Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Untold Story: How the iPhone Blew Up the Wireless Industry

Changing a whole industry with UX and UI ...

"The demo was not going well.

Again.

It was a late morning in the fall of 2006. Almost a year earlier, Steve Jobs had tasked about 200 of Apple's top engineers with creating the iPhone. Yet here, in Apple's boardroom, it was clear that the prototype was still a disaster. It wasn't just buggy, it flat-out didn't work. The phone dropped calls constantly, the battery stopped charging before it was full, data and applications routinely became corrupted and unusable. The list of problems seemed endless. At the end of the demo, Jobs fixed the dozen or so people in the room with a level stare and said, "We don't have a product yet."

The effect was even more terrifying than one of Jobs' trademark tantrums. When the Apple chief screamed at his staff, it was scary but familiar. This time, his relative calm was unnerving. "It was one of the few times at Apple when I got a chill," says someone who was in the meeting.

The ramifications were serious. The iPhone was to be the centerpiece of Apple's annual Macworld convention, set to take place in just a few months. Since his return to Apple in 1997, Jobs had used the event as a showcase to launch his biggest products, and Apple-watchers were expecting another dramatic announcement. Jobs had already admitted that Leopard — the new version of Apple's operating system — would be delayed. If the iPhone wasn't ready in time, Macworld would be a dud, Jobs' critics would pounce, and Apple's stock price could suffer.

... But as important as the iPhone has been to the fortunes of Apple and AT&T, its real impact is on the structure of the $11 billion-a-year US mobile phone industry. For decades, wireless carriers have treated manufacturers like serfs, using access to their networks as leverage to dictate what phones will get made, how much they will cost, and what features will be available on them. Handsets were viewed largely as cheap, disposable lures, massively subsidized to snare subscribers and lock them into using the carriers' proprietary services. But the iPhone upsets that balance of power. Carriers are learning that the right phone — even a pricey one — can win customers and bring in revenue. Now, in the pursuit of an Apple-like contract, every manufacturer is racing to create a phone that consumers will love, instead of one that the carriers approve of. "The iPhone is already changing the way carriers and manufacturers behave," says Michael Olson, a securities analyst at Piper Jaffray.

... It may appear that the carriers' nightmares have been realized, that the iPhone has given all the power to consumers, developers, and manufacturers, while turning wireless networks into dumb pipes. But by fostering more innovation, carriers' networks could get more valuable, not less. Consumers will spend more time on devices, and thus on networks, racking up bigger bills and generating more revenue for everyone. According to Paul Roth, AT&T's president of marketing, the carrier is exploring new products and services — like mobile banking — that take advantage of the iPhone's capabilities. "We're thinking about the market differently," Roth says. In other words, the very development that wireless carriers feared for so long may prove to be exactly what they need. It took Steve Jobs to show them that."    (Continued via Wired Magazine)    [Usability Resources]

Introducing the iPhone - Usability, User Interface Design

Introducing the iPhone

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