John Gruber, writing for Daring Fireball says, “The iPhone is not and never was a phone. It is a pocket-sized computer that obviates the phone. The iPhone is to cell phones what the Mac was to typewriters.”
I wrote about this back in May 2008, positing that RIM was then already likely screwed because the future of the industry was about making computers, not phones or messaging devices, and RIM had no institutional experience as a computer maker, on either the hardware or software sides of the fence. With Apple, on the other hand, you can more or less look back at the decade preceding the original iPhone as a series of training exercises for what was to come: building portable computers (PowerBooks, iBooks, MacBooks) and pocketable devices (iPods).
Gruber admits that the iPod’s success fooled almost everyone, including Gruber, into thinking that Apple’s initial entry into the phone market would be similar. The iPod was the best portable media player, so the iPhone would be the world’s best cell phone.
That was not what it was. It was the world’s best computer. It wasn’t the most powerful, the fastest, or the most efficient. Version 1 lacked simple copy and paste functions. (Wow, did I take grief from my BlackBerry loving co-workers for that.) It was the best simply because it was always there. It was always on, always ready for us. One button push away.
Over the last five years, Gruber says, Apple has not disrupted the phone industry, but rather it has destroyed it. It accomplished that by disrupting the computer industry. Cell phones are now just another app, not a device. Companies that made a nice living selling cell phones before the iPhone are now dead, or dying. Amazon, Google, and even Microsoft are now in the business of creating and selling touchscreen devices. Everyone knows what an “app” is.
All because of one little disrupting device. The iPhone.