Quite some speculation out there about iOS7. Did Jony Ive have enough time to make dramatic changes to the look of the new operating system ? How "Flat" will the new user interface be ? We'll know in a few weeks, no doubt. But for now we can let our imagination wander. Some have gone as far as creating a concept video of what it might look like. Until WWDC, let's dream.
Just like last year, when Apple introduced the iPhone 4S and a great number of people expressed their disappointment at the "underwhelming" new arrival, this time too cries of disillusionment are being heard from every corner with regards to the iPhone 5. And just like last year all these naysayers were proven wrong, I predict that once again we will see the iPhone 5 break sales records but also turn into an amazing success with users worldwide.
There are some basic misunderstandings about the iPhone that still linger in the marketplace and cause these enormous miscalculations both by observers of the industry as well as potential customers:
- There are those who "get" the iPhone and those who don't. What I mean by that is, there are people who buy the iPhone because they buy into the entire ecosystem. They realize that the iPhone is only one part of a whole. They "grok" iCloud, iTunes, the app environment, connections between iOS and OSX, maybe even AppleTV. They stand in direct opposition of people who are looking to buy a gadget, the latest fad, some new exciting feature for that feature's sake. Looking for feature parity between the iPhone and some new Android device of the week is a total waste of time. So what if some new phone as NFC (near field communication) if nobody uses it ? Apple won't include a feature in their phone if that feature is half-baked. The first iPhone did not have 3G. The reason was that, back in 2007, there was no way to run 3G without running out of battery power within dozens of minutes. People could be heard complaining about that up and down the street, but the decision made by Jobs at the time was sound. There are so many Android phone models out there, from so many manufacturers, that there is no cohesive system in place. App usage on Android, beyond some percentage of savvy users, is minimal at best, whereas iOS users who understand their environment tend to acquire more apps and use them much more often. In many case Android users would have been "feature phone" buyers rather than smartphone customers. Many may not have known walking into the store what model they were going to walk out with on the day of the new acquisition. So a lot of the noise following the iPhone 5 intro of yesterday comes from that camp.
- It used to be that Apple, as a company, was able to keep a tight lid on new products. The bigger the company became, the more successful they were, the harder keeping secrets turned out to be. There were almost no features of the iPhone 5 that were unknown to anyone paying attention these past few weeks. Pretty much every detail about the phone had been leaked, mostly by Chinese manufacturers looking to profit from the prestige of being an Apple OEM. As a result there was very little announced yesterday that elicited real surprise. Since people like a good surprise, a great number of pundits, journalists and cognoscenti cried foul yesterday since there were almost none.
- For a while people got the idea that every time Steve Jobs took the stage, he would create a new revolution. People have come to expect dramatic, industry altering announcements from Apple as a result of some of the changes we have seen the company bring about this last decade. But if Apple does one thing well, it is to improve on something they have introduced in the past, without necessarily trying to disrupt it at every turn. The iPhone 4/4S was an amazing improvements over the original iPhone form factor. So Apple decided to basically stick to it, however make improvements to the phone's innards, without changing the overall look too much. No, the iPhone 5 doesn't hover in the air and it doesn't make me coffee. But that's not what I want my iPhone to do. Most people haven't yet realized that some of the revolutions we will see in the field are already baked into the product. We have not yet scratched the surface of what Siri will one day become. There is a reason Apple still calls it a "Beta". But by next week, with the release of iOS 6, Siri will come to the iPad. And in the not too distant feature I am convinced it will be on the Mac as well. Ultimately it will dramatically change how we use our electronic devices.
A mere five years ago there was no such thing as the "App economy". Three years ago there was no "tablet-PC" market to speak of. Apple will continue to disrupt entire industries and I hope that one day, THEY will be the ones to disrupt the iPhone itself. Hopefully, deep inside some secret Apple lab, there are people even now working on that next big thing: the product that will unseat the iPhone. But for now I am very happy that they have decided to improve on a good thing without trying to change it too much. Evolution rather then revolution, just what the doctor ordered.
Here is a great example of the first company to take advantage of Apple's decision to change the dock connector on all its iOS devices with yesterday's introduction of the iPhone 5 and the new iPods. The message: throw away all your old gear, don't bother with docks, go wireless.
