How The Fat Kid Became Cool

How The Fat Kid Became Cool

No, I’m not talking about Jared I’m talking about the iPhone.

Nearly 2 years ago now I met @thinguy on Twitter.  He was a fellow Sun employee and I soon learned of the double-entendre of his handle – he his a health conscious man working to keep himself fit (and keep those moobs off!), but he’s also an engineer on Sun’s awesome thin-client desktop – SunRay.

Years ago Sun’s then CEO, Scott McNealy proclaimed that Thin was In.  He foresaw a day when the PC would fade away and we’d return to the way computing started – big servers accessed by “dumb” terminals.   Sun built a modern thin-client that could handle today’s video and audio demands but all the heavy-lifting is done on big backend servers over a high speed network.  Login credentials are carried on a smart card (something you have) and paired with your password (something you know) – giving strong two factor authentication.  Your state is saved on the servers and you can unplug your SunRay card from one machine, walk across the campus or fly across the country (or world for that matter), plug into any other SunRay and poof, there’s your session just as you left it.  FANTASTIC.

Now it’s not perfect mind you, but it’s a great vision and a product line that gets stronger by the year.  It’s a great solution for governments, schools, libraries, and the like, but it was darn slick at a Fortune 500 company too.

Honestly I think computing is swinging towards Scott’s vision.  Cloud computing is gaining ground.  Some of the best (or at least most popular) apps out there aren’t installed on your desktop, rather they run on the web (Gmail, Google Calendar, Facebook, Mint, Hulu ) and in many cases even your data doesn’t reside on your machine (FlickrYouTube, GoogleDocs,   These compute engines, apps, and data stores mean that your machine can be simpler and simpler – the popularity of teeny-tiny “Netbooks” is proof of that…

But at the same time that computers are getting thinner and thinner something odd is happening in the cell phone space.  Sun’s current CEO is fond of saying (and he’s right) that more people will experience the Internet via their phone than via a computer.  With each passing day that becomes a stronger reality.  Cell phones are cheap, small, portable, don’t require tethered electricity nor a complex wi-fi infrastructure.  They too can do chat, email, photos, music, and video, and with web access they make a suitable substitute for the computer.  Up to now most phones were built with a simple OS and lightweight apps, often written in Java.  Content providers often made stripped down light-weight versions of their sites for mobile devices, the so called m-dot sites ( Then came the iPhone.

Apple changed everything with the iPhone.  They produced a beautiful, cool, and feature filled device.  It provides a great user experience and it’s sex appeal made it THE device to have.  Then Apple released their developer kit and introduced the iTunes App Store – they used the success of the iTunes model to monetize applications and people are writing and buying them by the thousands!  Now the phone has a big fat complex OS and people are filling their phones with stand-alone apps, installed locally on the device.  People aren’t using m.websites, instead they are using Twitter apps, Ebay apps, Amazon apps, there’s an iPhone app for everything, EVERYTHING.

Apple’s iPhone is a fat little bastard (I mean that in the most endearing sense of the word!) and he’s the darling of the world.  Fat is cool baby, Fat is where it’s at!  And as more and more people rush to join the iPhone app gold-rush he will just keep getting fatter.  (And watch for his little fat buddy: Palm Pre)

But what of my skinny little phone?  My thin OS and experience?  My “you can’t view cuz you haz no flash”?  My “I can’t buy you a mother’s day gift cuz my phone don’t go there”?  I’m sooooo not cool and I’ll never get another date with this thin phone weighing me down.  If thin is in for the desktop, why not take the Web2.0 meme to the mobile space?  m.websites don’t need to suck, make ’em cool, make ’em slick, make ’em work with my lean OS.  Trouble is, the cheese has moved for the phone space and Thin is NOT where it’s at.  As SIR-MIX-A-LOT knows, even white boys got to shout iPhone got back!

~ by brianherman on July 13, 2009.

2 Responses to “How The Fat Kid Became Cool”

  1. How did wordpress come up with “Fat Joe, LL Cool J and Jennifer Lopez at MSG” as a possibly related post?

  2. […] (And watch for his little fat buddy: Palm Pre ). But what of my skinny little phone? My thin OS and experience? My “you can’t view cuz you haz no flash”? My “I can’t buy you a mother’s day gift cuz my phone don’t go …Next Page […]

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