In 1984, Apple pioneered the Graphical User Interface (GUI)’s usage on computers and began the killing of the mainframes along with IBM. They were the first, real PC company although they didn’t really benefit from the PC boom over the next decades. Thankfully, Steve Jobs retained his visionary instincts to launch the iPod at a time when Apple was a lackluster competitor in the ever-increasing competition of the PC industry. Its integrated software-hardware approach to making computers was not going to hold against Dell and Microsoft in their respective strongholds.
Faced with increasing ecosystem pressures, the business organism we know of as Apple, simply evolved. From Apple Computer Inc to Apple Inc, the Apple of 2007 made more than a cursory semantic change in its name, but a paradigm-shifting strategy that had taken shape over the past 5 years. Apple and Steve Jobs (to be used interchangeably here) realized they were no longer in the business of digital education, as was the 19080s vision of Bill Gates who wanted to “put a computer in every family”. No, Steve Jobs just hated being beaten to that goal by Gates. So what did he do when he lost at that game?
He changed the rules and created a new game.
Today, the game is digital entertainment. In the same way humans of the 1980s ditched text-only computers for those with colors and graphics, humans today don’t want to only work on their computers, they want to play, communicate and show themselves off to the whole world over the web. The iPod unearthed the innate need of humans for entertainment, from both the professionally-produced, copyrighted kind and the user-generated, “copyleft-ed” genre. But Apple itself knows the bulky form factor of Personal Computers (or Macs for some of you) hardly suffice in serving the entertainment needs of today. The willingness to take both its software and hardware competencies, from making big desktops to the miniaturish iPod, was a bold and ultimately right move. It won’t be a surprise if Steve Jobs has a secret goal to have “an iPod in every human’s pocket”, just like his nemesis Bill Gates 2 decades ago.
The iPhone is another bold leap of faith.
If there is one company that is as ruthless as it is successful in conquering new markets, it is Apple. It successfully grew the MP3 player market to a multi-billion dollar business and created iTunes, the world’s first legal music downloading service that actually made sense. It has also killed off so many generations of iPod since its debut on October 23, 2001 that we have almost stopped counting. Few companies in the world, especially Apple’s competitors would have the gall to kill the iPod Mini, which was the best-selling player of its time, and make way for the iPod Nano. But Apple did it, or rather Steve Jobs did. Will the Midas touch apply too for his next killer product, the iPhone?
According to this iMediaConnection article, the iPhone might herald the true growth of mobile advertising. A new world, where low-end phones are subsidised by advertising and given away for free, could emerge when high end phones like the iPhone forces a new round of innovation in phones and new demand from consumers. The iPhone, with its fully-featured and more powerful Mac OS X, might be the panacea to solving the software problems plaguing the data access capabilities and content consumption abilities of cell phones today. Integrating solid software engineering with a beautifully designed phone might just convince consumers that the phone is the new computer. Should that belief hold, technology will be no barrier as companies invest millions in order to chase this new, previously undiscovered need.
Yes, I believe Apple is a mutant. A mutant strain that forces evolution of the technology race. Sometimes, all we need is a vision and a leader with the guts to see that vision and the gumption to see it through. Much like how John F Kennedy initiated the vision of humans on the Moon, Steve Jobs might be crafting the digital future of mankind with the visionary iPhone. Like the crazy Moon-dream of yesteryear, many of us might be skeptical today, but some of us have seen the future. And hell, it sure looks like a beauty.