Monday, December 18, 2006

The iPhone: Welcome To Cellular 2.0

Apple is about to enter the cellular handset market, but not with a product -- with an entirely new type of communications platform.

And -- it will not be announced this Monday. Why? Because Apple's mobile phone strategy is based on overhauling the entire legacy concept of 'phone' now being applied by all other makers and carriers. This strategy revolves around not viewing a 'phone' as a standalone piece of hardware, but as the centerpiece of a mobile communications lifestyle. And, it requires other bits and pieces to be put into play to make this grander vision a reality.

Such a multi-element platform launch cannot be done by a press release. It will require an Apple Event.

Not Your Father's Cell Phone

Apple has studiously and cautiously sat back and observed the unfolding of the cellular telephone market, and the behavior of cell phone users, smartly choosing to not enter the game until it can do so with a winning hand. Despite being loaded with advanced technology capabilities, today's mobile phone landscape is still very much still running on top of the same Cellular 1.0 topology originally launched in the mid-1980's. Handsets are still all-inclusive devices intended to be isolated islands of technology. Apple has a different vision.

Welcome To Cellular 2.0

Even if we have forgotten, Apple still very much recalls its Digital Hub strategy, and makes this concept the underlying mission driving nearly all of its new product creations. The point for most new non-CPU product Apple develops is to substantially improve the usability of that device by having it operate as a peripheral to a Mac or PC running Apple software or connected to .Mac. The iPod has iTunes. The iSight has iChat. The Mighty Mouse has its unique driver software. The experience Apple thus provides users eclipses the prevailing experience offered by existing products. Some of this experience is Mac-only. Some is available on the Windows platform.

In Apple's vision of Cellular 2.0, the phone handset is a roving peripheral to the computer the user has sitting at their home or office. Apple has intelligently parsed users' various communications activities, and has better enabled each by assigning the component actions to the best qualified device. Some actions are done on the computer, some on the handset. With its grip firmly wrapped around software technologies such as Bonjour, iChat, iSync, and .Mac, Apple is uniquely positioned to slice apart the mobile phone experience, and restitch it into something massively more friendly and usable than today's approach. And, by migrating just a portion of this underlying technology to the Windows world, Apple (again... remember the iTunes experience) gets to painlessly demonstrate its vision of user friendly operation to the sea of Win PC users, and add yet another lure to its bait box of Mac platform promotion tools.

Handset + Software + Service = Bliss

In Apple's Cellular 2.0 vision, the handset is not so smart. Like the iPod it logically emulates, the mobile handset is mostly a repository for data synced from the user's computer. Address book info, media files, calendar data, all are created and manipulated on the computer, and simply refreshed into the handset as needed. This approach allows a tiny device to become enormously useful. And, it neatly smashes a hole between today's ideas of 'just a handset' and 'a smart-phone.' In Apple's vision, the 'just a handset' delivers nearly all of the usability of today's smartest smart-phone, but without most of the data input and processor overhead. Apple still very much believes a computer should be a computer, and a peripheral should be a peripheral. Its cellular handset will vividly demonstrate this philosophy in action.

Apple's cellular handset will sync wired or wirelessly with each of the component software pieces running on a Mac or Win system. The data so transferred to the handset will then be easily usable via the handset's highly graphical multiouch UI. And, upon next docking, any address book data added on-the-go by the user will seamlessly be added into the computer's records. All of this behind-the-scenes activity will be easily monitored and managed through a simple syncing functionality put into iTunes that provides easy usability among all of the contributing software pieces, and with .Mac. And yes, the new application will run on both Macs and Windows systems, intelligently supporting whatever underlying software or service components are available to that specific user's system.

Shattering An Industry's Practices

Even with millions of joyous customers snatching Apple handsets from store shelves, the greater market impact will be behind the scenes, on the cellular telephone industry itself. By marketing the handset as a computer peripheral, and focusing sales benefits on the various computer-resident software and services components, not on the handset itself, Apple will be introducing a radically new marketing scheme. No existing manufacturer or carrier can easily match up against this holistic approach to mobile telephony, as they simply do not have the software products nor data infrastructure in place to respond. This is Apple's Cellular 2.0 vision: Make the key usability and selling points all live on the computer or the Internet, not on the handset, and focus marketing on those pieces, not on the handset.

By diminishing the role of the handset itself, and focusing customer attention on the computer-enabled benefits, Apple will leave the entire cellphone manufacturing industry in a panic to begin trying to catch up. And, by marketing the handset as a device that requires no specific carrier support other than a connection, Apple leaves the carriers in a huge quandary -- how do they respond to suddenly having all of their value-add services reduced to irrelevancy?

