On June 28, 2007, Steve Jobs gave the most incredible keynote presentation of his life, introducing the mobile phone that would revolutionize the industry, and to some extent the world — the original iPhone. However, Apple is faced with a big dilemma while celebrating iPhone’s 10-year-old birthday.
Image source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/e7EfxMOElBE/maxresdefault.jpg
A Miracle in Smartphone History
Apple started out as a maker of PCs 40 years ago. Throughout the following decades, Apple has shipped many incredible products. Among them, the iPhone definitely stands out as the most revolutionary and magical product.
In the 2000s, people started to shift away from PCs to mobile phones. Phone makers were trying their best to attract the consumers’ attention, and some people believed that Nokia would control the mobile phone market for a long time, while others supported the likes of Samsung and HTC.
Then, everything suddenly changed. Apple shipped the original iPhone that is five years ahead of every other mobile phone at the time. Consumers went crazy and lined up outside of Apple stores for days to snatch one up. Apple’s competitors got afraid, and nervously dismissed it as over-reaching and over-priced. Looking back at 2007, we have to say the iPhone was a miracle.
Let’s have a look at the specs of the original iPhone against the newest iPhone 7.
Compared to the iPhone 7, we can see just how far the smartphone technology has evolved over the past 10 years. You won’t find 3D touch, lock screen widgets and even an app for controlling Internet-connected gadget around your home in the original iPhone, even though the original iPhone’s touchscreen paved the way for the millions of smartphones since. It is also equipped with an original A series processor and 128MB of built-in RAM that surpassed all other products at the time.
Because of the iPhone, Apple transformed itself from a manufacturer of trendy computers and music players to the world’s most valuable company. Moreover, it has changed the world in meaningful ways, and continues to be a dominant force in the mobile world since 2007.
Reality is Cruel
Smartphone and Other Products
“The difference between last year’s iPhone and this year’s iPhone is going to be much smaller than the difference between the first and second iterations of the iPhone. . . . So that S-curve is starting to flatten out,” said Benedict Evans, a mobile expert and partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Let’s first have a look at the latest smartphone market share.
Apple is facing increasingly fiercer competition from not only Samsung, but also Chinese brands Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. But Apple’s next transformative technology isn’t here yet.
Actually, Apple’s other products are not expected to be appreciated either. HomePod, the recently introduced voice-activated home speaker is no doubt a beautiful product with an excellent sound quality. However, some people criticized that the definition of HomePod is unclear. Apple wants it to do everything but it turns out that nothing is its strength – similar to some smartphones on the market.
In 2011, Apple became the first company to launch AI (Artificial Intelligence) on a consumer-oriented product. The voice assistant Siri provided a speech interpretation and recognition interface as a smarter way of using the iPhone. Acquired from SRI International, currently, Siri is the virtual assistant integrated into many Apple products to help perform personal tasks using sequential inference and contextual awareness.
However, no one anticipated that just 6 years later, the technology giant is struggling to survive in the war over new technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Apparently, Apple has fallen behind in the competition against other tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft.
Google has applied a mixture of artificial intelligence enhancements to its existing apps, and the Google Home smart speaker is gobbling up market share. Google is also leading the self-driving vehicle race. Facebook is placing its bets on VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality), and chatbots. Amazon has its Echo smart speaker, which uses the Alexa virtual agent to accomplish simple tasks with only your voice. After missing the smartphone revolution, Microsoft is working hard to establish a lead in AR with its HoloLens AR glasses.
Apple, on the other hand, is confused about what its next big thing will be.
Apple’s Move for the Next Decade
Apple is joining the fiercely competitive race to design self-driving car and smart speaker.
“It’s a core technology that we view as very important”, said Tim Cook. “We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects.”
Apple will be competing against 29 other companies that already have California permits to test self-driving cars. These companies include Tesla, Ford, General Motors, BMW, and Volkswagen, as well as one of its biggest rivals in technology, Google, which began its work on self-driving vehicles eight years ago.
Different from other companies, Apple is developing the software that powers the autonomous vehicles, rather than the hardware. In May 2017, it was reported that a Lexus RX450h equipped with Apple’s self-driving software was being tested in Palo Alto. Apart from its investment in machine learning and autonomous systems, akin to the user friendly interface in the iPhone, Apple seems be focusing on providing the autonomous driving software for its car manufacturer partners, as an advanced version of CarPlay.
“Music is deep in our DNA, dating back from iTunes and iPod. And so we wanted something that sounded unbelievable”, answered Tim Cook to the question of why users should buy the HomePod instead of other smart speakers.
It’s the first new product category from Apple in the last couple of years, and an entry into a hot space. Apple doesn’t want to be compared to Google Home and Amazon Echo; instead, it wants to be considered in the same category as Sonos, Bang & Olufsen, and other high-end audio companies.
Apple seems be quite confident about this product, but even at its best, HomePod isn’t likely to reach the sales heights of the iPhone, or even the iPad or Mac.
Opinions From the Author
I’m not optimistic about the aforementioned projects. I believe there are two markets in which Apple should take part in.
1. Health Industry
With the iPhone and Apple watch, it would be very easy for Apple to acquire a fitness tracker company and partner up with health insurance companies.
2. AR and CV (Computer Vision)
Apple has already positioned itself to be working on the next generation of AR and CV technology, both in hardware and software.
Apple is the world’s most profitable company, and one of the greatest companies in history. Although it is now lagging behind, AI, VR and AR are still in their infancy. Before these technologies change the world, there is plenty of time for Apple to catch up.
Author: Yuanchao Li | Editor: Joni Chung