As a number of people have already noted, Microsoft’s release of Seadragon for the iPhone — an image-viewing app based on the deep-zoom technology behind the software giant’s Photosynth project — doesn’t just seem like an admission that the iPhone is better than any other mobile out there: Microsoft product manager Alex Daley comes right out and says as much in an interview with Todd Bishop of the blog Tech Flash:

“The iPhone is the most widely distributed phone with a (graphics processing unit),” Daley explained. “Most phones out today don’t have accelerated graphics in them The iPhone does and so it enabled us to do something that has been previously difficult to do. I couldn’t just pick up a Blackberry or a Nokia off the shelf and build Seadragon for it.”

For me, this is one of the biggest differences between the iPhone and any other mobile device (with the possible exception of the Sony PlayStation Portable). Yes, the apps are fun and the GUI is cool and the accelerometer and auto screen rotation and all of that are great, but the way it handles images — including photos, Web browsing and even games — is just light-years ahead of anything else. And Seadragon, for all the crap that Microsoft gets from a lot of people, including me, is pretty damn cool (although the name seems a little too consciously imitative of Firefox, Thunderbird, etc.).

I downloaded the app and in about two minutes I was zooming in on ancient maps from the Library of Congress and then satellite imagery of Toronto, which it picked up as my current location using the GPS in the iPhone. The speed with which it managed to do all of that, and on a mobile device, is pretty amazing — it was even faster than Google Maps on my desktop. And I can’t imagine doing it on any other device than the iPhone.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

11 Responses to “MSFT to Apple: Yes, your phone is better”
  1. Really enjoyed my iPhone, and this is most certainly correct…it's the best handheld multimedia device to date.

    Now if only they could make it a lot better actual phone. That is its ironic weakness.

  2. […] run Seadragon on phone that runs Windows Mobile (its mobile operating system) because there are none powerful enough, so it must turn to one of its biggest rivals, Apple, to showcase its […]

  3. As Mozilla-esque as the name sounds, I thought I would just mention that the name in fact originates from a company Microsoft acquired, Seadragon Software. Seadragon Software, is in fat behind the technology used in the iPhone application, zooming. Thought I would just mention that.

  4. “MSFT to Apple: Yes, your phone is better”
    Stupid clickwhoreing headline…

  5. Alex Daley is a moron, a lot of Nokias has graphic acceleration like the N93, E90, N82, N95.

  6. Of course the iPhone is better! Do Microsoft even come close with their soooo slow WinMobile? No way! I think the list of iPhone games like in http://www.ipfun.org says it all, I am addicted to that site and finding new games every single day. I do however think that both Microsoft and Apple has to do with the new bully that cam to the neighborhood, his name is Google android and he his literally going to rock the ground under their feet.

  7. Noooooo!!

    One of the best things about the iPhone until now, was the complete lack of Microsoft software for it.

  8. How ironic. PC fans tout all the games available for for Window. Mac users 'poo-poo' that as irrelevant. Now, iPhone fanboys tout all he games for the iPhone as proof of it's greatness…

    As a Mac and iPhone user, I'm becoming extremely tired of this 'bash and bang' mentality! Good grief! Enjoy what you want and buy and stop trying to degrade others choices! Life is too short! Don't we have enough conflicts in life without adding more? Oh well, I'm off to download another iPhone game to my fantastic, amazing, wonderful, outstanding, impossible-to-duplicate user-experience, Earthshaking design iPhone… all the while drooling over my fabulous iMac (I need to get some kind of keyboard protecter…) ;-P LOL!

  9. there a lot of features of iphone that really available and enjoyable to use

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