“Apple changed the view of what you can do with that small phone in your back pocket,” says Katy Huberty, a Morgan Stanley analyst. “Applications make the smartphone trend a revolutionary trend — one we haven’t seen in consumer technology for many years.”Why did I bother to quote all that? What strikes me as interesting is that this is an example of a significant development in the world that occurred (is occurring) (a) while we are watching and (b) without anyone planning for it to happen.
Ms. Huberty likens the advent of the App Store and the iPhone to AOL’s pioneering role in driving broad-based consumer adoption of the Internet in the 1990s. She also draws comparisons to ways in which laptops have upended industry assumptions about consumer preferences and desktop computing. But, she notes, something even more profound may now be afoot.
“The iPhone is something different. It’s changing our behavior,” she says. “The game that Apple is playing is to become the Microsoft of the smartphone market.” …
The App Store’s success — as much a surprise to Apple as it has been to competitors — has given rise to a new digital ecosystem. …
The way the [cellphone] industry once operated, “Each handset company would come up with its latest iterations and maybe have the hottest device of the season or not,” says Ms. Huberty, the Morgan Stanley analyst. “Enter apps into the equation, and that changes. It goes from being a product cycle game to a platform game.”
“People will look back on the iPhone as a turning point in the industry,” says Craig Moffett, a telecom analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein. “The iPhone will be remembered as the first true handheld computer.”
As the article says, "The App Store’s success [is] as much a surprise to Apple as it has been to competitors." Apple didn't (apparently) launch the App store intending to turn the iPhone into the first handheld computer. That's probably not quite true because in some sense it did. It intentionally made the iPhone a handheld computer. But somehow it didn't realize how important doing so would be. Presumably, Apple thought it would just make the iPhone a more attractive phone—not that it would make the iPhone a handheld computer that (also) has the ability to make telephone calls.
Apple had experience with iTunes, and it knew that it could make money by selling items through its iTunes store. So why not do the same thing with iPhone apps. But apparently no one anticipated the extent to which people would come up with applications that would run on the iPhone and that people would want to use.
A personal confession, I haven't downloaded anything. I can't think of an app I care enough about to download. In fact I'm disappointed with the iPhone as a computer. It doesn't have cut-and-paste (as we all know), its keyboard is terrible, and its web browsing is frustratingly slow.
But my lack of enthusiasm doesn't seem to generalize. Apple created a new software platform—one that's different from other software platforms in that it can fit into one's pocket. That was good enough.
So once again the world changed—while we were watching—but in a way that was relatively unobtrusive to most of us and that just slipped into our culture. It is only with articles like these that we are telling ourselves how significant this change actually is.