SAN FRANCISCO: The mythical iPhone killer arrived today, but it was from Apple. A confident, proud and often passionate Steve Jobs strolled about the stage at Moscone West on Monday morning, 7 June 2010, unveiling the new iPhone, iOS 4.0 and ushering in the era of Facetime, person-to-person video calling.
The hardware looked like alien technology Will Smith found at Area 51, and for all intents and purposes, it pretty much is, both to the man in the street and competitors. A continuing referencing of an age of miracle and wonder we were promised in visions like The Jetsons and in science fiction seems to be a regular thing with Apple people now...
At the end, Steve made the first Facetime call to Jony Ive... and it may have been rehearsed but the two certainly sounded wistfully reflective on what they had achieved... in essence bringing the future to life.
Driving home the point
And again and again, Apple is now driving home the point that it can do this because it is the only company in the world left now that can dictate the entire platform end to end.
Innovation requires disrupting the status quo and Steve Jobs has become a technological Kali, a destroyer of worlds, leaving competitors frustrated, bewildered and angry. And Steve made the point, again and again, that it didn't invent ANY of the markets it has recently transformed, but that it has been totally transformed nonetheless because of Apple's fresh-slate approach to technological challenges.
Watching him show off the hardware, the display, the manufacturing processes of the new iPhone, then iOS 4.0 with its new features and then going through all the new camera tech and iMovie for iOS... I couldn't help but feel that the digital camera and camcorder executives are getting a sinking feeling that mobile, movie, music and computing executives have had before them.
Even if they could match the hardware, they have no hope at all of matching the software.
And when he started showing off the new gyroscope and how you can use it as a six axis controller, the console guys must have had visions of giant HD TVs running iOS 5, downloading titles from the App Store and using the phone to control the whole thing.
They were watching the death of everything they had built. Not today, certainly not tomorrow, but soon - Steve Jobs banged a huge nail into the PC era and its business practices.
Claimed the future
And claimed the future for Apple.
Apple now claims to be the number one online vendor on the planet, with 150 million active customers on file. It has placed US$1 billion of revenue into developers' hands in two years and promised a bajillion more.
He laid out a vision of a marketplace of choice in the HTML5/Webkit space where you can do anything you want, free of restriction from Apple, and a curated App Store where you can choose to impose restrictions if you want, eg for children, and absolutely trust that they will not be able to wiggle out of the environment out onto the Internet.
I often say that I would rather be a subject in the Kingdom of Jobs than a citizen in the democracy of Google. The plain reality that cannot be denied is that the one offers a vision of a future that is pretty much a reality for its users (everything just works); the other offers you everything but does nothing.
All the cool things
Consider the gyroscope and all the cool things it can do... but above all else, it could very well act as a wand conducting your way through big screen content or controlling a game.
How anal is Steve? He is going to replace all your remotes too, so that he can teach you how to use the one he wants to give you and so you can ban remotes forever. See, it can do that kind of thing because it is not using Intel's off-the-shelf, lowest common denominator technologies anymore. It can drive the research areas, the manufacturing processes and experience completely.
And subtly, and not so subtly, Steve called out Google again and again. He almost revelled in being a company that got the essential humanity of its consumers and how they want things to work.
At the end, again I thought an audibly emotional Steve referenced the real sense of accomplishment at Apple. It's not obvious, and then it hits you right in the gut.
Like others, I initially thought Facetime was cool thing but not sure how it changes things and suddenly you see the ad and you see a deaf person light up and start signing and you think... wow, of course!
It's the little things
It's the little things like that, that Apple seems to be delighting in tackling now. Clearly it has a huge foundation in place to go full speed ahead.
And sitting in Africa, the iPad and iOS seems like a device made for our challenges. Apple has handed us the gift of our own destiny now. Computer literacy is no longer an issue with a multi-touch interface, cost is down to US$99 on contract for an iPhone 3GS which WILL run iOS 4.0, and the devices are magic slates taking on the form of whatever app is foregrounded.
But in the end, and Steve alluded to this at his D8 talk, it's not about whether Apple is better than Google or Microsoft. It's that it offers consumers a choice.
And it just so happens that consumers are voting with their dollars, grinned an impish Jobs.
PS The sound of the vuvuzela rose up for the first time at a Steve Jobs keynote!!!!! Viva ZA, viva!
[8 Jun 2010 10:27]