When Apple introduced the iPhone back in January of 2007, it was clearly aimed not at geeks but at mainstream consumers. Even though it lacked many of the basic functions offered by competing smartphones of the time, including MMS. However, its multitouch interface was so far ahead of the rest of the industry, especially when it came to the core experiences of web browsing and entertainment, that no one else stood a chance.
And there's a very specific reason for that.
What’s happened over the last five years shows not that Apple disrupted the phone handset industry, but rather that Apple destroyed the handset industry — by disrupting the computer industry. Today, cell phones are apps, not devices. The companies that were the most successful at selling cell phones pre-iPhone are now dead or dying. Amazon, Google, and now even Microsoft are designing and selling their own integrated touchscreen portable tablets. “App” is now a household word.
All of this, because of the iPhone.
In essence, this seems to show just how backwards former Palm CEO Ed Colligan was in 2007 when he uttered his now infamous iPhone jab, "We've learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in."
Yet "PC guys" did exactly that by demoting the phone to an app in a new generation of computing devices.
And again, there's a very specific reason for that.
One of the worst things a company can ever do is mistake their products for their business. Products come and go. If you mistake your product for your business, when -- inevitably -- that product goes, your business goes with it.
Apple under Steve Jobs appears to have always understood this, and with clarity mistakable for prescience. The Apple II was never Apple's business. Neither is the Mac, the iPod, or even the iPhone and iPad. They were and are expressions of Apple's business.
Which is why Apple has been so seemingly fearless about "competing" with their own products. In each case, they did so to evolve and grow their core business.
Which was never phones. Or tablets. Or even computers.
Since their founding, Apple has relentlessly pursued the agenda of mainstreaming computing platforms. The Apple II was the command line version of this. The Mac was the graphical user interface version of this. The iPhone and iPad are simply, wondrously, the mobile and multitouch versions of this.
Even Apple's phenomenal successes with tangential products like iPod, iTunes, Apple Retail, and the App Store, always brutally served Apple's core business. And no doubt now, Apple is working away on whatever's next.
With the iPhone and iPad, and other iOS devices past, present, and future, Apple disrupting MP3 players or even laptops was the effect.
Apple's inexorable drive to simplify and democratize computing itself was the cause.
It wasn't so much because of the iPhone, but because of Apple.
And eventually the iPhone will be next.