The iPhone: Five Years Later

It’s the 4th of July again and citizens of the United States are celebrating America’s birthday with picnics and fireworks.  There’s another birthday of note which celebrates another type of independence.

The iPhone recently had its fifth birthday, having been launched on June 29, 2007.  It’s hard to put into words the impact that the iPhone has had on the mobile computing industry.  Every so often I go back and view Steve Job’s iPhone announcement at MacWorld 2007.  Simple things we take for granted today like pinch/zoom, screen rotation, and a usable mobile browser had us in a state of wonderment.  Today most of the smartphone designs are building on (and improving on) the iPhone’s innovative design.

It’s also cool to go back and recall some of the reactions, like Microsoft’s Steve Ballimer (video), RIM’s purported disbelief, and accolades from Google’s Eric Schmidt (video).  Regardless of your perspective, the iPhone seemed to evoke a strong response from everyone.  If we knew then what we know now…

One of the trends it kick-started was the consumerization of IT.  You can argue whether or not it started the trend, but there is no doubt that it was a key catalyst, especially in the mobile world.  Yes, it was only a few years ago that the employee community was clamoring to use the iPhone in their work life.  They were willing to pay for it and just wanted IT to connect them up and get out of the way.  Now bring your own device (BYOD) is a topic that is on every company’s mind.

I was at a mobile conference called the Enterprise Mobility Exchange and during a panel discussion one of the questions asked by the moderator was if there was a compelling event that really moved them to adopt BYOD.  One panelist said Christmas 2011 (good one).  For me it was the announcement of iPhone OS 2.0 (no, it wasn’t called iOS yet).  As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, the three key features which really made the iPhone more enterprise-friendly were:

  • Support for Exchange ActiveSync
  • VPN capabilities
  • Enterprise-grade Wireless LAN security protocols

Now with hardware-based device encryption and MDM APIs, it’s only a matter of when, not if, enterprises will support the iPhone.

Now look where we are today:

  • Consumer-centric Apple making tremendous inroads into the business environment while corporate stalwarts RIM and Microsoft are working to reinvent themselves.
  • The iPad adoption by the enterprise was even faster thanks to its smaller sibling paving the way, and dominating the media tablet market for businesses.
  • IT departments succumbing to the pressure of employee needs (or wants, depending on your perspective) to support consumer technologies like the iPhone.  Five years ago, who would have thought that organizations would allow personal and corporate data on the same mobile device?

So now we can celebrate a new type of freedom.  Freedom to use the smartphone of choice for email, web, and apps at work.  Freedom of having one view of your personal and work life.

So the big question: where will the iPhone be five years from now?  Without Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple has something to prove.  And with Apple worth $600B, they’d better pull off more ingenious technology miracles.

Happy birthday, iPhone.  And many more…

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