iPhone: Happy 10th birthday to the game changer
The term game changer is bandied around a lot these days, often rather carelessly. When it is applied to the iPhone, however, it is perfectly justified. The iPhone did upset the established order — a world of dumbphones from the likes of Nokia and relatively cumbersome and limited "personal digital assistants" such as the Palm Treo or the HP/Compaq devices.
When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone ten years ago today, many scoffed. It was inconceivable that this rather flawed device — and it was flawed, operating on 2G when most of Europe and parts of Asia had already adopted the faster 3G, lacking copy and paste and many other tricks we now take for granted.
Famously, the then respected tech guru, John C. Dvorak wrote off the iPhone: “If it’s smart [Apple] will call the iPhone a ‘reference design’ and pass it to some suckers to build with someone else’s marketing budget. Then it can wash its hands of any marketplace failures… Otherwise I’d advise people to cover their eyes. You are not going to like what you’ll see.” —John C. Dvorak, tech columnist
Predictably, too, Microsoft was unimpressed: “Five hundred dollars, fully subsidized, with a plan?! I said, ‘That is the most expensive phone in the world! And it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard!’” — Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO
Jobs proved everyone wrong. The iPhone has been the greatest marketing success of the 21st Century (so far, though it is still early days) and Apple crushed the opposition convincingly. Nokia, the world's leader in the mobile phone world back in 2007 went to the wall and was rescued by non other than Microsoft. BlackBerry, the ace proponent of the business-oriented keyboard smartphone, went into a terminal decline. Apple's successful iOS pushed Google into creating a generic competitor, Android, and the focus of smartphone production gradually moved from Europe and the USA to the Far East with products from Hauwei and Samsung among others.
The iPhone has been instrumental in transforming a small, niche computer manufacturer in Cupertino into a financial and business colossus. After ten years, though, there are signs of realignment. Some say Apple has concentrated too much on iOS devices to the detriment of the core Mac business. The latest iPhone 7, by most accounts, has not been the rip-roaring success that everyone hoped for. Instead, thoughts are turning to the iPhone 8. And the competition is gathering, with China's Hauwei leading the pack following recent reliability problems at Samsung. Android is gaining fans and it is now by no means certain that the iPhone will continue on its record-breaking path.
Along the way, though, Apple has created an environment, often called the Apple eco-system, which transcends the benefits or disadvantages of individual hardware, whether it be Mac, iPhone or iPad. The Apple system, a rather comfortable if over-protected world, is the primary reason people keep on buying Apple products. The competitors has a long way to go before they can create a platform that seamlessly links smartphones, computers, smart watches and other wearables. I think the iPhone has a long way to go yet. As the Greeks say, Chronia Polla!
Below: 2007 Apple Keynote in full
"Not only was it truly mind-blowing at the time, but in retrospect, so much of modern computing was invented for that first iPhone phone and revealed to the world for the first time in that hour. Just watch the software demos: most modern UI mechanics and behaviors, large and small, began that day." (Marco Arment, writing today)
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