15-year Smartphone Anniversary: 9-Jan

The iPhone redefined and encapsulates what everyone wants in their pocket. It set the bar. It’s strange to think that 30-year-olds are practically tech veterans in terms of understanding how the iPhone is entering the business scene. 20-year-olds can’t remember graduate life without them.

15 years ago Steve Jobs revealed 3-innovations-in-1 in his indomitable style. It’s worth reminding ourselves of the sheer innovation leap presented to the world in 2007: “we’re introducing a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a break-through internet communicator device…..  An iPod.  A phone.  An internet communicator…. These are not 3 separate devices.  This is one device…. And we are calling it: iPhone”.

Video: Steve Jobs launching the iPhone revolution on 9 Jan 2007

Figure 1: Steve Jobs explains Apple’s UX breakthroughs for customers

To quote CNBC in the run-up to Covid in Dec 2019: “it’s possible to look at the last 10 years as the iPhone decade — when smartphones went mainstream, created billion-dollar corporations, rearranged existing industries and changed the world.”

Figure 2: Apple’s advent of mass-market smartphone/GPS drove On-Demand:

Unquestionably, it’s the most impactful consumer tech product over the past decade

apple analyst Gene Munster, cnbc, Dec 2019

The iPhone has created arguably as many new industries as it destroyed.  Ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber are collectively worth more than $60 billion, and they exist only thanks to the always-on GPS location and high-speed wireless connections that became common with the iPhone.

For sure many can raise their eyes today at the mention of an iPhone.  They may prefer to mention other manufacturers and their own competitive product: an Android variety or some other smartphone.  But the iPhone remains the revolutionary product. All competitors follow a similar path. They look and feel broadly the same as the Apple design: slick, slim and a seamless experience for users across all generations.

Figure 3: Apple set the bar for all smartphones today.

On this anniversary, we share 3 take aways below: sensible science prevailed, swathes of the public joined a veritable tech journey, and the initial ‘fake it until you make it’ Steve Jobs launch for which we remain grateful 15 years later.

Years of research and development delivered game-changing success

At a time when pseudo-science and political interventions confuse people’s respect for science, it is fantastic to see an example in which years of proper research and development trumped widely-held truths: 

  • Many betted against touch screen keyboards versus fixed plastic keyboards of Blackberrys, Nokias and Palms.
  • Many thought a device for personal life (music, books, movies) could not meet the needs of the business blackberry world.
  • Many believed a mobile-first device cannot deliver desktop class applications and business-grade connectivity.

Figure 4: Steve Jobs explains the desktop technology packed into the first iPhone.

  • Many IT managers were of the opinion that business would not be influenced by iPhones.  In 2017, Microsoft issued the full Office 365 suite for business iPhones and iPad devices.

It’s got all the stuff we want… [it] let’s us create desktop class applications and networking… Not the crippled stuff you find on most phones.”

Steve Jobs, Apple launch of iPhone

On each count naysayers have been proven wrong.  Now it is great to see top FTSE and NYSE businesses grasping and organising B2B benefits from the resulting technologies and innovative software available on the Apple App Store.

Technology is a journey

Over 15 years, we can clearly look back at legacy moments related to the iPhone.  Many overlook or certainly have forgotten the earlier iPhones limitations.  Like any good tech progress, it’s a journey:

  • 24 months after iPhone launch to introduce the App Store. Until then you very much got what you’re given by Apple managers..
  • 24 months to upgrade 2 megapixel to 3 megapixel photos
  • 24 months for video recording
  • 36 months for a high-definition display…. And the list goes on.
  • 36 months for selfies with a front camera

Figure 4. Selfies introduced new styles, branding techniques, companies and spawned new industries.

Fake it until you make it?

While the iPhone experience receives some of the highest user reviews year after year, the New York Times revealed just how close to the sun Apple flew to introduce such a new and complex technology to the world. Steve Jobs presented “the golden path” to make it look like it worked:

It worked fine if you sent an e-mail and then surfed the Web. If you did those things in reverse, however, it might not. Hours of trial and error had helped the iPhone team develop what engineers called “the golden path,” a specific set of tasks, performed in a specific way and order, that made the phone look as if it worked.

New York Times

The debate will rage on between the healthy balance between solid products and investor expectation management. But as far as this ‘fake’ launch may be concerned, we are grateful the launch succeeded, the product thrives the test of time – and new products build upon this marvellous achievement.


