August 6th 1945 & the 9th November 1989 are dates that changed the world. For those of you who aren’t history buffs, they represent the dates the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and the day the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. It’s not often that you can pinpoint a single date that changes the world, but these two are such dates – as is the 9th January 2007.
It was a decade ago this week that Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone at Macworld Expo in San Francisco during a two-hour presentation. During the keynote Jobs attempted to explain how this new device would completely transform how we all used our mobile phones; but rather than general widespread acclaim, it met with a lukewarm response.
Sceptics (of whom there were many) said the smartphone was too expensive ($499 for the original 4GB model); some derided that it was only initially available on Cingular (later AT&T Wireless); others complained that it came with only 2G, and some questioned if the iPhone was too ambitious. Steve Ballmer (then CEO at Microsoft) famously said: “There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”
Jobs’ iPhone used for the keynote was far from the finished article and he famously had to follow a ‘golden path’ through the apps during the presentation otherwise the phone would crash, making engineers so nervous they were drunk by the end of the speech.
Nevertheless, it captured the imagination and a decade later the likes of Ballmer and co have been left thoroughly red faced. As CES wraps up for another year, it and the iPhone approaches ten, it only seems right and correct that we should reflect on Jobs’ truly visionary technology as something that fundamentally changed the way we live our 21st century lives.
Smartphones fundamentally 'democratised' the Internet and the iPhone was unquestionably the genesis point for all smartphones – it’s for this reason that it should sit alongside the printing press and the personal computer in terms of its technological importance.
Two of the biggest impacts the smartphone (and iPhone specifically) had on consumers were to condense multiple applications (available in the third-party app store) into a single device; and also to offer a smooth and easy-to-use process when it comes to updates, meaning consumers aren’t lost or left behind along the way.
So what’s next for the world and the tech space? Is there a new ‘iPhone moment’ just waiting around the corner? Will AI really change our everyday lives as much as the industry predictors claim? Where will the self-drive vehicle actually end up (no pun intended)? Or will we see Nano and bio-tech produce the biggest changes to our lives over the next decade?
Well, if I could tell you that I’d probably be working with Elon Musk, but for now let’s simply reflect on Jobs’ legacy…
Whether it’s health, (citizen) journalism, banking, travelling, commerce, working or communicating, the iPhone has been the end-point or ‘Rosetta Stone’ for many of the converging technology trends and developments of the last decade. And - whether you liked Jobs or not - we should all agree that although it takes a smart person to come up with a vision, it takes a great one to see it through to the point where it changes the world. That is exactly what the iPhone has done over this last decade.