When Jobs started talking about the iPhone on Jan. 9, 2007, he said, “This is a day I have been looking forward to for two and a half years.” Then he regaled the audience with myriad tales about why consumers hated their cellphones. Then he solved all their problems — definitively.
–The New York Times, October 4, 2013
This weekend, we mark the second anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death. I was thinking about him last week when I was looking at the state of the technology world. Jobs kicked off the tech market we live in today with one appearance at MacWorld in January 2007. Everything in tech since that day has been because of the iPhone he introduced that day.
Smartphones are the majority now. Hardware keyboards are close to dead. Unremovable batteries are the norm. Everyone laughed and made fun of Apple and then, like everything else about the iPhone (software, hardware, business process, and probably industrial engineering too, who knows?), they quickly copied it because Apple was right.
Rimm became BlackBerry and is on death’s door. Nokia is done. (The cell phone part of it has gone to Microsoft.) Motorola is gone. (Google absorbed it.) HTC is circling the drain. Arguably, Microsoft is on a crash course. Nintendo and potentially the entire console-based video game industry is in trouble.
Perhaps slightly more on the fringe edges of the argument: Dell (“Close Apple and give the shareholders their money back”) has gone private. HP has retreated and – wait, are they even in business anymore?
Only two other companies came out of the iPhone launch better. The first is Samsung, who copied every detail of the iPhone so carefully that they’re the punchline of so many tech jokes – yet profitable to the tune of billions because they produce the cheap iPhones with the free operating system. Apple doesn’t target that market. And Google, who had a phone operating system of their own in development that they quickly turned around to be an iPhone clone instead of a BlackBerry clone. They also concentrated on the operating system, not the hardware, because their end game is to sell more ads by putting computers ubiquitously into people’s hands.
The business model of the tech industry has changed, too. The old adage about the best way to make great software is to also make the hardware was always the norm for Apple. Everyone made fun of them for it. Guess what? Google and Microsoft went out and spent billions to buy companies to allow them to build their own phones, and now make their own laptops, too. Microsoft’s recent business structure realignment looks an awful lot like Apple’s.
Tablet computers came about as a natural extension of the iPhone, and now they’re going to be bigger than the traditional PC market. And everyone is again following along.
Rumors that Apple is building a TV set led Google to proudly proclaim that their apps would be on half of all TVs sold last year. Didn’t happen.
And rumors that Apple is working on a watch led every other tech company to scramble to make one of their own first. Samsung won that race and produced a piece of junk that nobody has positively reviewed.
The buzzword everyone uses to describe personal computing today is “mobile.” It all started with Steve Jobs on stage that January day in San Francisco. It took Apple engineers years of working in ridiculous secrecy – but the kind that worked. Only a megalomaniacal control freak/visionary like Jobs could have pulled it off.
He literally changed the world. Again.
Not a bad life’s work