There have been two Steve Jobs keynotes that have had a lasting impact on me, and I was lucky enough to be up close in the media seating section for both of them.
At Macworld 2000 in San Francisco, I was a MacWeek columnist covering Mac OS X as a side project while also working a full-time job at Excite (which at that point had merged and become Excite@Home). I sat next to some fellow writers from MacPublishing, other columnists from MacWeek and Macworld, whose names have since faded. The two big news items at the 2000 keynote – the introduction of Aqua, the new user interface for Mac OS X, and Steve announcing that he was staying as CEO at Apple Computer, thereby dropping the “i” (interim) from his prior title of iCEO.
At Macworld 2007 in San Francisco, I was a technology industry analyst for The 451 Group, primarily tasked with covering open source technology. I sat next to my friend Blake Burris, of CocoaRadio, and also John Gruber from Daring Fireball who we ran into outside Moscone West. Of course, the big news at the 2007 keynote was the introduction of the iPhone, although we shouldn’t forget that Steve also announced that they were dropping “Computer” from the name of the company, and from this point forward would be known simply as “Apple”.
I want to focus on the iPhone introduction. There’s something about that keynote that has stuck with me and I went back and watched the video again this morning to see if my perceptions were still accurate (NOTE: I think I’ve watched that keynote video a dozen times over the years, but I remember being struck by this since I was there live in the audience). During the big reveal on-stage, Steve talked about introducing three revolutionary products of the same class at Apple’s prior major achievements – the Macintosh (1984) and the iPod (2001). He revealed these one at a time – a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone. and a breakthrough Internet communicator. He then went on to explain these were not three separate devices, but one device, called iPhone.
Of the three revolutionary products that Steve introduced before the iPhone reveal, it was the breakthrough Internet communicator that received the least amount of crowd response, yet it’s the aspect of the iPhone that is heralded most. I know many iPhone users who rarely make phone calls and where media consumption is very much secondary to their use of the Internet and apps. Perhaps the crowd was subdued because they were all waiting for the phone (as was strongly rumored in the run-up to the keynote), and so an Internet communicator wasn’t as meaningful. Perhaps the term was too vague to grasp. In retrospect, I find this interesting, and perhaps touches upon this notion of Apple defining what customers should want, instead of reacting to market demand. Sure, there was a strong market demand for a phone that did not suck. But having access to the Internet from your pocket was a much more compelling offering in the end.
You can watch the entire iPhone introduction video from Macworld 2007 via iTunes. Apple posts Apple Keynotes videos as a podcast list directory on iTunes.