Posted by: Rowan | January 25, 2009

Two guys in a pub

It’s a bit like watching two guys in a pub eyeballing each other and itching for a fight. Apple and Palm are giving each other the legal evil eye about their smartphones and muttering under their breath about having a punch-up.

I’m not in the smartphone market yet but I will be in the next couple or three months. And I’m not too fussy – all I really want is always-on access to the internet.

The iPhone is out there already, and I’ve been watching the arrival of the Palm Pre and the Android-based G1. I’ve played with an iPhone (thanks, Colin) and I really liked the interface. It’s the kind of thing I could get used to pretty much overnight, but the phone itself seemed kind of fragile for the way I treat my stuff. The Palm is interesting because it’s getting such good reviews on the quality of its interface, and it just looks a little more robust and less breakable. And the G1 interests me because it’s built on an open source platform, and it has a slide-out keyboard – some habits die hard. I don’t know what to think about the Blackberry yet, but it just seems a bit corporate to me, whatever that means. I’m not sure I want a permanent keyboard at the expense of screen-space.

But when I decide I’m ready to fork out for a smartphone, they’ll be among my primary choices. I don’t know what my telco will try to push on me but I’d like to have at least a couple of those choices available when it happens.

And to see Apple and Palm thinking about squaring up to a sue-them-out-of-the-market argument is a real piss-off, as a consumer.

Why don’t these guys keep their focus on bringing a good product to the market, and marketing it better than their competitors? Instead of threatening to reduce my choices by trying to kick them off the market with legal arguments? And then making me pay for their fancy footwork by loading their legal overheads onto the price I pay for the phone?

Am I naïve about the dynamics of a competitive market? I don’t think so, I’ve been part of it for long enough. I just hope those two guys stop eyeballing each other, have another slurp and just get on with doing what they do best.

I hope my telco can give me the choices I want. And if they can’t, I hope somebody else can. And I’d like both those guys to be part of the equation, but preferably without their legal costs.

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