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Seven Years Ago Today, The iPhone Changed The World

Steve Jobs iPhone

It was seven years ago today that the world was introduced to a product that set in motion technology that continues to change the world:

Seven years ago, on January 9, 2007, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco to introduce the first iPhone. “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone,” Jobs proclaimed:

This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two-and-a-half years. Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. And Apple has been — well, first of all, one’s very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career. Apple’s been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world. 1984, introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple. It changed the whole computer industry. In 2001, we introduced the first iPod, and it didn’t just change the way we all listen to music, it changed the entire music industry. Well, today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. So, three things: a widescreen iPod with touch controls; a revolutionary mobile phone; and a breakthrough Internet communications device. An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone…are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone. Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone, and here it is. No, actually here it is, but we’re going to leave it there for now.

He wasn’t kidding. The iPhone, like the Macintosh and iPod before it, redefined the category. The smartphone revolution started by the iPhone has put a powerful computer into the hands of billions of people around the world.

“iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone,” said Jobs said in the press release. “We are all born with the ultimate pointing device–our fingers–and iPhone uses them to create the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse.”

It took another six months for people to actually get their hands on the much anticipated product, though, because that first iPhone didn’t actually become available until the end of June. When it did, though, it was quickly snatched up in a manner that has been repeated with each of the seven iterations that the phone has gone through in the seven years since then, including the ubiquitous lines outside of Apple and AT&T stores that have now become something of a right of passage for Apple fanboys, and fangirls, every time a new product in the iPhone or iPad line is launched. Very quickly, Apple came to dominate a market that had barely just existed before Jobs took the stage, the consumer smartphone market. The closest thing to a competitor at the time, Blackberry, dominated the business market at the time and continued to do so for many years thereafter, but its owner, Research In Motion, was slow to adapt to the touchscreen world that Apple had introduced and its first efforts to enter the consumer market as an Apple competitor was largely a failure. I was a Verizon customer at the time, indeed I still am, and gave the Blackberry Storm a try before giving up on what was clearly inferior technology. Today, Blackberry, once the cutting edge of phone technology has largely been left behind and its parent company seems headed either for Bankruptcy Court or some kind of a buyout that will likely end up with the company being stripped for the only thing of value that it owns at this point, its patents and trademarks.

Apple sat alone on the cutting edge of the smartphone market for only about a year, though. Back in 2005, when the rumors of an Apple phone were still just rumors, Google acquired a company called Android, Inc., which had been developing an open source operating system for mobile devices and went to work on a project of its own. Roughly a year after Jobs first introduced the iPhone, we found out just what that project was when the HTC Dream, the first phone to running the Android operating system was introduced to the world. Google didn’t just introduce the phone and the operating system, though, they followed a different path than Apple by making the operating system open source and openly licensing it to any manufacturer and cell phone provider willing to pay the license fees. That proved to be a smart business decision, because it meant that several manufacturers, from HTC to Motorola, the smartphone part of which is now owned by Google, to Samsung began making phones of their own based on the Android operating system. While this has caused some problems for Android based phone users due to the fact that manufacturers and carriers tend to customize the operating system to suit their needs, meaning that they get O/S updates far less frequently than Apple users tend to, it has also meant that Android based phones currently outsell iPhones on a worldwide and a U.S. domestic basis, although Apple has a higher profit margin on its phones.

Despite those figures, it is still the iPhone that sets the technology standard in the smartphone world, and it’s still the announcement of a new iPhone that gets all the press attention, not the announcement of new iterations of, say, Motorola’s Droid line of Android based phones. More importantly, it was the iPhone that created this market and pushed the technology that allows us to literally allows us to access the entire world from the palm of our hands in much the same way that the characters on Star Trek were able to access their world on their Tricorders and PADD’s. And that all happened because a guy named Steve Jobs had an idea that he introduced to the world seven years ago today.

Here’s what that announcement looked like:

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Stonetools says:

    Fanboy.
    Don’t worry I am one too. I am typing this comment on an iPhone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Grewgills says:

    Despite those figures, it is still the iPhone that sets the technology standard in the smartphone world

    That isn’t true anymore and hasn’t been for a couple of years. The last few versions of the iphone didn’t have any meaningful advances. Compare that to the last couple years of HTC and Samsung and you will see that Apple is currently being outclassed and the real technological improvements are coming from somewhere else.

    it’s still the announcement of a new iPhone that gets all the press attention, not the announcement of new iterations of, say, Motorola’s Droid line of Android based phones.

