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iPhone OS 4.0 and the coming identity gulags.

The unveiling of iPhone OS 4.0 caused a bit of a stir last week.  Apple will finally allow multi-tasking on iPhone devices, which means that true communications clients can finally be built to run on iPhone.  No longer will users be required to load and run the Skype, Truphone or Google voice clients – they will simply run in the background. 

In a lengthy piece written April 8, Stuart Henshall outlines the implications for this development, the biggest of which is the disintermediation of the traditional telecoms industry.  Stuart posits that, with the huge numbers of mobile clients in the market – and especially iPhone – telephone numbers will finally go the way of the Dodo, and identity will migrate to the owners of cloud assets – the Yahoo’s, Skype’s, and likely (although Stuart doesn’t say this) Facebook’s of the world.  “Caller ID” will become the information presented by the identity network, and not just a phone number and name.  And so, after resisting for decades, the telecom companies finally really do become dumb pipes running a stupid network with smart end points.

The upcoming eComm event in San Francisco seems to be pointing in that direction too. With its heavy emphasis on policy, networks and end-point technologies, a whole day devoted to Augmented Reality, and presentations from just two carriers (not including the Verizon cameo in Day 2’s panel on the US National Broadband Panel), the momentum in the industry seems clear, and the carriers have apparently absented themselves from the discussion.

Would that it were as easy as everyone implies.  If we’re not careful, however, we’re headed for the same IM Gulag that exists today, now spread across mobile devices.  Communications networks will splinter into a myriad of smaller islands, and by default, the phone number will remain our pre-eminent identity, simply because nothing else is universal. 

Last week I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t chatted with since dumping all other IM networks for Skype in November 2008.  She doesn’t use Skype, and we don’t call each other that often.  I reinstalled MSN messenger, and soon we were talking. It was a stark illustration.  Our identities, and consequently communications applications which require identity, were walled off from each other by entrenched corporate interests.  It was as if I were a Verizon customer, and she an AT&T customer,  and neither network had agreed to interoperate with the other.

Do we really want that kind of identity network?

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Aswath Rao April 14, 2010, 5:48 am

    A shameless plug: Avoid the gulag and shackles of service providers by running your own app server and "federate" with the ones you choose whether or not they are running such an app server or not. The technology is here as exemplified at my site http://aswath.mocaedu.com. Hooray for IP Autonomous Communications.

  • Denny Helberg April 27, 2010, 6:52 pm

    Wow, that was a great article. You make some really great points.

    I personally think Apple is going too far with the secrecy about their new products. Case in point, the 4th gen iPhone. One gets lost in a bar by a drunk employee, and the person who finds it tries to return it. Apple won't take it because they don't believe him, so he sells it to Jason Chen, and they've got their panties in a twist about it and are charging him with a felony. I personally find it ridiculous.

    Anyway, I've written about it on my site. Check it out at http://4thgeniphone.com. Thanks for the read!

  • John A. Gates July 3, 2010, 2:36 pm

    Great write up. The iPhone is truly amazing and I don't like being without it. This time last year I had jumped in a pool with my iPhone and it was dead. I had to wait 9 days before I was able to get a new one. The phone I had was a cheap go phone. I really love all the games that can be downloaded to the iPhone. The best part about the iPhone to me is the ability to check emails on the fly. Thanks for the information.

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