Steve Jobs – October 5, 2011
I had a short conversation with two medical assistants yesterday about the iPhone 4S. One of them said the announcement of Apple’s latest version would have been more exciting if Steve Jobs had taken the stage.
I agreed with them, as my imagination jumped into high gear. Then I replied: “Yeah, I could just see him extolling the virtues of the new voice features. “‘Isn’t it incredible…You can TALK to your phone! It’s awesome…No one ever has created a phone that acts like a personal assistant, like a real human being. That’s fantastic!’”
Showman and marketer, some likened him to a God; others couldn’t stand him. But I never spoke with anyone who had no opinion of Steve Jobs. He typified Silicon Valley. He had visions of products and services that he thought people should have–not necessarily what they wanted. And no one got in his way unscathed.
Visions of Iconic Light
To a great degree, this led to the iPhone’s mesmerizing effect on people worldwide. Like Mac computers, the aura of Jobs and Apple’s brand convinced people they needed the device. In a review I wrote in January 2008, I pointed out peoples’ attraction to icons:
“…Icons become a statement of me. Whether it’s the Apple iPhone or an expensive audio device or a WIFI mobile telephone–it doesn’t matter. Consumers worldwide now lust after an increasing array of iconic symbols, symbols that give meaning and definition to one’s self, symbols that rapidly change as we acquire more of them.
“Just as the Internet has rocketed information access to the masses, new objects, new icons appear on the market with increasing rapidity and variety. It’s as if the cosmetics industry has taken over the definition of oneself. The icons spread, we buy them, and we let them define who we are. So…as you lust after the Apple iPhone and consider paying $1,500+ for a shimmering sliver of light, remember that you are buying the latest icon–something that defines you as a person–and next year at MacWorld, Jobs will have something else for you.”
iPhone Goes International
Apple fans around the globe feverishly anticipated the iPhone. Which country would get a shipment first? Will there be enough? How much will it cost?
In my February, 2008 piece in Mobile Telephony Innovations, I mentioned the 2G original iPhone hitting several countries, including New Zealand. “The funniest comment came from a New Zealand buyer who said: ‘Steve Jobs Knows What I want and I need a new phone.’ This is surely true because, next to God, only Jobs would have enough insight into the cellular needs of the world.”
AT&T iPhone Reception Problems
But neither God, Steve Jobs nor AT&T could predict the iPhone’s call disconnects and slow data speeds. Users, primarily in metro areas such as San Francisco and New York, became discouraged, if not outraged, by AT&T’s network, data traffic at times crawling to a halt like New York City traffic at 4 p.m.
Cellular reception is always problematic, but the world had never experienced the mobile computing features of the iPhone. iPhone owners soon started consuming 40% of AT&T”s network bandwidth, which considerably slowed network performance.
In September, 2008, after release of the 3G iPhone,, Bloomberg/Businessweek quoted me, saying: “Mobile handset users must realize neither AT&T nor any carrier will ever keep pace with the growing demand for mobile broadband connectivity.”
The lack of wireless bandwidth has continued until this day, although improvements to the carriers’ 3G networks has improved dropped calls and slow data downloads. Apples release of the 4th generation iPhone to Verizon Wireless also offloads traffic on AT&T.
With the 4S coming out soon, sold by Sprint, Verizon and AT&T, plus 4G LTE by all three carriers, wireless and data performance should improve greatly depending on the number of activated iPhones, Android, Windows and other smartphones. But the broadband spectrum problem is not solved. The FCC, N.T.I.A (the wireless association) , carriers and television broadcasters need to compromise on sharing frequencies allocated to mobile.
The Unlocked iPhone Mess
One of Steve Jobs’ strategic blunders, later changed, was offering the iPhone to only one carrier in the U.S. with limited distribution through carriers around the world. As a result, hackers started unlocking iPhones and selling them on eBay and elsewhere. As the demand for iPhones became intense, the overseas black market went wild, reducing Apple’s distribution control.
Again in Business Week (April 8, 2008), I wrote:
“Apple’s, iPhone and the mobile carrier market are very different from computing. Apple wanted to market a locked smartphone, dictate its pricing and share monthly carrier revenues–unheard of in the cellular business.
“AT&T, the largest GSM carrier in the U.S., was the only carrier willing to accept Apple’s terms. T-Mobile, the alternative GSM company, wasn’t an option. Neither were Verizon and Sprint, which use CDMA wireless technology, since the first iPhones used GSM, limiting the use of international CDMA operators.”
Many consider the iPad Steve Jobs’ crowning achievement. Not only is it an incredible multimedia product, the iPad set the standard for all pad computers to come. And it’s changed how we view digital and non-digital media. An instant sensation, manufacturers have tried to imitate it, mostly using Android OS. But nearly everyone would admit the iPad raised the bar within mobile computing.
After Steve Jobs and Apple released it, Samsung, BlackBerry and now Amazon have downsized their pads’ dimensions. Features differ. And Amazon is the low-price leader for its Kindle Fire.
In writing about Apple’s device in January, 2010, I said:
“Once again, it was a delight to watch Steve Jobs today, legs crossed, sitting in a comfortable chair, reading the New York Times on his Apple iPad. It’s amazing!…It’s unbelievable..It’s great…better than a laptop…holding the Internet in your hands…an incredible experience…it’s a dream to type on…an awesome way to experience your music…it’s so much more intimate than a smartphone…’
“But one thing that must have made Steve Jobs’ eyes dance were the advertising revenues from Quattro Wireless, one of the largest mobile ad networks in the world. The iPad would re-define an ideal device for mobile advertising…
“Forget the ignored, tiny type of SMS ads on feature phones and smartphones. Now advertisers and brands [became] excited about rich media mobile advertising…
“While the iPad won’t decimate notebook computers or mobile phones, it could put the final nail in the coffin of desktop computers. In the past several years, consumers in developed nations have increasingly migrated to [netbooks], due to their lower cost, faster processors and connection to the mobile Internet cloud.
“As the surge toward mobility continues in developing nations, devices like the iPad could become the mobile device of choice as prices for these devices continue dropping.
“Until then, I believe Jobs has scored another win–an evolutionary mobile communications device for the masses.’
The Future of Apple
Some naysayers now on Wall Street fear an Apple without Steve Jobs. But in the time before his death yesterday, Jobs reportedly worked up until the end, leaving his dreams about mobile computing and entertainment devices ready for the next leader to evangelize. I have no doubt Apple will rise to the occasion.
Two months ago, I wrote in a short Facebook post: ” I have a sneaking suspicion that Steve Jobs will still influence the future of communications and computer technologies. …” Great leaders and visionaries, despite their personality quirks, tend to leave a legacy that lives beyond this existence.
Apple will continue thriving, due to its excellent products. And that’s the legacy of Steve Jobs.