iPhone DemonstrationMaybe it’s just because I’ve been reading too many Apple-related blogs, but I think they really over-sold the whole Macworld expo this year. No doubt it’s a bigger deal if you aren’t stuck with just the exhibits-only pass, and you can see some of the conferences. But I was pretty underwhelmed.

After watching two sessions of Apple reps telling me stuff about Leopard and the iPhone that I already knew, I just wandered around booth after crowded booth of third-party developers who basically all had the same story: more information is available on our website. I got the distinct impression that you’re better off just staying home and looking at everything over the internets.

Even the people-watching wasn’t that interesting; I’m assuming that’s because all the Hitler Youth-style post-keynote fervor had died down since yesterday. There were still hordes of people crowding around the little iPhone altars (myself included), and that was somewhat comical. But apart from that you’re just left with a bunch of middle-aged hairy guys shambling through a convention hall looking for free stuff.

And in transit to and from the show, I realized I’m already feeling buyer’s remorse for something I won’t be able to get for another six months. The iPhone looks to be just as cool in real life as it was presented in the keynote. All seeing it “in person” gets you is confirmation that it wasn’t just some hard-coded demonstration, and a look at the actual screen of the device. (And it is a really nice screen; I can totally imagine watching a movie on it).

But there are some pretty big issues that are going to hit early adopters hard. Exclusivity with Cingular is still the big one. Especially since it’s so expensive and it requires the two-year contract. Anybody who tells you that $600 for a phone is “cheap” or even “reasonable” is just plain lying, but you do have to admit that the price is in line with the cost of most other first-version gadgets that do the same thing.

My biggest complaint of the moment, though, is that it’s a closed system. When I saw the “Widgets” icon in the demo, I guess I just imagined that you’d be able to develop your own little apps for the thing. The new version of OS X is going to include Dashcode for making widgets, so it just seems like it would be a natural. But Apple reps confirmed that it won’t be open to third-party development, just like the iPod isn’t. And it’s unlikely that this will change, because it’s definitely not in Cingular’s interest, and it’s not even in Apple’s interest — they want you to buy everything through iTunes. The only reason Apple would open it up would be out of altruism, and I think it’s pretty clear that’s just not what they’re about.

I never actually wrote an app for the Treo, but it was nice to know I could have. And I definitely downloaded a ton of stuff to run on the Treo. A lot of Treo users will tell you that their favorite apps are third-party ones. On the iPhone, it’s mitigated somewhat by the fact that it includes a fully-functional web browser, so you could conceivably set up a web app to do whatever you want — as long as you don’t mind paying the data-transfer fees every time you run the app, and you don’t mind having something that can’t access any of the data on your phone like address book entries or photos.

There are other issues that affect other people more than they would me; I don’t really care if it’s a 3G phone or not, for instance. Plus, there’s just the practical concerns: if you’re paying that much money for something you’re going to have in a pocket or thrown into a bag, you want it to be a lot more durable than Apple’s products are usually known for.

I’m sure that there will be a lot of improvements in version 2. I’m equally sure that I won’t be able to wait until version 2. Maybe that’s why Macworld didn’t impress me; pretty much everything there is something I’ve already seen and I’m already fated to buy. (Except for the iTV, which is something I was wanting to see for so long that by the time it was finally announced I’d already gotten tired of it. It seems kind of lame, actually).