Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The iPhone and 30 years from the IBM PC.

I remember the first time I saw a computer. It was about the size of a very big desk and the programs were loaded by little cassette tapes. Personal, it was not. The behemoth was being used to develop an accounting program. Off hours, it was used to play a crude form of Battleships. The monochrome monitor was about 9 inches. That was 1977.

IBM introduced the IBM PC in 1981. IBM set the standard with a "user-friendly" operating system from a littleup-start called Micro-soft.

My first PC was an Epson Equity with 640K of memory. That's Kilobyte not Megabyte. The speed was 7 megahertz. That's megahertz not gigahertz. Cost: $2,500, with dot-matrix printer. The equivalent of about $5,000 today (I can sell it for $25 on ebay as a "vintage" computer).

Apple introduced the Apple II in 1977, their first big seller. Apple was so good at marketing their counter-culture image that it was said, I think unfairly, that Apple was a marketing company that sold computers. If that criticism was ever true it certainly isn't today, even though they still effectively promote themselves as counter-establishment.

Steve Jobs and Apple created the portable, electronic music market with the iPod and iTunes. The fact that they marketed it well should not be held against them. The product lived up to the hype times 10. The one potentially negative component of the iPod, the wired earplugs, was muted by a marketing team who geniusly created TV commercials with dancers in silouette and the white earplug wires flopping around as they dance. What would have been a criticism because of their ugliness became a status symbol. And still is. Advertising lesson: accentuate the obvious and mute criticism.

The iPhone is such a great product it marketed itself. The TV commercials have the Phone in a guy's hand as he spins, flicks and open its images. Magic. Who needs marketing, they can't make them fast enough. The iPhone is an amazing product that is challenging all the major cell phone manufacturers including Nokia. Its only drawback has to do with the fact that the United States has not been able to build the 3G infrastructure as quickly as Europe and the Orient. You can't blame Apple for that. When 3G is built, slowly over the next 5 years, Apple will have a product that can operate at speeds that make internet use as easy as our wired connections at home.

Few products are a kind logo of the generation that uses them, the Model T Ford at the turn of the 20th century, or the black and white TV console in the 50's, the iPod is the same thing for this new generation of youth, and I think the iPhone will be its twin.

(By the way, B. Obama uses the same strategy as Apple: cool, counter-culture, hip, and is doing his best to brand H. Clinton as PC'esque -- and it's working).


Andrew said...

People often forget that Apple does great software integration as well. the iPod is the best example of this. Using is the iPod with itune and iStore is so easy that once hardly even realizes they are different programs.

Francis Shivone said...

Excellent point. That was their biggest advantage years ago. All their hardware and software worked together well.