The User Is The Winner

Apple's entry will shift the earth underneath the cellular industry. Its user experience focused approach to cleaning up the current mess of incompatible, incomprehensible phone functionality, and too-complex do-everything handsets will announce a whole new way to think of 'mobile phones' to the world. And, its focus on computer-side functionality rather than handset functionality will make its handset the easiest to use, simplest to approach product on the market. In the process, users worldwide gain clarity, comfort, and increased functionality in the mobile phone experience. Over time, as they have done with all of their new products, they will expand the concept into a true platform play that supports added functionality, likely from third-party application software, accessories, and third-party service tie-ins, such as Google, YouTube, and others. I wouldn't doubt that the new mobile platform begins to approach the functionality of the current Mac platform itself within a few years. But, that's another post.

The cellular industry is about to be jarringly snatched one giant step forward. It will be fun to watch as everybody else goes crazy trying to scramble and catch up.


Blogger Joe Lee said...

See Patent Application # 20050070225

7:36 AM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Datadawn said...

That's it! You hit it on the head.
The hub motif! - just as it is with the iPod now.
They do call it an "iPod" right? Not an iHear or iSee, which would refer to fuction - but "pod" refering to it's growth options and modularity.

As with all things digital... information becomes dematerialized. Whether it's audio, video or photography, the future is "liquid" (aqua) and to "pour" you computer into your phone is the answer.
Thank you!

7:49 AM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Smacx* said...

Yes, the reasoning is very Apple-like and makes a lot of sense. The major problem remains the data entry balance between the phone and the computer: most of my data are entered on my computer and an excellent display on the phone would be great, but still, there are situations when I have to enter an appointment on the phone. This balance between display and entry is the major factor in defining the shape of our phones. I'm eager to see how Apple solves that one.

8:10 AM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Dream Tiger said...

This sounds about right. Whether you just got an inspired hunch, or actually know something, this is the most concise and revolutionary description of a likely Apple offering yet seen on the net. I would love to see the carriers reduced to dumb-pipe irrelevance, the infrastructure reduced to commodity status, returned to serving the people instead of fleecing us.

9:13 AM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Walt French said...

All very interesting, but is it based on something more than intelligent extrapolation of 5-year-old practices of Apple?

10:48 AM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Jack Campbell said...

Walt, it's based on (a) 10-years of living the Apple business case in my consulting practice and business ventures, and (b) reaction to seeing a herd of so-called 'experts' demonstrate in the mainstream media that they truly do not get what today's Apple is all about.

11:05 AM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Sliplips said...

From out of nowhere (?) comes Jack Campbell with the most compelling - and unique - statement I have seen regarding the "iPhone"
I won't go on and on wasting space about what others have said. Or myself! I didn't catch this vision, either. In this one post I think you have disected what has been wrong with all our ideas. THIS finally "fits." I HOPE IT's TRUE!

11:21 AM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Layne Lev said...

Very well put together. I pray that your predictions become even half true.

11:26 AM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger tonymosa said...

Thanks for the perspective. I thought it was only obvious to me where they are going, and that's right back to "Let the Computer Be a Computer (digital hub), Let the Phone be a Phone (computer peripheral)" philosophy.

Duh! Just spend a few moments and imagine what could be done with this approach... (ex: face recognition software on your Mac for your phone pics, cataloging, filing, e-mailing your images based on the subjects in the photos... I dream big!)

My concern is if this will be Mac only or Mac and PC. Mac only might drive Mac sales but marketshare will never be as great as Mac and PC... (think iTunes). Alas that may be the downfall. Any PC synchronization will include the various PC type of headaches and may diminish the user experience.

So what will it be? Mac only I hope. Marketshare be damned! A compelling cell phone solution might just be the "killer ap" the Mac digital hub requires. iPod got us one step closer. iTV may provide another...

1:42 PM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger aangel said...

I very good piece of inspired reasoning.

And it's very consistent with Jobs' ability to distinguish the essence of what makes a devic truly work and work well for the humans who use them.

Recall his comment about WebTV? He said it wouldn't work because people go to their computers to turn their mind on and to their TVs to turn their mind off. This was definitely a minority point of view at the time because the conventional wisdom was that WebTV was going to take over the world. I don't have sales figures, but I don't hear much about WebTV any more (now MSN TV).

If this analysis and prediction is correct, Jobs will again have drawn a sharp distinction between what a particular form factor *could* be used for vs. what it is actually best at.

Personally, I don't want a big bulky TREO with lousy battery life, and consequently don't own one. I want precisely what the blog entry describes.

5:33 PM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Evan Reiser said...

Interesting Feature Comparison between the iPhone OS and Windows Mobile 5

iPhone - Already an Outdated Technology????

7:45 AM, January 30, 2007  
Blogger Evan Reiser said...

Jack, you never responded to my response to your response on my blog linked above. :(

8:11 PM, January 31, 2007  
Blogger Jack Campbell said...

Evan... Check your own blog's comments section, as I am over there pitching my views quite enthusiastically.

12:02 AM, February 01, 2007  

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