The iPhone is obsolete

Unless you’ve been living in the middle of Mongolia for the last six months, you know that Apple’s iPhone is one of the hottest products of 2007. It’s heralding a new breed of mobile devices. It’s forcing dramatic changes in the wireless landscape. It’s expensive, but to almost everyone who uses one, it’s worth the cost. It’s generated at least one phone copy cat (and even a router).

It’s all that and a bag of chips.

Only one problem: it’s already obsolete. Gathering dust. Old news. How did it become passé so quickly? Because Steve Jobs said so.

You weren’t listening, were you? You’re allowed. He said these things months ago when the phone was announced. Like the rest of us, you were too entranced with the shiny iPhone and its glorious interface. Oh, the features! And there was that guy in black talking about something…

Allow me to provide two very specific quotes:

We’re introducing three revolutionary products. The first one is a widescreen iPod[,] the second is a revolutionary mobile phone[,] the third is a[n] Internet communications device. These are not three separate devices. This is one device.

Making calls is the killer app.

So what should we be reading out of that? That the iPhone is expandable, and phone calls are just a feature.

Okay, yes, the iPhone has been noted as having a number of issues, especially when looking at its API (nor notably, the lack thereof) and that it’s effectively hard-coded to AT&T (I’m surprised it took so long to come out with a reliable crack). But if you honestly think that Apple hasn’t looked that far ahead, then you haven’t looked far enough, either. The Good Ship Jobs hasn’t gotten this far without keeping whole decks of cards up its sleeves.

Here’s the real secret that Steve Jobs isn’t talking about: the iPhone is not about reaching out and touching someone, it’s about Apple’s entertainment ecosystem. It’s about the experience of media going with you wherever you go.

Yes, entertainment. Apple Inc. (the company formerly known as Apple Computer Inc.) has slowly been chipping their way into the entertainment market for years. They do it slowly, carefully, and with far more ability than Hollywood cares to admit.

QuickTime. iTunes and the iPod. iLife and Front Row. Noticing a pattern yet?

If you aren’t, here’s a simple way to see all of these products: integrated. And that’s the key to most of Apple’s success: integrated experience. This is what Apple does better than any other media company. Take an ordinary task, and make it an extraordinary experience. There’s a reason Apple has sold two billion songs, 50 million television shows, and 1.3 million movies in under four years.

And such was the reaction when Apple announced the iPhone. It’s a platform that Apple can use to extend their entertainment experience in and out of the home.

Here’s how they’ll do it.

First off, there’s all the pieces you might already have at home: like an iMac or a Mac Mini. (There’s a surprising amount of stuff under that hood fresh out of the box.) The newest ones are untethered from the wired ‘net, and come armed with enough software to drive a lot of media.

Next, add a missing piece that will put your Mac past the 17″ LCD screen to that lovely 50″ you have hanging on your wall: Apple TV. Right now, it’s not the product it needs to be, but even the first iPod wasn’t an immediate success. Apple TV was a surprisingly underwhelming product from Apple for its initial launch, but at least its heart and mind are in the right place — expect this to meet the desires of everyone in a successive version.

In Apple’s (ultimate) world, your setup would look like this:

iTunes + iLife + Mac Mini or iMac + Apple TV = Pure entertainment

Your Mac becomes your media centre, storing, organising, and delivering your music, photos, and video to your device of choice. It’ll be wonderfully elegant and (dare I suggest) fun to use.

What’s missing? A remote control. A complete multimedia control. Remember: “Making calls is the killer app.” It’s way more than that.

Try this scenario on for size:

You’re listening to your jazz playlist on the way home. When you come within range of your home WiFi network, the iPhone syncs up with your entertainment system — the song’s playing in sync with your iPhone when you open the door.

You feel the urge to watch a movie. You flip through your movie list on your iPhone, which has an up-to-date list from your home system, and start playing your newest download on your TV. After dinner, you feel the urge to exercise. You “drag” the video from the TV to your iPhone, which continues playing without pause and go on your treadmill. (For the record, this is nothing new — Sony had this figured out five years ago.) You “flick” the video from your iPhone to the TV in the workout room, not missing a beat of the action.

Your friends come over later in the evening. You select pictures from your iPhone, synced with your iLife system, and “flick” them to your TV. The iPhone controls what you see, so zooming in specific areas is no different than if it were on your iPhone. You send a couple pictures to your printer so they can go home with your friends.

Is this too fantastic? Perhaps, but it shouldn’t be. The technology exists. The platform exists. It’s only a minor leap to fill in the blanks in the iPhone (namely a wireless connection to a home computer) to make it a powerful remote control. You’d never look at a plastic box with numbered buttons the same way again.

And if you’re not thinking about this, Steve, you should be. Talk about building a better experience, where you are already controlling all the disparate pieces. I smell a better mousetrap…