One of the pithier sayings in the tech world is that the pioneers are the ones with the arrows in their backs. The people and companies that step forward with the greatest innovations are in the most danger of being surpassed by those using their concepts as the stepping stones to a next generation of innovation.
During the past few months, shiny new smartphones, including the Google/HTC Nexus One, the Motorola Droid and the Palm Pre, have arrived. Perhaps the key functionality absent in the iPhone but present in these other devices is the ability to run multiple applications at the same time.
TechCrunch is among the sites speculating that Apple may be planning to respond on Jan. 27. It is assumed that on that day the company will announce a tablet device, and Fortune has a preview. Given Apple's abilities, the device should represent quite a step forward. Boy Genius Report claims to have the lowdown.
But the real news-since the tablet is expected-may be the release of iPhone 4.0. TechCrunch connects some dots and suggests that Apple may launch the next iteration of the famous phone at the same time, and that it will bring multitasking capabilities. ipodnn says an unidentified "prominent developer" reports already having worked with the code.
The iPhone and the Apple tablet will run different versions of the iPhone software, which is derived from the Mac OS X. The crux of the TechCrunch piece is that the iPhone OS's inability to run multiple applications-a prohibition built in due to Apple's desire to lengthen battery life to the max -- to this point was more of a drawback for developers than subscribers. A tablet, of course, must run multiple applications. Thus, if an iPhone OS is available that multitasks, it's a no-brainer to put it on a phone as well as the tablet.
This is an important step in keeping the equilibrium between Apple and the upstarts. The fun part of all of this is that the innovation will continue to flow between innovators trying to one-up each other. The drivers of sustained innovation-bright people and a receptive pool of potential customers-are firmly in place, and will be for years to come.