Tognazzini: Glorious iPhone embodies the genius of Steve Jobs’ Apple

Apple’s “iPhone is revolutionary, not a big surprise coming from Steve Jobs. He knows how to gather a tiny team of brilliant young minds and work them half to death until they innovate beyond any reasonable expectations. He has the common sense to know what will ultimately find favor. And he has the hardened-steel man parts to take a chance and roll with it. What’s a pity is that so few others in this industry share those triple strengths,” Bruce Tognazzini writes for Ask Tog.

Tognazzini writes, “The origins of [iPhone’s] bits and pieces, however, is not what’s important about the iPhone. What’s important is that, for the first time, so many great ideas and processes have been assembled in one device, iterated until they squeak, and made accessible to normal human beings. That’s the genius of Steve Jobs; that’s the genius of Apple.”

“The Macintosh computer did not represent a technological breakthrough either. The mouse was already 20 years old. Pointing interfaces were 20 years old. The Mac was a direct, studied ‘rip-off’ of Apple’s expensive Lisa computer, developed concurrently, but shipped three years earlier. That detracted nothing from the genius of the Mac, for what that team did was to take highly innovative technology and make it (relatively) inexpensive, attractive, and accessible,” Tognazzini writes.

Tognazzini writes, “That’s exactly what Apple has done again with iPhone. Multi-touch gestural interfaces have been hanging around in the laboratory, screaming for release, for as long as the mouse hung around. I’ve been pushing multi-touch gestural for over 20 years myself, beginning while I was still at Apple, incredulous that everyone has been ignoring it. Apple stopped ignoring it.”

“The Mac languished for years because Steve Jobs left Apple and the management who remained were sorely lacking in anything approaching vision. One can only assume Jobs won’t be leaving this time around. If he moves iPhone along as he would have moved Mac along during those “dark years,” the iPhone we look upon with such wonder today will seem like a simple toy three, five years from now,” Tognazzini writes. “Traditional cell phones are dull, limited, and at end-of-life. iPhone is glorious, and it is only the beginning.”

Tog looks at Apple’s iPhone user interface in step-by-step fashion in his full article here.

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21 Comments

  1. To get my hands on one of these things.

    In addition to all the impossible things it will do in connecting a phone call (hold your breath, remember it’s Cingular), I am expecting it to remove all my wrinkles, add four inches to my height, take 10 years off my age, reduce my weight by 20 pounds, increase my running speed by 25%, put hair back in places where it has disappeared, and provide the seven numbers I need to win the lottery!

    My heart rate continues to increase and every time I read another review like this one and now I’m worried I could run out of heart beats before June.

    Oh, man…

  2. Great to hear from someone who really gets it. The iPhone is way too far ahead of the industry to be easily grokked in one sitting. Even the people who get it don’t get it completely. I’m not sure that even the iPhone knows what the iPhone will turn into a few years from now.

  3. from the article:
    >>>>>
    The iPhone User Experience

    I have yet to get my hands on an iPhone—frustrating! (You can imagine Bill Gates’s frustration. He probably has a cadre of engineers ready to take it apart, put it back together with a couple of screws missing, and paint it brown.)
    <<<<<

    LOL !!!

  4. The pinch and similar gestures have been around for a while, but its implementation was waiting for an appropriate form factor such as a “larger” pda type screen [iPhone] or tablet with a gui. The time is right for such a device and such an interface, if not slightly late.

    The same thing cannot be said about the Lisa/Mac. The Lisa was too expensive and yet limiting for business while the Mac was even more limited – both being slightly ahead of their time (not to mention the Newton). The Lisa failed but the Mac found its consumer market and extended it when postscript support was added – remember the LaserWriter? DOS/Windows took over the world because it was cheap, flexible, and MS’s monopolistic agreements with OEMs limited further competition.

    The point is that Apple does real innovation by selecting the appropriate mix of advanced technologies and massaging them to death until they fit the product perfectly. Microsoft responds later by slamming them together in a more haphazard manner.

    Apple makes its own tools and rules to leverage its OS in the same manner, allowing speedy incorporation of new features and advanced technologies. Microsoft throws thousands of engineers and hundreds of committees at a problem until gridlock is reached and they have to move backwards. That’s why Vista is late, buggy, slow, insecure and uninspiring.

    The Tog makes some very valid points which, no doubt, will be addressed. But compromises must be made to get a shipping product at a fixed date. You have to freeze the design process, move the device forward into production and start work on its next iteration.

    There are parallels between the Mac and iPhone, but the latter is not as ahead of its time as the Lisa/Mac was. The iPhone’s timing is more like the iPod’s – a tad late. The iPhone should achieve stunning success, and if the patents are any good and Apple is as aggressive with it as it is with the iPod, woe to the competition.

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