Alan Patrick sums it up nicely:
“In fact its indicative of the industry’s malaise that Apple made such a big splash by making a phone that merely “did” the ‘Net easily, loaded applications quickly, and had a decent size screen. Hardly revolutionary technology, but they came as a shock to the mobile industry. Putting the user’s need first – how totally innovative!”
Just like the old saying “Only Nixon could go to China”, I often think “Only Apple could do the iPhone” – not because the technology is wildly novel, but because only someone as ballsy as Steve Jobs could force the telcos to not mess things up. Jobs’ real genius was forcing AT&T to accept unlimited Internet that really meant unlimited, not allowing any walled gardens in access, and refusing to carry network-specific applications.
In other words, remembering that “the customer” is the end user – not the networks.
There’s an interesting parallel here with Microsoft, too. Although Microsoft has always sold plenty of product direct to end-users, for years there’s been a very real sense that its actual customers were IT managers and directors – hence its focus on features in Windows for them, occasionally at the expense of the people who actually have to use the machines.
Microsoft is, I think, realising that this isn’t a wise approach anymore: That even though its bread and butter remains the enterprise market, that market is now, at least in part, driven by the desires of end-users. The iPhone has proved to be a stealth weapon for Apple in the corporate market, with IT people being hassled to support it as a way of accessing corporate mail and so on. This is a horrific idea for Microsoft – any appearance of the Apple logo in corporates rings big alarm bells in Redmond.
The interesting question – and one I’ll leave open – is if Microsoft has the ability to turn its focus around, and target consumers rather than IT managers. In my limited experience of Windows 7 so far, I think the answer might be “yes” – but until I’ve had a good long play, and run into the inevitable “gotchas”, I’ll reserve judgement.