Apple head honcho Steve Jobs launched the iPhone 4G this week in San Francisco at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. This is the fourth generation of the smartphone that changed (and continues to change) the world. And, while no one knows how cool, fast and impressive this next generation smartphone will be, there are some key lessons all businesspeople can take away from the presentation and promises of what this device is and what it can do.
Let's start with the raw features: Jobs did not invent video conferencing and the fact you can now multi-task (have multiple apps open at once, instead of one at a time) is not that big of a breakthrough (the Palm Pre -which was an industry flop -offered this years ago as does BlackBerry and other smartphones). Having a battery that now lasts up to seven hours also is tablestakes when you look at the average person's work schedule and how long other mobiles can go without a charge.
In the end, the new iPhone is not about the new features, but it's about where we are going with both computing and connectivity.
Remember when nobody paid for a cellphone? The culture of "free phones" permeated the mobile carrier business for years and what Apple did with their first generation iPhone is shift the mass mind-set from free to paying close to $600 for a mobile device. That mindshift opened the floodgates and, suddenly, the everyday person was comfortable (no, happy) to shell out their hard-earned dollars for a mobile device that was not only feature-rich, but would offer them a level of social status among their peers. The iPhone became a product of envy for those who didn't have one and an object of pride for those that did.
Design is everything.
One of the best business books of the past decade is Re-Imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age by Tom Peters (DK, 2006). Beyond the beauty of the book design and page layout, Peters continually highlights - in words -the importance of brilliant, jaw-dropping design in relation to the brands that have truly created businesses that are built to last. If Apple does one thing magically great, it is their industrial design. Apple products are beautiful. They fit with the times and they give us a glimpse into the future. This new iPhone also is an object of beauty. Every micro-inch of space was optimized and rethought and - by the looks of it - nothing was spared (not the weight, overall size or even how it feels in someone's hand). Creating a product that people will marvel at is no small feat in a world like ours. It's not the inside, it's not the outside and it's not what goes into it ... it's how those pieces all come together that make it so special to consumers.
It also is not about the phone.
When you pull together all of the features of the iPhone 4G, what becomes abundantly clear is that this is no longer about telecommunications. The phone (or calling) part is now shadowed by everything else. The new iPhone offers us some preliminary glimpses of what our world of connectivity, communications and computers will be. It's less of a phone and more of a remote control for your life. A fully featured computer that has all of the necessary moving parts for what a mobile device should be. When everything from the quality of pictures and videos become comparable with devices that only serve those individual purposes, we begin to really see how - in the not-too-distant future - we won't be trudging around laptops, iPads and mobile devices. There will be one device to rule them all -great text, images, audio and video in one hand-held/portable device.
It's all about the resolution.
Apple calls it Retina Display, and it boasts four times the pixel count of previous generation iPhones. Apparently, the pixels are so dense that the human eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels. Jobs made a comment during the launch that the iPhone displays content so clearly that it is virtually indistinguishable from text on paper (everyone from Amazon and Sony to every book, newspaper and magazine publisher's ears must have perked up). Funny enough, everybody thought the existing resolution of the iPhone was already pretty impressive. You have to respect a company that iterates and innovates when what was presently in-market seemed more than above average.
Finally, it's all about the media and apps.
Music, movies, books, television, newspapers, magazines, games and more. Apple is as much of an entertainment company as they are a design and hardware company. They not only provide the hardware and connectivity, but also get a fair chunk of change by charging for the content and applications that run on devices like the iPhone. And, as if that were not enough, their new iAd advertising platform also is going to go gangbusters for the launch of the iPhone 4G. Apple will get money for the apps and they will get money from the ads. And while many are highly critical of the fact Apple is not more of an open environment, that didn't seem to stop 2 million iPads from flying off the shelves in under 60 days, and by the looks of things, the iPhone 4G will experience a similar effect.
The iPhone 4G is newsworthy beyond the innovation of the hardware, software and connectivity.
Apple turns people from consumers into loyal evangelists and they also are perfectly fine with those who can't stand them. What great bands aren't polarizing? The lessons of innovation, pushing technology and providing a product, brand or service that consumers don't even realize they may need are the real lessons that every business can learn from Apple -time and time again.
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The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - One device to rule them all.
- Vancouver Sun - New iPhone offers a glimpse into the future.