An Open Letter To Apple; Here’s Why You Should Kill The iPhone
The influence of the Vietnam era on Apple’s overall brand strategy and on Steve Jobs to an extent has been undeniable. With the tech landscape at the time formed by corporations the likes of Atari and IBM, the trio of Wozniak, Wayne and Jobs started with the Apple I, an archaic microcomputer by today’s standards, based on a single board. Hailed as revolutionary at its time, the Apple I required a power supply, a power switch, an ASCII keyboard and a display to function; also starting off a tradition of accessories that the company still continues today.
. . .Personal Computing
While not much on aesthetics, it managed to compress the basic units of micro processing functionality on a single board. This, drove the company towards the importance of user facilitation. The Apple II, introduced only six months later, was an improved combintion of the elements of personal computing. Complete with a keyboard and a screen capable at first of NTSC and later of color display, the device was the first pure computer appliance; allowing hobbyists and programmers to simply purchase the device and start using it. Tech giant IBM, also adopted the feature later on, with competitors such as Commodore’s 64 and C64 also making rounds in the market.
“Why aren’t you doing anything with this? This is the greatest thing! This is revolutionary!” -Jobs, 1979.
The next major change introduced by the company would come after Jobs and Raskin would gain access to Xerox PARC. Visiting Xerox in 1979, Steve saw their Graphical User Interface and knew that what he was seeing was the future. With this, a very important problem on computers would be solved. While the Apple II had managed to place a keyboard and display functionality in one package, what it lacked was the basic piece in the ergonomic puzzle; an efficient manner to translate this to the end user, who in this case, was as technologically illiterate as you can get.
Thus we witnessed the birth of Modern Graphical User Interface. Everything, and we mean everything, including the internet, gaming, multimedia is credited to what folks at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research It’s this which gave Apple, and more importantly, Microsoft the first serious inroads on how to truly approach software. These, would be launched on the Lisa I by Apple, a $10,000 computer that took four years to develop; a device doomed to failure simply because of its price.
“. . . .It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom.
IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry, the entire information age? Was George Orwell right?”
But with its counterculture roots having took over, Apple never really wanted to be IBM. Named after the McIntosh, the Canadian national Apple, the Macintosh became the first all in one solution with the simple addition of an icon; an elemental combination of pixels. The Macintosh would be competing with IBM’s Personal Computer and the Commodore 64; with the latter creating strong, modular design influence on the Macintosh II, around the time when John Scully took over.
Even though it would continue to lag behind IBM in terms of sales, Apple had managed to stumble on the right path. The facilitation of this instinctively based approach from the end user wasn’t available at the time. The Mac, was also the first of its kind to come with an emphasis on AppleTalk, Cupertino’s set of networking protocols which enabled plug and play networking on a computer for the first time in its history. It would subsequently, somewhat cement the ground for Apple’s revival after 13 years.
“Apple has been sidelined by Microsoft in the PC business. You’ve got to reinvent the company, to do some other thing like consumer products or services” -Mike Markkula, to Jobs.
After his return to the company the following year, he would do exactly that. But first, Steve had to meet Jonathan Ive, who’d then end up having a permanent influence on the way Apple, and Jobs, would think about their products. With Ive, Cupertino would evolve to be the company that was only trying to beat IBM in personal computing space. With Ive, Apple would move towards designing personal computing appliances that weren’t behaviorally manipulative.
. . .Portability
“F***, you’ve not been very effective, have you?” said Jobs when he entered Two Infinite Loop. Their first successful effort would be the iMac G3, a rare kind of all-in-one computer that could also look good as an ornament, and serve as a very catchy brand. Through this ‘box’, a rather simple approach of corners would also start to appear on virtually all of the company’s major products. It would also lead to both Ive and Jobs adopting a greater taste for corners rather than edges; an approach that’s always been subtly visible on all Apple devices.
The iMac wasn’t just a computer in a box though. Sure, as is with nearly all striking changes, it did stand out. Under its casing, the iMac G3 was to be noiseless. Form had to follow function. These features combined, would result in widespread sales for the sake of both novelty and functionality; and help build bases for 2001, particularly in terms of modernism as its design approach. We’d also get to see the launch of the Apple USB Mouse, demonstrating that sometimes, it form that takes precedence when designing a device suited for the human hand.
“If there was ever a product that catalyzed what’s Apple’s reason for being, it’s this. Because it combines Apple’s incredible technology base with Apple’s legendary ease of use with Apple’s awesome design, it’s like, this is what we do. [At Apple] So if anybody was ever wondering why is Apple on the earth, I would hold this up as a good example.”
