When Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone, he explained that Apple was trying to create a smartphone that would leapfrog the competition by at least 5 years. Given that Android has made impressive strides as of late, the 5 year head-start afforded to Apple by the iPhone might be a bit generous, but there’s no denying that Apple’s revolutionary smartphone set a new bar in terms of what consumers expect out of their mobile devices.
With so many touchscreen devices out on the market today, it’s hard to remember just how boring the smartphone landscape was just 3 and a half years ago. Apple’s iPhone changed all that, and interestingly enough, the introduction of the iPhone was so earth shattering that folks inside RIM and Microsoft weren’t even sure if they should believe the hype that followed Steve Jobs’ now legendary iPhone demo. Could it really be that great?
Below is a recap from a former RIM employee explaining what the mood was like inside of RIM and Microsoft following the 2007 iPhone introduction.
All these companies were fighting over what amounts to overgrown PDAs with phones and wireless stacks strapped on. Everyone assumed power density was no where even close to what was needed for general computing, that a full featured browser and heavy duty Internet services were impossible due to bandwidth and latency. Take a look at how our Java expert groups named standards, how people at the time talked about what features smart phones should have, and its clear that no one thought an iPhone was possible. Even Danger, which eventually [led to] Windows Phone 7 and Android, was just working on a better Blackberry.
The iPhone did many amazing things, but what stands out in my mind was how it proved that these assumptions were flat-out wrong beyond any reasonable doubt. Apple pretty gave everyone the finger and said, “Fsck you guys we can build your distant impossible future today.”
I left RIM back in 2006 just months before the IPhone launched and I remember talking to friends from RIM and Microsoft about what their teams thought about it at the time. Everyone was utterly shocked. RIM was even in denial the day after the iPhone was announced with all hands meets claiming all manner of weird things about iPhone: it couldn’t do what they were demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life, etc. Imagine their surprise when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it. It was ridiculous, it was brilliant.
I really don’t think you’re giving Apple enough credit here. They did something amazing that many very prominent people in the industry thought was either impossible or at least a decade away, and they did it in a disgustingly short time frame.