The iPhone: Is this all there is?

Jon Gruber has an (as usual) cogent piece about the iPhone platform on his blog today. To sum up: the iPhone's big "wow" moment came the moment it was released, because it was already something new -- a phone-sized mobile computer that could make phone calls, rather than a phone with extra stuff added on. Future iPhone and iPod Touch iterations will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, because so much potential was already built into the original platform. To cite the example he gives: the iPhone is already technically capable of running background apps, because it runs a Unix-based OS, after all. The only reason this functionality is restricted to a few apps is because existing hardware can't support more than that. Once battery life and low-power chip abilities improve, this functionality can just be turned on, as it's already there.

But in some ways, this raises a question: is the iPhone now pretty much what it's always going to be? Sure, it will get better -- the iPhone 3.0 improvements look great -- but getting better isn't the same as "jaw-droppingly amazing." That's reserved for New Things. And the problem with new things is that they get old right away. If your company's image is built around New Things, what happens when the new things stop?

It's arguable that Apple has had a pretty good run with New Things -- stuff that was either first in its category, or that, through marketing or UI design, made everything else in the category obsolete. The iPod in 2001, the iTunes Store in 2003, the iPhone in 2007. The thing about New Things is that it's hard to predict them -- they're leaders, not followers, after all. The question that arises is whether Apple has any New Things in the pipeline. The next iPhone iteration won't be one. An iPhone OS-based netbook might, but even that I kind of doubt. So, what's next?

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