Apple unveiled the original iPhone 10 years ago on January 9th, 2007, at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. Apple changed the smartphone world that day and opened the door for a future where mobile computing is the norm, and flip phones, Treos, and Blackberrys are fading memories.
The iPhone redefined the smartphone market and dramatically changed what we expect from handheld technology. Apple’s competitors had to stop midcourse and completely rethink their product designs from form factor to interface.
Remembering the iPhone Launch
I was in the audience when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone during his Macworld keynote 10 years ago. A reporter from a major news network latched on to me while we were waiting in line to go in. He hadn’t ever been to Macworld expo and wanted to stick close to a veteran who could show him the ropes.
When Steve said, “An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator. Do you get it?” you could feel the air sucked out of the room from the collective gasp as hundreds of people realized what we were about to see. The reporter sitting next to me said, “What just happened?” I replied, “Apple just made your Blackberry obsolete.”
That was our first glimpse at the iPhone interface, which was strikingly different from anything we had seen before. It was also the first time a smartphone was seriously seen as a device for everyone and not just business people or tech junkies.
The iPhone Doubters
Blackberry (RIM at the time), Palm, Samsung, and Nokia were big players when the iPhone was first announced. Microsoft was trying to carve out a piece of the smartphone market, too. What they all had in common was the certainty that Apple would fail.
Apple was mocked for not having a physical keyboard and dismissed for trying to jump into an established market. Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer laughed and questioned how Apple thought they could compete without the tiny chiclet keys, and Palm CEO Ed Colligan said, “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”
Microsoft has all but officially exited the smartphone market and destroyed Nokia in the process. Nokia met its demise when Microsoft bought the company in hopes of shoring up its own smartphone efforts. That fizzled out with Microsoft killing off Nokia’s flagship Lumia brand, firing hundreds of employees, and eventually selling off what was left at a hefty loss.
Palm was eventually bought by HP only to whither away and die, Blackberry looks to be in a death spiral. Samsung chose to quite successfully compete with Apple by copying the iPhone with great success, despite years of court room patent infringement battles.
Next up: The Good and the Bad