Two years ago I hated cell phones. They were intrusive, noisy and a pain-in-the-neck to use with their small keyboard and displays. I did have a cell phone which was given to me as a gift, but I rarely used it. My life without the cell phone was pretty rich, productive, communicative and busy, thank you!
Then I bought the iPhone and my opinion changed overnight. That is an understatement. The fact is that over time the iPhone changed my view of technology so much that I decided to devote the next chapter of my business life to this new wave in the evolution of technology.
Why are smartphones like the iPhone such a fundamental shift in the technology landscape? Here is my take from my own life experiences.
When I was seventeen and going to high school in Pakistan I read about the first computer to be installed in Pakistan. It was an IBM 360 mainframe costing multi-million dollars and housed in an elegant while Taj Mahal-type bank building on the main road of my hometown of Rawalpindi. Very few people could use or see the computer and no one could afford it.
A few years later when I was a student at MIT I worked in a lab with a DEC PDP-8 minicomputer. It was a revolution for me. I could now sit in front of a real computer and program it and make it do what I want. The paper tape reader, 8K or RAM, small DECtapes and the machine language programming in octal all were high tech and impressive. Many labs could afford the mini-computer, and thousands of more people could use it than the IBM mainframe.
A few years later I started my first company. One of the first things I did was to purchase an IBM PC which was the hottest revolution in the technology world. Like many others, my company rode the wave of the personal computer to success because the old competition dominated by the minicomputer could not compete with new in terms of scale and cost. Millions of people could buy the PC and tens of millions could use them, and these numbers soon exploded into the hundreds of millions.
And then came the iPhone and other smartphone of its type. Billions of people will soon be using these devices and have more than the power of the IBM mainframe in their hands. Applications will move down to the smartphone. In the beginning these applications will be simple and game-ish, not dissimilar to applications in the early years of the minicomputer and the personal computer. However, in time these applications will become sophisticated and the core foundation of the new information technology infrastructure. Their power will derive from the fact that smartphones will be in the hands of billions of people everywhere they go, and connected to the backend IT ecosystem that includes mainframes, minicomputers and personal computer.
Like many others, I am betting on this vision of smartphones as the ultimate platform SaaS applications. Enablings SaaS applications to run on smartphones will be a major new business opportunities as thousands of applications come online and millions of mobile users want to access them from their smartphones with the same fidelity as they do from their desktops
What do you think?