Steve Jobs Attempts World Domination
With the arrival of the iPhone in June, Apple may become the company of the future.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
You’ve got to feel sorry for the richest man in the world. After all, here’s Bill Gates a couple of weeks ago, giving the keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show, one of the largest technology shows on the planet, and he’s one of the most important people in the history of modern computing, perhaps the person most instrumental in shaping our experience of computers in homes and businesses around the world. And what is everyone talking about? Steve Jobs and Apple. Of course.
But let’s talk Microsoft briefly. After all, this year is the year of Microsoft Vista, the first major update to the Windows operating system in five years, which, some reviewers say, is largely about catching up with the Mac OS. More and more companies are considering Apple computers for their employees. According to BusinessWeek, Google has begun offering a Mac as an option to nearly all of its incoming employees. And when the Mac version of Lotus Notes appeared last year, it opened some business doors to Macs as well. Oops. See, I just did it—I’m talking about Apple when I was trying to talk about Microsoft.
Vista will be huge, of course, since Windows-based PCs make up the bulk of computers worldwide. But Mac OS X offers Microsoft Office applications, tons of cross-platform creative applications and the ability to boot into Windows. So more desks may have Macs in the near future.
The fun news, of course, are Apple’s new products. First there’s Apple TV, which is pretty much what Steve had said it would be a few months ago—it streams video from your Mac or PC, and will sync with your main machine, storing data on its hard disk. So if you’re buying movies or TV shows from iTunes (which is, for instance, how I’m watching “Battlestar Galactica” this season), then you’ve got a nice way of getting them to your high-definition TV. It’s a nice gizmo, although I think it should be able to download and stream TV and movies directly from iTunes so it can be used as a totally standalone device. Until then, it’s an accessory.
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The big fun news is, of course, iPhone. (It’s even news that they’re calling it “iPhone,” as Cisco had previously trademarked the name.) It runs Mac OS X, and with that Steve tells us that we’ll be able to run desktop-caliber applications. It offers Multi-Touch, the new interface technology that Steve tells us is as revolutionary as the mouse was 20 years ago. And it syncs with all of that happy Apple stuff that Mac users like to use, including iTunes, iCal, iPhoto, bookmarks and e-mail, with an interface that works through iTunes. It has a two-megapixel camera built in, a 3.5-inch high-resolution display and—a Steve Jobs trademark—exactly one button.
Using the Multi-Touch technology, the phone reacts to you waving and sliding fingers across the display. Of course, the iPhone is an iPod, with all the same functionality, but the interface is a little different—you move your finger across the screen to scroll through music, video and photos. As a phone, it gives you “visual” access to your voicemail messages, so that you can manage them like e-mail messages. Jobs calls it “last century” to actually dial numbers, so your address book and “favorites” are front and center for the dialing interface.
Some of the big news is that the iPhone features Wi-Fi technology, meaning your surfing can happen at higher speeds when you’re within access of a wireless Internet hotspot. The Safari browser on the phone can show entire Web pages, or Mac OS X style widgets for Internet information.
As Jobs puts it, it’s the first time you can have the whole “Internet in your pocket.”
Support for IMAP e-mail means you can read e-mail right from a server account, the way many Gmail users do now with Treos and Blackberries. Or you can access your Web mail interface for your company’s server via the Web. It’s a Cingular exclusive, it will cost $499 for the 4GB version or $599 for the 8GB version, and it won’t ship until June 2007. The future of phones is still out there in the future. And it will be interesting to see what that does to the rest of the market.
It’s often bandied about that Apple Computer might become the next Sony or the next Disney or whatever it’s supposed to be the “next” of. In what was perhaps both an acknowledgement and a challenge of that fact, Jobs announced one other thing at the keynote—something that Apple has done in practice for a while. The name Apple Computers Inc. is no more…the official name of the company, for its second 30 years, is now Apple Inc.
Apple makes more than computers, apparently, and maybe it doesn’t make as many products as Sony, but Apple is gambling that its products are more defining and world-altering than anything its competitors do. Even Bill Gates probably has to admit that.