    Jobs was a brilliant marketer and did a great job of building the cult of Apple. With him out of the picture I think we’ll see Apple repeat it’s previous mistakes that led them to loose out on the PC market the last time they had a dominant position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Hmmmm… last I checked world still the same. 7 continents, 5 oceans (or 4 depending on your counting) many mountain ranges and coastal plateaus …

    Doug? I have been on this world for 55 years and I have spent more than a little bit of time measuring the geologic changes of it and I feel safe in saying this:

    7 years? You need a reality check.

    ps: as an atheist I feel safe in saying this: The world was here long before man, and will be here long after. We don’t mean sh!t.

    pss: neither does the world when you get down to it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  4. C. Clavin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Well yeah…we don’t mean $hit…except we’re f’ing up the planet and it will be the worse for our existence.
    Other than that…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. ernieyeball says:

    The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we’re a threat?

    G. Carlin

    http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/9grca/the_planet_is_fine_the_people_are_fucked_pic/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. ernieyeball says:

    The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we’re a threat?

    G. Carlin
    The Planet is Fine

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. Woody says:

    This sounds A Bit Majestic, admittedly, but we are in the very early years of a profound change in terms of human culture.

    It’s somewhat akin to Gutenberg’s printing press – think of how written information became democratized so that knowledge was no longer a monopoly held by the very rich or the Church. Well, the Web goes far beyond Western Europe, doesn’t it? And it’s gone beyond print as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. trumwill says:

    Someday, I’ll forgive Jobs for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. James Pearce says:

    the seven iterations that the phone has gone through in the seven years since then

    Funny….I ran into a Libertarianish dude on another blog who was repeating that tripe about how US broadband is lagging behind the rest of the world because Americans don’t want to pay for the extra bandwidth. That wasn’t true 7 years ago, and it’s definitely not true in the iPhone era.

    We’re lagging behind the rest of the world because our telcos are greedy assholes, locking us into usurious contracts, larding our bills with hidden fees, and charging us more per month for data on our phones than we ever paid for a DSL. Of course, as a Libertarianish dude, this guy was never going to admit that such unfettered greed has negative consequences.

    As in “7 years of the iPhone and our data infrastructure is still ridiculously slow and unconscionably expensive.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. JohnMcC says:

    Hummm… Does our Doug mean that Mr Jobs made an irresistible consumer device that would let every corporation and whatever Gov’t agency had any interest, follow every move it’s purchaser made and every key-stroke made? And then he bitches about it?

    Let me see…. the best name for that is: Libertarian! Amirite?

    Personally, never been tempted to have one of the d@mned things.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. RGardner says:

    I’ve been watching the Consumer Electronics Show (Vegas) reports mostly on CNBC. Lots of hype on Monster TVs that won’t fit in my house, but wearable stuff seems to be the next thing..

    BTW, all the current iPhones use Samsung screens. .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. bill says:

    of course the biggest fault of the iphone and it’s touchscreen brethen is that it made it hard for people to text and drive – causing tons of accidents and such. i’ve never owned one, my kids have them and love to play with them…..i don’t get it i guess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  13. Liberal Capitalist says:

    iPhone, iPhone, iPhone…

    Big deal.

    They could have never done this if Compaq iPAQ had not come up with a handheld device that had a visual touch screen display that could make phone calls.

    in 2003.

    http://www.mobileburn.com/review.jsp?Id=66

    Did Apple make it smaller? yep.

    5 years after Compaq. in 2007.

    A revolution that changed the world? nope.

    May as well invent a car that can’t open a hood or trunk, requires all service to be done by ONLY the dealership, and have speed limited because we know what’s better for you.

    meh.

    disclosure: my wife has one. I bought it for her. She needs a dumbed-down device. and she doesn’t even exceed the capabilities of the 2003 iPAQ.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Liberal Capitalist says:

    btw… you may enjoy the comment above better if read in “Drunk Uncle” mode.

    http://www.uproxx.com/tv/2013/12/whos-plastered-drunk-uncle-john-goodmans-drunker-uncle-obviously/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. sam says:

    @Grewgills:

    it’s previous mistakes that led them to lose out on the PC market the last time they had a dominant position.

