One can say many things– pro or con– about Apple, about co-founder Steve Jobs, about the Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, Apple TV, AirPods, or any of the technology products our favorite Cupertino company hath wrought upon mankind.
There is a difference between acknowledgement and adoring gratitude and platitudes that go beyond reason. I don’t mind telling anyone that I like and use Apple’s products. They’re elegantly designed, useful and easy to use, cost efficient (can you say resale value?), and they often change the course of the technology industry. But oxygen, water, food, and other basics are better.
Hockey Puck Mouse
As much as we may enjoy using Apple’s products and being a member of a customer base that numbers beyond a billion or so, we must also remember the iMac’s original hockey puck mouse. That’s a reality that should not be allowed to escape Apple’s history. The world’s worst mass-produced mouse must be remembered so we don’t think of Apple as important as the basics of life.
Horace Dediu is a well-known analyst of all things Apple. His fame has spread far and wide. His analysis of technology markets has pointed toward unexpected success and unmitigated failure (Apple for the former, BlackBerry for the latter).
Horace Dediu has jumped the shark.
The iPhone is the best selling product ever, making Apple perhaps the best business ever.
Fair enough. Name another company with more value that was started back in the 1970s. Or ever.
Because of the iPhone, Apple has managed to survive to a relatively old age.
Also fair. Many companies are older. Fewer technology companies have remained as long without being bought or buying the farm.
Not only did it build a device base well over 1 billion it engendered loyalty and satisfaction described only by superlatives.
We can argue the specifics because the iPhone’s customer base, combined with the iPad’s base, and the Mac’s base combined probably tops just over one billion, but the point is valid. Superlatives.
But more important than any of these quantifiable measures of success are the unquantified accomplishments.
Which is another way of saying the advent of Apple’s iconic iPhone has changed how we use modern technology. Fair enough, too.
These are the changes we note only when flipping an A/B switch on a decade. The changes ushered by the iPhone have been as momentous as those of the Ford Model T. Or those of electricity, telegraph, radio or TV.
Uh, no. Not quite. And therein lies the aforementioned jumped shark. The iPhone’s mere reliance on electricity tells us it cannot be as momentous as electricity. Even if there are one billion iPhones in use worldwide– and there are not– how many more of humanity depend upon electricity?
Billions more. Ipso facto, iPhone is not as momentous as oxygen, water, food, or electricity.
These are epoch-making technologies. They shape the fiber of society and the definition of quality of life. They obsolete entire economies and change the balance of political power. They shift the center of gravity of society.
OK, I’ll buy that to a degree, but none of the aforementioned technologies are a replacement for electricity. Instead, they depend upon electricity.
To glimpse the change you only need to observe how we shifted how we spend our time. The fact that 2 billion people are using Facebook every day. That the device is looked at for 2 hours a day. That it’s unlocked 80 times a day. That it holds almost all our memories and our conversations and all our secrets.
Let’s look at these numbers another way.
Google claims there are about 1.7-billion Android smartphone users. An Android smartphone is iPhone-like, and inspired by the iPhone. iPhone itself may have something near one billion users. Combined, the two do not reach 3-billion users. Is it safe to say that electricity has had a far more visible impact on humanity?
For all these reasons I believe that future historians will point to the iPhone as the technological product that defined the 21st century. Much will follow from it and it may become something altogether different but it set humanity on a new course.
And all of this occurred in the past decade. Thanks to technologies that came before the iPhone. Thanks to electricity. And, yet here we are, a mere 17 years into the 21st century. Surely, humankind can come up with something beyond the iPhone in the next 83 years. Maybe something even greater than electricity, although I’m willing to bet electricity will have something to do with it.