What an action-packed 24 hours...

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With Ewan somewhere in America still, Rafe recording an Insight with me and then taking a well deserved long weekend break himself, it's been an odd 24 hours, centred around the big news from Cupertino and smartphone industry reaction to it. Read on for some analysis on this and other interesting weekend reading links.

Leaving Apple aside for one moment, I was heartened to see one of the UK's mobile heavyweights, Ewan from SMS Text News, finally bringing his quest for the ultimate mobile experience to an end - by plumping for a Nokia E90 and Vodafone, coincidentally the same combination as myself 8-) Read back at SMS Text News for more from Ewan on his quest.

Then there was an in-depth review of the Samsung i560 to read over at Unwired View. Samsung's S60 smartphones never seem to make it to the UK, so this was a fascinating read - and then Rafe let it slip that we've got (through a circuitous route) the i450 and i550 in for review at AllAboutSymbian now - so expect to see something from us on these two Nokia Nseries-challenging smartphones very shortly.

And, at 6pm GMT last night, came Apple's latest assault on the mobile industry, announcing:

  • Microsoft Exchange/Activesync push email/PIM support
  • A full (Mac-hosted) SDK that opens up a good 90% of the iPhone's functions to 3rd party apps
  • A distribution system based on an on-device AppStore (and also synced with iTunes), with app updates automatically made available, over the air
  • Apple take a 30% cut of app sales and will distribute freeware for er.... free
  • A 100 million dollar investment fund for any developers with decent enough iPhone app ideas

As usual with these Apple press onslaughts, reaction from both myself and other industry commentators has been mixed. As usual, Michael Mace nails it (for me) proclaiming that this is the sort of Ecosystem that the (smart) mobile industry has needed for years, done right.

Nokia and Sony Ericsson's SDKs look clumsy and complicated in comparison, Nokia's on-device Download! system looks somewhat half-baked, Symbian OS app sales through third parties like Handango look strangled by the latter's greed and the 100 million dollars up for grabs is just rubbing salt into the wound for Symbian OS developers who already feel hard done by.

Stefan also points out the Download! comparison, but has some other beefs about Apple's new SDK and ecosystem. Raddedas over at TechType doubts that the investors of the said $100 million will get much of their money back, given the state of the software world in general - maybe games are the answer after all?

Finally, Fake Steve Jobs has pronounced Nokia as 'dead' - along with the rest of the smartphone industry. Funny and premature, of course.

My own take is:

  1. Simple admiration for what Steve Jobs and Apple do, i.e. implement an idea and get it right first time, they really join all the dots when it comes to a product, compared to Nokia's (for example) technique of finishing bits of products, releasing them all at different times and then hoping it all comes together in the end.
  2. Scepticism as to how long it will take for Apple and its newfound ecosystem to catch up with the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson in sheer telecomms technology. Apple may have the iPhone and they may have a fired-up developer community with a big pot of gold at the end of the road, but they haven't mastered simple 3G telephony yet, let alone integrating the other aspects of modern smartphones, such as 3.5G data, heavyweight cameras, camcorders and GPS. And Apple certainly hasn't mastered the economies of scale which see the likes of the Nokia N95 8GB (and even the E90) able to be sold for free with phone contracts, a prerequisite for serious high street sales outside the USA.

And, as Symbian has seen recently, implementing a signing system for applications can prove far more complex in the real world than it seemed at the design stage. And OS X hackers seem, if anything, a lot more persistent than those in the S60 and UIQ worlds.

Apple has taken another big step forwards on the world stage, but don't write off the incumbents just yet.

Steve Litchfield, AllAboutSymbian