1) Is the iPhone really worth all the hype, or is it simply another device in the huge landscape of portable electronics?
It's not possible for anything to be worth the hype the iPhone has been getting, positive and negative. Overall, it looks like the iPhone is a good step in a good direction. Some of it is revolutionary (surface interface now copied by MS), some of it evolutionary (integrated feature set, Unix), and some of it under par at its price point (4 or 8 GB with no memory slot? Lame!).2) Do you plan to buy one?
No; at least not for personal use, but we're getting several to develop on, so I might have to commadeer one if I get hooked. I'm a big fan of convergence technologies, but with the state of modern cellphone networks, I like to keep phone functionality separate from everything else. I'd rather have a tiny phone that does nothing but voice calls, and a second, slightly larger gadget that does the rest: camera, MP3 player, TV, games, radio, WiFi internet, etc. I'd much rather have an iPhone without the phone, but with a bigger hard drive-- more like an Archos 504
with 160 GB of storage instead of the iPhone's measley 4 or 8. When 3G service reaches more of America, I might warm up to omnibus phones, but the iPhone doesn't even do 3G, so it seems to be in the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none category, for now.3) If we really are entering the age of touchscreen computing, besides Apple & Microsoft's efforts, what other uses could this technology have? Will the mouse become obsolete?
Small touch screens will probably make their way into dashboards, steering wheels, microwaves and other kitchen appliances, some high-end wristwatches, photo printers, intercom-type devices or videophones, vending machines, ATMs, gas pumps, self-serv checkouts, voting machines, etc. Wherever there's no space or time for concentrated touch-typing, but still a need to select multiple options, possibly in different languages or by image.
Different interfaces are good for different tasks. Touch and pen screens are destined to make inroads against mice and trackpads, but not replace them entirely. Tablet computing has taken off in a lot of fields, and sales of tablet PCs are rapidly gaining on mouse-only systems. For desktops, I prefer a Wacom Cintiq
tablet to any mouse, but of course, they're not in the same price range, so it's probably not a fair comparison. When I've got a standard notebook on my lap, I prefer it's trackpad; when it's on a desk, I prefer a three-button mouse if I can't plug in the Cintiq. I prefer keyboard shortcuts to mousing through menus and clicking buttons.
Although I doubt anyone expects to use the iPhone for word processing, Apple seems to assume a large number of people won't mind regularly typing on a touch screen. I'm not sure that's a good assumption. As much as I love doing creative work on a tablet, I wouldn't want to do much typing without a real keyboard of some kind. The only text input interface that might give the keyboard a run for its money is speech recognition, and there's been no indication of any speech recognition on the iPhone. The iPhone is advertised to interface with Bluetooth keyboards, but Bluetooth drains battery power fast. Even with the better battery numbers Apple released this week, you can't replace the iPhone's battery when it runs out of juice. A third party will probably make a tiny clip-on push-button keyboard shortly after the iPhone hits the market, and it will probably sell very well. Ditto with clip-on battery supplements.
It's hard to say whether the iPhone will fly or flop, but I'm selling off my Apple stock, so I'm effectively betting my money on slightly disappointing sales, after which I'll probably buy again barring a major disaster. Bought at $20 and selling at $120+, so can't complain much, even if I'm wrong. (Disclaimer-- this is not a stock tip, but a disclosure-- I've been wrong about such things as often as I've been right).
Carlsen: Ummm, OS X in itself is really not that usefull - only if it can run every OSX program that the Apple desktop pc's can.
I'm inclined to agree, to an extent. Windows CE/PocketPC is certainly not in the same league as Windows XP/Vista, and Apple's use of the OS X kernel and a few modified frameworks on the iPhone is probably not significantly different, considering Apple announced at WWDC that all third party apps must use its Safari Web browser rather than having full access to OS X. The idea that Safari might soon include Google Gears