Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th Jul 2011 20:50 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless I've kind of painted myself in a corner with that headline, because I never anticipated I would need another preview article for this project. However, thanks to all your comments on both the site and through email, the scope of this project has grown considerably. As part of this growing scope, I'm acquiring more and more devices, and yesterday, I managed to score a phone which, while almost forgotten by most of the rest of the technology press, contained two very important firsts. Not only was this the first phone with a capacitive touch screen, it was also the first phone with an interface design from the ground-up for finger/touch input. Say hello to the LG KE850, better known as the LG Prada.
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Part 2
by Tony Swash on Fri 29th Jul 2011 10:17 UTC
Tony Swash
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How does this apply to smart phone OS's?

Using the metaphors of the evolutionary tree you can see that the ancestors of the modern smart phone included the Apple Newton (which is probably a branching event) and the original Palm PDA OS (which may have been a branching event). There are other ancestors such as the various keyboard and menu driven OS such the Blackberry. It is also clear that around 2007 a very significant branching event took place. After 2007 smartphone operating systems began to look completely different, old characteristics such as menus, styluses and key boards begin to wither and die out, and the large screen touch driven model begins to dominate and branch into many different species. Around 2007 a general field of mutations began to occur across the whole smart phone ecosystem.

So what was the branching event? Thom puts forward the idea that the LG Prada was the branching event but I am not convinced, how did the LG Prada cause the general field of mutations in the smart phone ecosystem? Was it directly copied?

It seems unlikely that that Apple copied the LG Prada as by the time the details and images of the device were released in December 2006 the development of of Apple's iOS was feature complete (it was throughly demoed in working order in January 2007). The LG Prada was shown earlier at the iF Design Award and won the prize in September 2006 (I cannot find any details about the amount of details about the the LG Prada revealed at that time in September 2006 - if anyone has such details I would love to hear about) but it is reasonable to assume that the development process of iOS was in a late stage by late 2006. Apple had bought Fingerworks in early 2005 to obviously work on the touch interface and there has never been the slightest suggestion or leak that Apple reset the iOS model late in its development as a possible response to the limited amount of information made publicly available in the second half of 2006 about the LG Prada.

It seems to me that the overwhelmingly likely hypothesis is of parallel convergence of design caused by similar ecological pressures and opportunities in the tech eco system. As we have seen from the world of living species it is not only possible but common for very similar appearing species to develop at the same time but for them not to be closely related to each other.

Did companies other than Apple copy the LG Prada? I have seen no evidence that this happened and it is worth bearing in mind that copying in the tech ecosystem is usually the result of aping success. The LG Prada sold one million units in it's first 18 months. The iPhone sold 13 million in the first 18 months and the iPhones sales were clearly accelerating. Again it seems plausible to me that the other handset makers were trying emulate Apple's success and to fend off competition from Apple rather than from the LG Prada.

So I propose that the iPhone was the key branching mutation that caused the general field of mutations in the smart phone ecosystem after 2007. Of course the key mechanism that facilitated this general field of mutations was Android and it is fairly clear that a major reset of Android's design did take place after the iPhone launch. This was how the early versions of Android looked before the impact of the release of the iPhone

It looks nothing like the way Android looked when it was finally released and it looks nothing like the modern large touch screen interface as used by the LG Prada and the iPhone. Again I can see no evidence and no logic to arguing that the Android design reset was precipitated by the release of the LG Prada rather than by the release of the iPhone.

So to sum up my view is that the LG Prada and the iPhone were both more less simultaneous branching events, both were the result of the exploitation of the same opportunities arising in the smart phone technology ecosystem. Neither copied each other, both were uniquely and separately developed. Both drew on what went before.

However the LG Prada branch was an evolutionary dead end, there were no subsequent branching events on the new LG Prada branch, it led nowhere. On the other hand the iPhone branch did lead to very significant subsequent branching events, the most significant being Android, which led to a rich proliferation of new smart phone (and later tablet) species.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Part 2
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 29th Jul 2011 10:20 in reply to "Part 2"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:

Short reply since I'm very busy at the moment: the LG Prada, obviously, isn't the or even a key device in the touch/finger era. It is, however, the first device. There's little to no discussion that the iPhone is the key device in this era.

Comparison: in the pen era, the Newton was the Prada, the Palm Pilot the iPhone.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Part 2
by henderson101 on Fri 29th Jul 2011 13:03 in reply to "RE: Part 2"
henderson101 Member since:

+ 1 on that.

I remember the Prada, but I remember it being marketed as a ladies phone, in the UK at least. IIRC the "Prada" was related to the clothing brand?

I believe the iPhone UI has more to do with the PalmOS UI (which itself spawned hundreds of duplicates such as Qtopia, Windows Mobile, VT-OS) which was kind of based on the Newton (though the Newton does not have a "launcher" app per se, so that is kind of disrespectful to Palm. The Newton had a pop-up app list that kind of looks lik the the iconic PalmOS 1.x/2.x launcher, and there were tabbed third party launchers for PalmOS 2.x that are a lot like the iOS. Just no dock. The dock is another bone of contention, as both Next *and* Acorn had a dock like element in their OS well before it was a well known feature... arguments begin when ever either side claims the genesis of the idea.

Another PDA you should look for: Vtech Helio - which was an absolute rip off of the Palm devices, but has a completely open source OS and is both cool, geeky and really hard to find at a reasonable price -

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Part 2
by tyrone on Fri 29th Jul 2011 23:49 in reply to "Part 2"
tyrone Member since:

the development of the iphone startet in the area 2003-2004 when the device myorigo was show'n to the public.



or do you remember this one?

and for the history there was also s branch after the xerox gui in europe;

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Part 2
by Tony Swash on Sat 30th Jul 2011 10:03 in reply to "RE: Part 2"
Tony Swash Member since:

the development of the iphone startet in the area 2003-2004 when the device myorigo was show'n to the public.



or do you remember this one?

and for the history there was also s branch after the xerox gui in europe;

Not sure I can see the significance of the stuff in these links?

One of the points I was making was that one should not obsess about the forensic search for the first development (or in this case proto-development) of any given technological feature or characteristic but instead look at the actual development of the technology davelopmental evolutionary tree. What actually led to what? What had an actual impact in the ecosystem?

Using my suggested use of the conceptual framework from the study of the relationship and evolution of living creatures one could draw this analogy. When scientists unearth fossils they sometimes come across one with features which when grouped with other features in later species led to a major mutation in a whole range of species across a whole ecosystem. But often characteristics appear and disappear as species rise and fall. What is most important is what species actually had a big impact, what actually led to changes in the ecosystem, what species led directly on to new species.

The first appearance of feathers in the fossil record is interesting. But what matters is when the first bird appeared.

The various curiosities you link to are just that - technological curiosities. They led nowhere. Nothing was directly developed from them. One cannot link them directly to any later and significant developments.

Mildly interesting but not useful in reconstructing the key events and milestones in the evolution of technology.

Reply Parent Score: 2