The iPhone Finish Line

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2007-07-09 Print this article Print

The high-speed Internet connection in the hotel, considered to have the best accommodations in the country, was available less than 20 percent of the time, and because an offsite contractor managed it, there was nothing the hotel could do. Bandwidth in the Internet cafés was low and connectivity slow: I could e-mail only two of my slide show photos at a time, and each took between 10 and 15 minutes to upload.

Also, forget roadworthy cars. When you hire a taxi in Ouagadougou, what you get is a shell of loose, rattling metal around you and exhaust fumes that spew into the car.
Worse, almost every time you hire a cab, the first stop is at a gas station. Given the age and condition of most of the cars, turning off the ignition while the tank is being filled is often not an option because the cab might never start again. Considering that a little static can turn a car being filled with fuel into a fireball, you can imagine my reaction and that of the other occupants of the cab when we were left seated in the idling car while the driver pumped gas (and people milled around smoking).
My trip reminded me that life goes on whether you have benefited from the digital decade or not. But seeing the infrastructure challenges that lie ahead for Africa made me realize that something we take for granted that has enriched our lives could easily do the same for the citizens of Africa. The good news is the work to achieve this has already started. —Peter Galli iPhone finish line The proud but tired masses passed through a tunnel of hooting, clapping, beaming people offering pats on the back. No, it wasnt the finish line of a marathon (although it might have felt that way for some), but the end of the wait for … an iPhone. On June 29, Apple rewrote the playbook for product launches and the supporting retail experience. The companys new iPhone isnt just a device, its a community—one that Apple helped foster through 6 p.m. (local time) launch festivities across the country. To provide some perspective for eWEEKs coverage of the iPhone, I observed the launch festivities at one of Apples two retail stores in Bethesda, Md. The line of strangers waiting outside the store (the first of whom got his spot at 4 a.m.) happily chatted with each other, Apple employees and me. Not surprisingly, there wasnt an iPhone cynic in the bunch. "I think this is a day that youre going to see a change in how computers, how handheld computers, are done," said iPhone buyer Steve. "Its a little marketing history." —Joe Wilcox Just say nyet "Nyet." I looked at the woman standing behind the counter at my hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia. The hotel, the Park Inn Pribaltiyskaya, is run by an English company, so I thought my request for an English language newspaper wouldnt be unusual. "Nyet!" she said again, more forcefully. Id been spending part of the week at a conference intended to show Western companies that Russian software developers can do more than just outsourcing. Russian companies, I was told, can do it all, from helping design a project to creating the product to providing customer support. Companies in the United States and Western Europe just have to have faith. Maybe. On my last day in St. Petersburg, I hired a guide and driver so I could see some of the city. The guide was articulate and highly trained, and I learned more about Russian history in those few hours than I did in all of the courses I took in college. But I learned something else. "If we want to park," the guide said, "we need to give a bribe to the policeman." It turned out that a constant supply of small bribes is the cost of doing business— at least in St. Petersburg, at least when I was there. And that raised the question: Can a country where the answer to even simple requests often seems to be "no," and where bribes are sometimes required to conduct everyday activities, really deliver on the promise of a high-end answer to difficult development? The talent is there, but so is the question of whether it can be delivered in a way thats acceptable to U.S. companies. —Wayne Rash Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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