    Apple never had a dominant position in the PC market. Guy Kawasaki nailed Apple’s failure to dominate the PC market: The Windows PC was good enough (for business purposes), and a whole lot cheaper.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. trumwill says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: I was actually an iPaq owner. Mine couldn’t make phone calls, but it did everything else I wanted at the time. It also allowed me a degree of configuration that no modern device allows (or allows so easily). My current (Android) phone is by far a superior device (which, given the age difference, it had better be…) but there are things I miss about the old Pocket PC. I wear my Windows Mobile shirt proudly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. PJ says:

    There were mp3 players before the iPod.
    There were smart phones before the iPhone.
    There were tablets before the iPad.

    Sure, Apple did improve what already was out there, but Apple didn’t create anything new.

    —-

    @Grewgills:

    Jobs was a brilliant marketer and did a great job of building the cult of Apple. With him out of the picture I think we’ll see Apple repeat it’s previous mistakes that led them to loose out on the PC market the last time they had a dominant position.

    Apple was already repeating the same mistake under Jobs. Refusing to allow other hardware makers to use iOS on their phones and refusing to make cheap phones (and with cheap phones I don’t mean $0 with the same contract as the flag ship model…). There is a big difference though, Apple has a lot more cash now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @trumwill:

    My current (Android) phone is by far a superior device (which, given the age difference, it had better be…) but there are things I miss about the old Pocket PC.

    Ditto. Call me a curmudgeon, but an OS that still has command line access that doesn’t require Unix/Linux is a sweet thing.

    Don’t get me wrong: I have a Gen1 iPad and will admit that was a pretty revolutionary device.

    But I use it more for watching XBMC before going to sleep than anything else.

    Real computing – well, you need a keyboard (and if possible, a little red trackpoint. :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. trumwill says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Little red trackpoints are the difference between a laptop I will gladly use and a laptop that I will not use unless I absolutely have to. The last time I purchased a laptop without one was 1999.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @trumwill:

    Little red trackpoints are the difference between a laptop I will gladly use and a laptop that I will not use

    My desktop-based full-sized black IBM mechanical clicky keyboard with TrackPoint agrees with you !

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. stonetools says:

    Seems there are a lot of commenters ho say that Apple is really not innovative, and that the iPhone really wasn’t a game changer, etc, etc. I put these comments in the same bucket as the curmudgeons who insist that the Model T Ford, the theory of evolution, the (insert innovative idea of the past) wasn’t really innovative because it was built on the work of others or because others were thinking along the same lines. ALL innovative ideas and inventions to some extent rely on the past work of others. Their innovation is to use or see the previous work in new ways. At any rate, most tech pundits do see the iPhone as an innovate and game changing device.

    There is a big difference though, Apple has a lot more cash now.

    Wonder why that is? Could it be that Apple created a series of innovative consumer devices and services(ipod, iTunes, iPhone, App Store, IPad, iCloud) and built a tightly integrated , consumer friendly ecosystem that consumers loved and willingly became a part of, much to the disgust of assembled geekdom?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  22. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @Grewgills:

    That isn’t true anymore and hasn’t been for a couple of years. The last few versions of the iphone didn’t have any meaningful advances. Compare that to the last couple years of HTC and Samsung and you will see that Apple is currently being outclassed and the real technological improvements are coming from somewhere else.

    and

    Jobs was a brilliant marketer and did a great job of building the cult of Apple. With him out of the picture I think we’ll see Apple repeat it’s previous mistakes that led them to loose out on the PC market the last time they had a dominant position.

    This doesn’t strike me as a very good analysis of the current market situation. All innovations are built upon some other previous technology, so playing the “so and so did it first” game is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that Apple made it work and everyone else has and has had to up their game ever since. I think this is Doug’s point here, and your (and PJ and Liberal Capitalist’s) focus on “innovation” seems misplaced.

    The original iPhone was the innovation, but now things are–forgive me the hackneyed phrase–more evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and that’s OK. Apple may not be as innovative as you would like them to be, but they are hardly being “outclassed”–either by HTC or Samsung, or anyone else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Grewgills says:

    The fact of the matter is that Apple made it work and everyone else has and has had to up their game ever since.

    Over the past few years several others have upped their game and Apple has rested on their laurels. In terms of processing power, camera, and new features HTC and Samsung have outclassed Apple over the past two years. If Apple doesn’t up their game they will fall into 3rd place in the market they more or less created behind Windows phones.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0