Commentary

What Hath Apple Wrought?

In 1844 Samuel Morse's first message over a 40-mile experimental telegraph from Washington to Baltimore was from the book of Numbers, "What hath God wrought?" He was predicting a bright future for telegraphy by comparing it to the triumphant destiny of Abraham's descendents.

Four years later, there were 2,000 miles of lines in the United States. In another four years, 23,000 miles were in use, with 10,000 more under construction. The first transAtlantic cable was laid in 1857. By 1861 the Pony Express rode off into the sunset as the two coasts were connected telegraphically.

Perhaps it's not a stretch to ponder whether Apple's trailblazing digital media innovations may prove to be as culturally significant as the invention of the telegraph. The iPhone is not merely another version of mobile phone. It is the manifestation of a concept originated 15 years ago by technology evangelist George Gilder, to wit, the teleputer. He envisioned the teleputer as "a handheld device that's a fully functioning personal computer, digital video camera, telephone, MP3 player and video player." The iPhone falls short only because it is not yet a fully functioning personal computer, but it's getting ever closer to that ideal.

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Consider four points.

First, nearly 80% of mobile web browsing is via the iPhone. Clearly the device is a "game changer" for mobile Internet usage. Even though numerous competitive models are capable of Internet connectivity, they are seldom used that way.

Second, there are 85,000 apps available on the iPhone. By comparison, second place Google's Android had less than 10,000, and the BlackBerry only about 3.000.

Third, outside America, most people connect to the Internet over a mobile device. At 1.2 billion units, worldwide mobile phone sales are about four times those of personal computers. Just as user convenience led voice telephony to migrate from fixed wires to wireless units, Internet access is likely to follow the same evolutionary path.

Fourth, Kryder's Law predicts that the density of hard disk memory doubles nearly every year. Thus by 2015 a "Classic" iPod could hold 1.3 million songs, or 3,200 two-hour movies. If Flash memory progresses at only half the rate in ten years an iPhone could hold over 200,000 songs and more than 600 two-hour movies. That means it could hold more movie titles than an entire Blockbuster SuperStore.

Furthermore, it's obvious that Apple's ambitions extend beyond phones and iPods. The company still makes computers, remember? It's widely anticipated Apple will introduce a tablet computer, perhaps early next year.

Such a device would mostly be used for Internet-centric computing like email, Web browsing, and media consumption. The bigger screen would be attractive for downloading movies from iTunes or watching video streams from YouTube or Hulu. When limited interaction is required, such as quick email responses, a virtual keyboard will be adequate, especially since the tablet computer will provide a bigger one than the iPhone. It should also be acceptable for interaction on social networks such as FaceBook. Users who need to create bigger documents, like multipage reports or spreadsheets, could attach a separate physical keyboard when needed.

The success of the Apps Store is another factor that could benefit a tablet computer. Presumably all suitable iPhone apps would also be available on the tablet. No doubt some will be even more useful with a bigger screen. One example is the Amazon application for downloading digital books. The experience of reading a digital book on a tablet computer would presumably be much better than trying to read it on the small screen of an iPhone. Those who are considering the purchase of a Kindle might prefer the more versatile functionality of a tablet computer for which digital books are only one of many applications.

All of the above excludes Apple's ambitions for the living room, but that's a topic for another day. While the innovations are not as numerous as Abraham's children, it takes more than one Video Insider column to cover all that Apple hath wrought!

6 comments about "What Hath Apple Wrought?".
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  1. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, November 9, 2009 at 8:30 p.m.

    If I was Apple I would not brag about 85,000 Apps. Focus on the phone not the App store. Many are duplicates like the 20 that all make fart noises. And how does one shop for Apps among 85,000 choices. And how many Apps do you need on your I Phone before ones just fade away never to be used or seen again. In fact if Google had 10,000 of the best I Phone Apps wouldn't they be even then? I mean doesn't Google need just one killer fart noise App?

  2. Malcolm Rasala from Real Creatives Worldwide, November 10, 2009 at 4:50 a.m.

    "80% of mobile web activity is via the iPhone". Total nonsense. Philip Leigh must have shares in Apple or is entirely gullible to the Apple PR machine. Get real Philip. IPhone is a small bit player in the global mobile business. Check your facts buddy. Not the propaganda nonsenses
    American IT companies spout. 95% of the world is not American. You are a small country of 300 million. China is 5 times bigger than you. India 3.5 times bigger. Europe twice as big. Apple may carry clout in little 5% of the world America. In China? Please. In Europe. Get real. In India. Are you joking. The myopia of Americans is truly dazzling. You guys should travel. Their is approaching 9 billion people on this planet. Fact.

  3. Nick Schooler from Cardlogix, November 10, 2009 at 6:02 a.m.

    Apple definitely gots what it takes to push the iSlate beyond a standard tablet. islate.org

  4. Kevin Lenard from Business Development Specialist, November 10, 2009 at 9:11 a.m.

    Regardless of the numbers, great piece on the underlying, long-term impact of a brilliantly designed gadget.

    The iPhone has proved to be a 'category killer', both because of its user interface (touch screen, operating system and mobile access) and its apps (open source for developers and shared revenue model). As distribution spread globally and competitors move in, this one device has accelerated mobile Internet use exponentially. That is brilliant corporate leadership and evidence of not just being creative with technological innovation, but combining that with business model reinvention/innovation.

    Nice historical clip regarding the iTablet here:
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/yd36jy9

    Plus some insights into what Google's "Wave", in combination with mobile browsing, could mean to making any marketing done on the Internet global, not local or national:
    p://preview.tinyurl.com/ydpyc5r

  5. Phil Leigh from Inside Digital Media, Inc., November 10, 2009 at 10:33 a.m.

    First, I am not an Apple shareholder.

    Second, the source for the mobile web browsing statistics is provided as conveniently as possible with a hyperlink within the text of the post.

  6. Malcolm Rasala from Real Creatives Worldwide, November 25, 2009 at 11:08 a.m.

    I followed Phil Leighs advice clicked on the hyperlink to the
    fact he quoted. Now correct me if I am wrong and I will eat humble pie. BUT every article I can see - maybe I am losing perspective - is about a North American company no mention of internet activity in other parts of our 9 billion people world. No wonder the statistic given use "a unique methodology." Well if you do not count the internet activity in China (many more users than America) Europe, Russia, Asia, South America you can obviously concoct wonky statistics or lets say unscientific. If you are going to say 'Mobile Internet activity in the USA' fine. But America is not the world. America is a minnow against the rest of the world so do not pretend the statistics based on American mobile activity is scientific and global. Any self respecting scientist would run a mile from this one sided view. Guys get out of America and travel. 80% of Americans it is said do not have passports. If you never travel outside of 5% of the world America to the other 95% of the world you are always going to be fooling yourself
    with extremely suspect statistics. Can you see this reality?

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