Earlier today I was planning to write a post regarding the iPhone 4S announcement yesterday, and what the new product and its welcome into the world meant for the future of tech. Apple is a huge player and trendsetter in the biz, and a change in CEO meant a change in thought, whether it was intended or not. Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs, even if Steve Jobs selected him with his interests for the company in mind.
But now Steve Jobs is dead. After a long, private-then-public battle with cancer that saw the stud CEO/keynote presenter take time off to battle the illness. About a month or two ago, he stepped down, and gave Tim Cook the keys to the iPhone Express. And now, today, October 5th, he is dead. It’s interesting to see that the man basically worked until his foot was in the grave, and it says a lot about his commitment to what Apple stood for. I’m not here to eulogize Steve Jobs though, I’m here to talk about the changes that have come, and will continue to come to Apple, and the tech world as a consequence.
The announcement was for a new iPhone, and rumors, as always, since the first iPod presser, have run wild about an iPhone 5 with a larger screen and new design. People were excited, as always. News outlets were covering the event, as always. And Apple, as they seem to be doing more and more, decided to stay the course. The iPhone 4S is a rehash of the iPhone 4, with the only true noticeable improvement comes with the camera. The iPad 2’s powerful A5 processor (produced by Apple) has been shoehorned into the phone, and it has become a world phone, capable of supporting any network.
The phone’s killer app, as any great device will have, is a personal assistant program called Siri. The program has been around for a while, developed by the company (you guessed it) Siri. The assistant takes voice commands to a new level, allowing you to interact with your Siri program using conversational speech. The assistant will respond to you, and can do basically anything the phone can under simple orders. This is where my problem is.
I’ll reserve all my comparisons between Siri and it’s brother, HAL9000, but they are just uncanny. The problem is, voice prompts have been onboard Android phones for a few years now. I understand the idea of conversational recognition, and I wont say its not a big improvement, but that is just what it is: improvement. Apple is a company that innovates, not improves.
The idea of the iPhone 4S as a major upgrade is false. They can market as many software improvements and antenna improvements and camera improvements (which I will say, impress me) as they would like, but that doesn’t make this any more than an incremental upgrade. I hope this isn’t the position Apple plans to take going forward; a more conservative approach, with the fanfare being nothing more than a tribute to Jobs’ legacy. This isn’t what Apple is about; they are about being the first to do it, and the best to do it.
Steve Jobs put in a lot of time and hard work to realize the dream he had. He had glass-and-wood replace brick-and-mortar in shopping centers, and gave the world the personal communication devices that the future had always promised. It’s hard to argue that Apple’s introduction of the Macbook, iPod, iPhone and iPad have changed the way products are developed.
The closest thing to what the iPhone was when it was released was a Verizon LG Voyager; that phone left a lot to be desired. Today, we have THREE options for a computer-in-your-pocket experience, and it all came after the iPhone. The same is true for tablets; the iPad was the first tablet device to see real sales numbers, and led to a tablet revolution that has actually swallowed up the next version of Windows, which is optimized for touch input. The Macbook became the base for great notebook design, and design elements of the $999 laptop were used in many other Windows-based notebooks.
This was what Steve Jobs always wanted. He wanted to be able to walk around and see people living in the future with their touchscreens and voice input devices and all that good stuff. He wanted to see people walking into his stores from the future and playing with the toys he dreamed up. He got his wish before he passed, and that’s really all any of us can really hope for right?