Proptech and getting mobile

The new wave of proptech innovation can help business leap forward but a substantial number may not be ready to harness technology because they haven’t embraced a mobility mindset. Here we look at the questions you need to answer.

The recent spurt in proptech does indeed offer the opportunity for the ‘digital transformation’ of businesses. George Westerman of the MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy defines ‘digital transformation’ as being when companies ‘use technology to radically change the performance or reach of an enterprise’.

But tech lives on tech: that is to say Proptech not only enables better performance, it also demands changes in existing company tech, its IT systems and infrastructure.
Given the way in which we all now live and work, the currently pivotal aspect of technology transformation is the ultra-powerful mobile device in our pockets. And the present challenge is therefore to consider how business enables that device and delivers onto it the tech needed to work smarter and faster.

So if you’re an advocate of Proptech and a believer in mobile working, then the question you need to put to your Head of Innovation, Tech Director or outsourced IT consultant today is: “Does our digital strategy put mobile first?”.

Desktop computing is unlikely to disappear. But the traditional question: “Can it work on our PCs?” should no longer be the primary concern.

The key to successfully migrating mobile tech into business computing systems has been addressed by all the large software vendors. It goes by various names: Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM), Mobile Application Management (MAM), Mobile Device Management (MDM). But all have one goal and that is to deliver business security and corporate control while empowering staff with the latest that technology can offer.

These tools allow an IT department to monitor, manage and secure employees’ mobile devices and specific business apps held on personal devices. So staff devices may use differing operating systems and may be both company owned and personally owned. But MDM, like any software or hardware choice is not enough, a mobile strategy is required. As Evan Tomlin of leading IT consultancy, Insight, puts it: “There’s a difference between having mobile devices in your workplace and having a mobile strategy. You might have invested in a thousand devices. That doesn’t mean you’ve mastered mobility.

“What happens when the devices break? When it’s time to refresh? What about security? Covering these bases — and covering them methodically — is the difference between being a participant in the age of mobility and a leader in it.”
Our experience is with Dashflow, an iOS app whose speed and simplicity transforms the mechanics and costs of investment appraisals. But like all good Proptech, the app also has the potential to improve a variety of associated transaction processes internally and in relation to lenders, partners, and competitors. An app like this goes to the heart of the business and so it demands adequate corporate safeguards and prompt updating.

Just as your BBC iPlayer App can update effortlessly while you’re asleep, so too should each MDM-controlled business app upgrade seamlessly across employee devices.

Our app should be enabled to work hand-in-glove with existing security systems like MDM. But we find in London a somewhat patchy awareness and implementation of security for mobile management. One FTSE customer is moving to their 3rd MDM software. In contrast one of the leading UK names has yet to start using their first MDM.

Put simply mobile app choice and MDM are inseparable components of a mobile strategy. MDM provides sensible control over the use of mobile apps that deal with business critical and confidential matters. MDM can set parameters on a designated mobile device, determining what apps are on it and how those apps are allowed to function. But the aim is not to frustrate staff: so a viable policy will not block surveyors sending photos, or prevent salesmen texting clients.
When it comes to mobile security for critical data that goes to the heart of the business, it is generally recognized that Apple’s iOS platform has the edge and has had it for some time. Businesses that are dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft Windows users should not be frightened of Apple’s technology. After all, the Windows mobile platform never caught on. So any mobile strategy must enter a non-Windows realm.

For large businesses, MDM is essential and enables new tech to be assimilated in a robust and secure way. It is perhaps less essential for smaller enterprises because mobile risk increases in line with the number of users. But everyone needs to look again at their IT platforms in the context of Proptech innovation, and for the general good of their business.

…businesses with effective mobility strategies are rated higher by employees in attracting talent, getting the best work out of employees, and enabling creativity and innovation. Those that don’t have a secure mobile regime are seen as being behind the curve.

Views from The Economist Research

The use of mobile technology is the most obvious expression of flexibility and freedom at work. According to a study by The Economist, businesses with effective mobility strategies are rated higher by employees in attracting talent, getting the best work out of employees, and enabling creativity and innovation. Those that don’t have a secure mobile regime are seen as being behind the curve.
Computing systems are increasingly dominated by the demands of mobile working. Enabling secure and efficient ‘mobile working’ is a new attribute of computing. Here to stay. MDM means that there is no need to compromise on corporate security in this regard.

Without embracing mobile and without devising a mobile strategy that includes MDM, you may struggle to find your way within the Proptech revolution.