There is an entire cottage industry growing up around the iOS eco-system. One such product category has to do with integrating the iPad into your home with as little fuss as possible. A new entry in that field is the LaunchPort. Check out the video for a quick overview of this system. While Steve Jobs would no doubt have approved of the clean and wire free look, most people will balk at the price tag: the PowerShuttle that snaps onto the iPad itself is $149 while the two docks on offer, the WallStation and the BaseStation, are $199 each. Not for everyone.
Not one, but TWO revolutions in one week. Yes, denizens of Planet-Tech, within one week we have seen one of the largest software companies in the world enter the hardware business, and one of the world's number one hardware companies get out of a huge chunk of theirs. I am of course talking about Google acquiring Motorola's mobile phone business, and Hewlett-Packard getting out of the tablet and cellphone business (and, who knows, maybe even out of the PC business altogether ) and taking the IBM-approach of software-services instead.
The Google decision must not have been an easy one. They had had no intention of getting into the phone manufacturing business, that is for sure. On top of that they will now have to do something they had foresworn years ago: provide telephone customer service. The patent debacle of the last few weeks pushed them into an impossible situation and really left them no choice. Their entire Android business was in danger of collapsing if they didn’t act quickly and got their hands on some intellectual property they could call their own. Having missed out on history’s largest sales of patents, they turned towards Motorola and made the deal that will force them to forever change the way they have been operating. They may even have to start paying attention to “design” from now on. We all love our Google products, that is for sure, but none of us are bowled over by their “pretty lines” or their industrial design. Google will be forced to “think different”(ly) from now on. It won’t all just be about functionality anymore.
The HP story actually makes me a little sad. As big a fan of iOS products as I am, I was kind of looking forward to getting my hands on some webOS products like HP’s TouchPad. Here was a credible competing operating system to iOS that looked neat, functional, effective and even pretty. And having been an early adopter of the Palm machines back in the 90’s I was happy in 2010 to see that platform finding a home that could help it thrive and succeed. But it would appear that the hardware division of HP lacked some of the talent that the webOS software guys possessed in spades. The hardware was unworthy of the software that was to inhabit it. And so it seems that rather than first looking for a credible hardware partner to take on webOS together with HP, CEO Leo Apotheker made a drastic announcement stating that HP would terminate its webOS hardware business and most likely would spin off its PC division.
And that’s the part that really struck home with me. Back in 1987 when I started my first job, the company I was at had no personal computers to speak of. Everyone just had a dumb terminal hooked up to some mini-computer on their desk and it was all very dreadful, especially to someone with a Macintosh Plus at home. So one day I announced that I thought we should all get Macs at work and start doing things a little differently (the Macintosh II had just been introduced a couple of months earlier). I might as well have said that I wanted to bring Barbie and Ken dolls to the office, or that I wanted to use a Lego set to get my work done. Let’s not mention the fact that, on my Mac Plus, I was using a little piece of software that until shortly before that had been a Mac-only program: a little something called Microsoft Excel. On PC’s in those days serious number crunching was achieved with Lotus 1.2.3 and very few people used Microsoft products yet beyond MS DOS. To placate me, the head of the IT department took me on a visit to the HP headquarters in upstate New York to look at some of the new PC hardware they were coming out with. Needless to say I was left staring at a screen with a command line interface flashing a C-prompt and the only “exciting” option I had was what color that C-prompt would be displayed in. I ended up with an IBM PC on my desk, one of the very first in that office, running some version of the very ugly Windows 2.x (don’t ask me what version it was, it is irrelevant, just trust me when I say it was horrific)
And here we are so many years later, and HP is getting out of that business, and Apple is going strong and doing better every day. Michael Dell even sent a tweet about the HP development that was meant to poke fun at them. The tweet read: “If HP spins off their PC business….maybe they will call it Compaq?”. Having completed with Compaq/HP for so many years, Dell was happy about this development. But Mr Dell should remember his comment from October 1997 about Apple. When asked what could be done to fix Apple, he infamously said then: “What would I do ? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders”. Chances are he has been eating his hat ever since.
There is no way that the result of this little exercise would be this good if one lacks the necessary talent. I won't argue that point. But this cheap little iPhone app is just seriously cool. UK-based performer DubFX uses the six track recording app Loopy to create some art. Worth watching all the way through.
So is this how I will finally do it: get my weight in check ? Cool video says it all.