Apple’s opportunity for the next iPhone-level breakthrough product
In 2004, I was a high school senior who loved his PowerBook G4. I was the only kid in my statistics class who would take notes on a laptop. I was so proud of my Motorola Razr.
Over the next few years, I tried several early touchscreen mobile devices. The Palm Treo, some HP device that couldn’t make calls, random off-brand devices at the Verizon store.
As we all know, Apple didn’t invent the touchscreen mobile device. Nor did they invent the smartphone. They waited until the technology was mature enough to make a “revolutionary product.” A product we all know as the iPhone.
I believe that same environment is upon us in a new space.
Yesterday, Facebook emphasized how different and amazing the world will be when virtual reality / augmented reality headsets look something like this:
Creating the product that allows everyday people to experience augmented reality / virtual reality in an intuitive, unobtrusive, normal-looking way is the next great opportunity for Apple.
For it to be as revolutionary as the iPhone, the product must be beautiful and simple. But it’s possible. The jump from the Palm Treo to the iPhone is the same as the jump from Google Glass to this new iDevice. Google Glass wasn’t quite there, just like the Palm Treo wasn’t quite there. But elements of the Treo showed up in the iPhone. A touchscreen, apps that you tap on, and a mobile web browser. Apple took away the cumbersome parts (the stylus and the physical keyboard) and they added a much more intuitive user interface with iOS. We need the same kind of jump now, for a device that lets us experience life with some extras overlaid on top of it.
What we don’t need is a bulky camera sitting next to our left eye that lets us snap a photo of whatever we’re looking at.
What we do need is a way to see our favorite photos at full size, almost as if we were back in the moment we took the photo.
What we don’t need is a Terminator-style heads up display that scans the faces of people in the room and tells us detailed information about them.
What we do need is an easy way to send a little voice message to a few of our best friends, and hear their voice replies a minute later.
What we don’t need is yet another way to surf a web that’s built for screens, but this time by swiping in the air and tapping on nothing with our fingers.
What we do need is an assistant who’ll listen to a question we ask, go find the answer or perform the task for us, and report back. Think Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, in your ear.
Apple’s done this before. They stripped away the cumbersome parts of smart mobile devices and added an intuitive interface. They can do the same thing with this device we’d wear like glasses with earbuds.
If they’re the Apple I knew and loved when I carried around that PowerBook G4, then they’re already working on it.