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Seven years is a long time in tech


Seven years ago PCs and Windows reigned supreme. We were planning our days on Palm Treos and flip-phones were the must-have gadgets. Buying and installing software was a painful business but we knew no better. Then came the iPhone. Steve Jobs introduced it on this day in 2007 and changed the tech world forever. As things turned out for the both the computer and mobile hone industries, it was more Trojan horse than phone.

The iPhone was a tremendous gamble, not least because that first iteration was a flawed, slow device with no 3G and rudimentary productivity tools (in particular it lacked cut-and-paste which had been a staple of computers for decades). Looking back, however, we see the introduction of the iPhone as a moment of brilliance. It succeeded beyond Steve Jobs’ wildest dreams and has since set the benchmark for excellence. It spawned the concept of the app store, again a monumental success which changed our software-buying habits and created a huge development industry. The success of the iPhone led to the iPad, a device which has redefined home computing and is rapidly cannibalising both desktop and laptop computer sales.

Above all, from Apple’s point of view, the halo effect of first the iPod, then the iPhone and now the iPad, has led directly to undreamed-of expension of Mac sales. Seven years ago Macs were a minority interest, especially in the commercial world where PCs and Windows had virtually no competition. Now, thanks to the iPhone, Macs are everywhere.

It isn’t just the products that have succeeded, it is Apple’s business model which is aimed unwarveringly at the higher end of the market. Apple makes a profit on everything it sells and customers are willing to pay more for the Apple quality, the excellence of the eco-system and the second-to-none customer care. Apple has captured that upper market and left the rest of the industry scrabbling around in the lower, less-profitable stratum. It’s just that Wall Street sometimes fails to understand that this is a good thing.

Apple was on the up before the introduction of the iPhone, largely thanks to the iPod, but it is the success of the phone, the iPad and the supporting eco-system that has transformed the company into the largest and most profitable in the industry.

A lot has happened in seven years and it is hard to imagine just how we managed before the iPhone.