I listened to a TED podcast with IDEO’s Tim Brown talking about how design can get big again and it stuck when I witnessed the new iPhone 5. He discussed design’s ability to discuss and solve the big picture, in addition to the innovation of products and services.
For me, it’s not so much about throwing stones at the iPhone 5 — I mean life is good at Apple and we all love the products: the phone is selling better than ever. It’s just that at this point, the real thing that needs redesigning is the commodity phone service market and Apple’s place in it. And, I’ve spoken about my desire to not have a phone that costs over $250 or so, just because it doesn’t seem practical… I’ll call that the “anti-downpour rule” — nothing that would upset me too badly if it I was caught in a downpour.
Also, having an iPad has me desiring a variance in the suite of products where price and functionality don’t really overlap: i.e. the phone and the iPad can do most of the same things …
But there is a bigger picture with a communication model (the phone market, with its archaic plans and services) whose surface has only barely been scratched.
Apple reinvented the landscape with the iPod, and as it turned out its signature program, iTunes became as big a draw, if any, to people’s desire to get/keep an Apple computer in the early naughts. The wide-open mp3 market at the time was corralled in way that really helped Apple gain a foothold as a true consumer company. In so doing, much was said about the reinvention of the music market into a more democratic, accessible landscape. (Of course, much of that was to the chagrin of music companies). That sounds like classic Steve Jobs.
With phones, I think early on, one may have had to play the game of the telecom giants by not bucking their business model. And the push into the phone market by Apple was no guarantee. But now, years in, Apple has the weight to do whatever they want … to build a phone and a communications model as high-end as the objet d’art.
Speaking of an objet d’art, the Formula 1 fans know that one can spend millions building a supercar, but all that means nothing if the tire companies cannot match the innovation. I argue that by comparison, the initial development of Google Voice is quite ground-breaking in the regard of challenging the status quo of big telecom. Building a superphone around that or, like Google’s trying to do with the payment technology, is truly the next big thing.