iPhone One Year Later: A Tip Of The Hat To You, Mr. Jobs

On June 30, 2008

I spent a good deal of the time in the car alone this morning so I decided to "geek out" a bit and listen to Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone during his keynote at MacWorld Expo 2007. I figured it would be a good way to celebrate the iPhone’s one year anniversary.

And there it was- we may not have realized it then but just seconds into introducting the iPhone Jobs put the roadmap for it right in front of us.

A year later it is clear that we have travelled the EXACT ROAD HE PLANNED FOR US.

Here are the two excerpts that jumped out at me-

…today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. So, three things: a widescreen iPod with touch controls; a revolutionary mobile phone; and a breakthrough Internet communications device. An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone … are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone. Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone, and here it is…

From the very beginning Jobs made it clear that the iPhone isn’t really a phone. Sure it is, in part, a phone, but from the very beginning Jobs made it clear that “phone” was only one small component of the device. It was, and remains, the first mainstream mini-internet device/handheld computer and that distinction is only going to grow in the months ahead.

A year and a half after the keynote Microsoft’s UMPC (ultra-mobile pc) initiative has all but failed and we are still waiting (or not) as the first MIDS (mobile internet devices) trickle into the market with a higher price-tag and a shorter battery life than hoped. Meanwhile, the iPhone is poised to bring pocket computing to the entire world.

And that’s not the only thing Jobs called. A bit later in his keynote he said this–

So, we’re going to reinvent the phone. Now, we’re going to start with a revolutionary user interface. It is the result of years of research and development, and of course, it’s an interplay of hardware and software. Now, why do we need a revolutionary user interface. Here’s four smart phone, right? Motorola Q, the BlackBerry, Palm Treo, Nokia E62 — the usual suspects. And, what’s wrong with their user interfaces? Well, the problem with them is really sort of in the bottom 40 there. It’s this stuff right there. They all have these keyboards that are there whether or not you need them to be there. And they all have these control buttons that are fixed in plastic and are the same for every application. Well, every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons, just for it. And what happens if you think of a great idea six months from now? You can’t run around and add a button to these things. They’re already shipped. So what do you do? It doesn’t work because the buttons and the controls can’t change. They can’t change for each application, and they can’t change down the road if you think of another great idea you want to add to this product.

Jobs told us from the very start that the iPhone was the mobile-electronic equivalent of a Rorschach test. (You know the ones- amorphous ink blots onto which the subject projects their ideas and perspectives.) The beautiful touchscreen is a “blank slate” backed by a powerful processor and exceptional battery life.  Developers are free (within the limits set by Jobs and Co.) to “project” their desired user interface without need to address hardware constraints created by physical buttons and keys.

Need a keyboard for your application? All you need to do is program one.
Need a blank screen? You’ve got it.
Want left and right buttons? Program them to appear on the screen.
Need a joystick? Why not use the built-in accelerometer.

Almost a year and a half ago Jobs told us that the iPhone was designed to be flexible enough to accept firmware updates and to receive whatever UI (User Interface) the programmer desires, countless developers are doing just that.

At MacWorld 2007 Jobs predicted that that choice would allow the iPhone to evolve significantly from its (already impressive) beginnings. When the AppStore opens in two weeks we’ll see just how prophetic, and important, that predication was.

As the iPhone celebrates its first birthday Mr. Jobs and his entire team have every right to feel proud- and gloat. I tip my hat to all of you.