The next great thing would be portability. It would be the iPod which would provide inroads into how to truly combine portability and personal computing, and lay the ground for the launch of the first iPhone six years later. A rectangle within a rectangle and a circle within a circle, the iPod was as simple as it could get. Being discontinued 13 years later, it would come to redefine how component, material and subtle design upgrades could fully evolve a product, combined with a subtle integration of buttons into form. Combined with the MacBook, now with Intel processors, in the long run it would end up contributing towards a strong customer base for the company as well; quite unlike the Apple of the early 90s.
It’d then, proceed to provide the company with a critical insight on how touchscreens worked early on, before the iPhone could be finalized. The first iPod Touch would be launched on September 5th 2007, just two months after the launch of the iPhone.
Portable . . .Communication
So what made the iPhone truly different? What was it that made Apple’s CEO at the time claim, in spite of his showmanship skills, that it was one of those truly revolutionary products that a lucky few get the chance to work on in their lifetimes? Intuition. Plain and brutal. The iPhone, was the first smartphone that didn’t force adjustments of user behavior. Swipe to unlock and boom – the entire world at your fingerprints. Apple after all, has never been an inventor. Cupertino’s primary purpose had always been to innovate, to improve.
“. . .So if you kinda make a… Business School 101 graph of the smart axis and the easy-to-use axis, phones, regular cell phones are kinda right there, they’re not so smart, and they’re – you know – not so easy to use. Well, we don’t wanna do either one of these things. What we wanna do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been, and super-easy to use.
This is what iPhone is. OK?”
In 2012, Apple bought Authentec, a year after the launch of the Motorola 4G, and proceeded to launch the iPhone 5. The device became the shortest mass produced variant in iPhone history. Authentec was not only behind the fingerprint sensor of the 4G, but it had completed the first fingerprint enabled NFC transaction a year back as well. A year later, the launch of the iPhone 5s with Touch ID on board was a good change. You didn’t have to swipe; just tap.
This singular approach on the iPhone 5s, which also beat Qualcomm with the A7, would be the last of its kind. Rather than choosing to wait with 64-bit processors, or with the combination of Touch ID and NFC the company haphazardly combined two dissimilar, distinct upgrades on the device. This left for a few mature upgrades for the lineup’s first large scale adoption of market demanded features next year.
See. Combine simplicity with innovation and you get the iPhone, which sits right at the heart of what Apple’s all about. And combine austerity with metamorphosis, and you’ll see exactly where the company’s gone wrong. The end of this approach resulted in the iPhone ‘X’ and the iPhone ‘X’ Plus being a carbon copy of the iPod 5g in design and promoting a service through a product. They’d also result in the first deviation from simplicity in iPhone lineup; making Cupertino having to think about two devices rather than one.
. . .Standardization
“I think the biggest innovations of the twenty-first century will be the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning, just like the digital one was when I was his [Reed] age -Steve Jobs.
Form following function became secondary. It became more about countering Android’s expansion at new fronts and increasing shareholder value. And eagerly, Cupertino beat Android at mobile based payments, while the iPhone sulked in the background. That laser focus approach on design was gone. Android had done exactly what Bill Gates had managed to do with Windows, spur creation of opportunities based on profits. And Apple had started to chase. It simply became more important to beat Samsung rather than adhere to its own rules.
Realizing the complete aesthetic farce that the eight generation iPhone was, Cupertino eagerly tried to compensate. The iPhone 6s came with major camera upgrades and 3D touch. These failed to maintain growth and Tim Cook turned the shoulder to China. For the iPhone 7, should Apple finally wait for Sharp to churn out some workable displays, unlike on the iPhone 5 and choose to upgrade it next year? Should Tim Cook kill the iPhone to open up new fronts?
It looks like he’s started to do so. And he should. Because the iPhone really really needs to die. However, as the portable computing space matures, and Cupertino’s cemented brand image as a tech company continues; are there any new fronts to explore at all? And will Apple’s all powerful shareholders let it do so? Can there be a new product?
“Since as we have seen the entrepreneurial qualification is something which, like many other qualities, is distributed in an ethnically homogeneous group according to the law of error, the number of individuals who satisfy progressively diminishing standards in this respect continually increases.” -Joeseph Schumpeter
At this point in history, the divide on the iPhone is permanent. The company has bit into the modular, and swallowed the profits. If you’re going to launch two devices with major dimensional differences, at least introduce greater changes apart from OIS! Differentiate them in terms of camera resolutions, software upgrades, additional features; there’s a lot to choose from really. Either make the divide exhibit contrast; or don’t divide at all. Don’t be Samsung.
Next year, on April Fools we’ll get to see a very interesting principle of nature, in regards to creativity. Should destruction prove to be a sufficient condition for it? With the death of Steve Jobs, will Tim Cook finally be able to fill his shoes? Or or does he even want to? The garage has become a relic, and disruption from it, scarce. The 70s are over folks, and now, Apple will become like every other multinational corporation out there, driven by mass production, margins, user based customization and market share.
The dilemma’s right at your doorstep, Tim. Either let it in or build a new house. Just don’t make the Apple Car.