Before Apple introduced the iPhone…

Despite all that’s stored, it appears the Internet has little memory. Exuberance for shiny new things often overtakes our willingness to remember how we got here.

This could be both good and bad. Not fully understanding how difficult a problem is can sometimes translate into a fresh perspective that can slay intractable problems. Understanding history, however, provides an appreciation of evolution, scale, velocity and effort that can help solutions come to fruition in the marketplace.

One of the shiniest memes around recently has been the incessant banging of the “Apple’s evil” drum. Most notably written in endless self-indulgent and self-righteous detail about how one self-important person or another gave up the iPhone…because “Apple’s evil.”

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A farce…in five parts

There are several leitmotivs. One is that the iPhone fell short of their ideal of what a smartphone has to be. Another is their perception that Apple’s recent growth and profitability necessarily make it evil much the way Google is also considered as such, because all large companies must be, like Microsoft, evil. Of course, Apple is controlled by a single person named Steve Jobs, who, if you’re wondering, is evil. In their topsy turvy world, Apple is evil because it’s proprietary and closed; it doesn’t even blog. Clearly, on the “Apple’s evil” planet value doesn’t count: Apple is grossly expensive for no reason. Apple’s evilness is best demonstrated finally by the App Store, where somehow a rejection rate of less than 0.03% out of 65,000 apps makes Apple…evil.

This list of evil absurdities goes on. And could perhaps be interesting and informative if the self-important promoters of the “Apple’s evil” meme were somehow uniquely qualified to bring technical insight or business understanding to the subject that we haven’t heard before.

Apple just doesn’t get it

When one doesn’t grok the very core of what makes Apple Apple there’s really no room for reasoned discussion. For two decades, Apple — and sadly Apple alone — carried the flag of software-hardware-service integration against an industry that bought into Microsoft’s “My Windows, Your hardware, What service?” business model.

Even Microsoft has recognized what a joke this is when forced to compete in consumer markets. But “Apple’s evil” promoters still insist that Apple sever its integrated model; license its OS; tear down the App Store; let anyone load any app on the iPhone; turn a blind eye to competitors leveraging its iTunes platform without compensation; give up the subsidies from AT&T and jump into bed with CDMA that will be sunset in a year or two; and allow any number of slow, ugly and battery-consuming competing runtimes proliferate on the iPhone. Because not doing so would be…evil.

They know better

These Apple-hating self-promoters neither fully understand nor care much about Apple or how iPhone’s unique ecosystem and user experience are what makes nearly 50 million touch platform users the most satisfied bunch in the industry by a mile, year after year. The iPhone isn’t perfect, but these self-promoters have a megaphone…so there!

Needless to say, no company is immune to making mistakes. Not even the company that just created the world’s largest and first massively-popular mobile application store essentially in a single year. Just think about the logistics involved in that effort and the obvious fact that no other company has yet come close. But for the self-righteous few, that’s not enough…because “Apple’s evil.”

Remembrance of Things Past

So for a more reasoned perspective, let us take a breath and remember what the world was like before Apple introduced the iPhone:

  1. Carriers ruled the industry with an iron fist
  2. To access carriers’ networks handset makers capitulated everything
  3. Carriers dictated phone designs, features, apps, prices, marketing, advertising and branding
  4. Phones were reduced to cheap, disposable lures for carriers’ service contracts
  5. There was no revenue sharing between carriers and manufacturers
  6. There was no notion of phone networks becoming dumb pipes anytime soon
  7. Affordable, unlimited data plans as standard were unheard of
  8. A phone that would entice people to switch networks by the millions was a pipe dream
  9. Mobile devices were phones first and last, not usable handheld computers
  10. Even the smartest phones didn’t have seamless WiFi integration
  11. Without Visual Voice Mail, messages couldn’t be managed non-linearly
  12. There were no manufacturer owned and operated on-the-phone application stores as the sole source
  13. An on-the-phone store having 65,000 apps downloaded nearly 2 billion times was not on anyone’s radar screen
  14. Low-cost, high-volume app pricing strategy with a 70/30 split didn’t exist
  15. Robust one-click in-app transactions were unknown
  16. There was no efficient, large scale, consistent and lucrative mobile app market for developers large and small
  17. Buttons, keys, joysticks, sliders…anything but the screen was the focus of phones
  18. Phones didn’t come with huge 3.5″ touch screens
  19. Pervasive multitouch, gesture-based UI was science fiction
  20. Actually usable, multi-language, multitouch virtual keyboards on phones didn’t exist
  21. Integrated sensors like accelerometers and proximity detectors had no place in phones
  22. Phones could never compete in 3D/gaming with dedicated portable consoles
  23. iPod-class audio/video players on mobiles didn’t exist
  24. No phone had ever offered a desktop-like web browser experience
  25. Sophisticated SDKs and phones were strangers to each other

This list too could go on. But it’s sobering to remember that a single device by a company with zero experience in the industry and against all odds caused such a tidal wave of change. Change didn’t come because of Nokia, Microsoft, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, RIM or any other player in the market for the past 15 years bet their company on it. Android and webOS weren’t there before the iPhone. But it’s convenient to forget all this when the meme demands Apple to be smeared with the evil brush.

Yes, “Apple’s evil”…except for all the others.