Even allowing for our US cousins' lack of reticence, you know something BIG is happening when the audience at an industry keynote start 'whooping and hollering'. Apple's Steve Jobs had only to introduce himself at MacWorld Expo the other day, and his audience started swooning. (They were, of course, mostly übergeeks, but still…)
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To be clear, this is a speccy bloke who wears his jumper tucked into his jeans with no belt. He is most certainly not James Brown reincarnate. And he's announcing a gadget. So, you'd think, his must have been some gadget.
Not least because all day yesterday I was fielding calls and emails from non-techie friends, eager to educate me about this thing called the 'Apple iPhone' - desperate to get one. (You can't, not yet, and they're even safely hidden behind glass cases at the Expo. Leave 'em wanting more, right?)
And then today we learn that BlackBerry-maker RiM's market value has been slashed in anticipation of the all-conquering iPhone.
That's one pretty hyped-up announcement. (And yes, this blog is contributing in it's own small way to what I believe is known as the 'iPhone media feeding frenzy'.) But is there substance to it? Can Apple really stick a lower case 'i' in front of any product and send the world weak at the knees? When do we get the iPod iRon? ('Mac-lovers: download films while you press your combat trousers...')
Well yes to all - but I reckon it's all a bit more evolutionary than revolutionary.
As far as I can see the iPhone is actually three fairly exciting announcements in one beautifully designed package. A touchscreen iPod and phone I could live without, but it would certainly be cool. And I suspect we've all grown tired of half-assed internet connectivity on mobile phones - Apple reckons it's sorted this out. Plus a mobile version of OS X has to be good news, in my book. If they work together seamlessly with a user-friendly download service (and Apple has a pretty good track record there, iTunes fans), you may find that Apple owns your life. Or the entertaining part of it, at least.
Given that half the world is au fait with iTunes, and factoring in the continuing cache of the iPod brand, I suspect Apple will shift tens of millions of the things. But, like the original iPod, to me it's only a high-class execution of pre-existing ideas. Albeit given Apple's standard interoperability, ease-of-use and design kudos. And a silly but catchy name, of course.
So, apart from generating huge dollops of free advertising (again, guilty), why all the excitement at the iPhone's launch? Perhaps the whooping fans were Jobs' Apple employees anticipating how much the company can charge for downloads, call-time and web access when the iPhone is the only game in town?