmniOutliner Mobile” or “iTerm Lite” or “Textmate for iPhone” in a heartbeat. No question.”
The iPhone will run Widgets, the nifty little applications that at present reside in your Mac’s Dashboard. When the iPhone is delivered, will it run non-Apple Widgets? I could imagine an entire category of Widgets designed to grab user input from the iPhone and effortlessly sync it to the user’s Mac. An OmniOutliner or Circus Ponies Notebook Widget could be quite handy for students, possibly allow the iPhone to become the in-class notetaking device of choice.
If Apple is as good at developing a third-party market for add-on hardware as they’ve been with the iPod, we may see a variety of companies rolling out keyboards, voice recorders, and other devices for the iPhone. The iPhone will use Bluetooth 2.0 for short-range wireless communication. Bluetooth versions of the thin, flexible, and easily stowable keyboards currently used primarily with Treo, Blackberry, and other mobile devices could be developed for the iPhone.
Will an iPhone devoid of third-party applications be enough to entice you to buy one? Some observers have noted that the Internet has become the application platform of choice anyway, and closing the iPhone to third-party developers will actually push development of innovative iPhone-targeted Web apps. What do you think?
[Image courtesy Apple, Inc.]