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The iPhone and the Next Big Thing

This decade has largely been defined largely by Apple products in the consumer space. The first part was all about the iPod, and the last part, the iPhone. This is where the lines and excitement were. In the 90s, it was about Windows and PCs, with Windows 95 as the likely high point. Before that, it was largely about Atari or VCRs, depending where you were in that decade. We are now fast approaching 2010, and starting to wonder what that decade will be focused on.

There are a lot of contenders: 3D TV, smartbooks, plug computers, eBooks, personal transportation (someone will get something like the Segway to be popular), and cloud services that could define the next decade. And nothing says it couldn’t be a blend of several of these (or none of the above), either.

But since we are half way through the year, and most of us still have stars in our eyes from the excellent job that the Apple team did at their developer’s conference, let’s talk about the products that could define the next decade. But first, let’s talk about the current Big Thing: the iPhone.

The Amazing iPhone

The only thing keeping me from getting one of these when the new hardware comes out in a couple weeks is the lack of a keyboard. Apple has addressed almost every other objection I have, including encryption, battery life, and tethering (which will cost a little more). I thought I’d never say this, but I’m starting to get iPhone Lust.

The iPhone is both larger than most people used to think was attractive, and has a screen keyboard, which most people used to hate, yet it is the phone that a huge number of these same people lust after and line up for. You probably noticed, as good as the Palm Pre was, not a lot of lines when it released last weekend.

The reason: From the time of launch to present, Apple has executed sharply, marketed brilliantly, and made improvements that kept people coming back for new phones. What made the device a hit, and most of those that came before it, was a good product, great marketing, and an inherent capability that folks didn’t know they could get in a product. That suggests, whichever wins, that a lot will have to do with the ability for the company that comes out with it to make magic, and that means marketing and PR.

To be clear, it won’t be just a wonderful product that becomes the next big thing, it will be a wonderful product coupled with the right way of presenting it.

The Next Big Thing

The next big thing has to be big, disruptive, and make us do things differently. Atari got us gaming at home, video tapes got us movies at home, the PC killed word processors and gave users back control over their core technology, iPods transformed music and led to the iPhone, which is making GPS products, movie players, hand held gaming systems, and regular cell phones obsolete. Given that each big thing appears to have a bigger impact than its predecessor, I’m a little concerned that the next big thing may be the very real robot out of the movie Terminator (making us obsolete).

But, with each step, each new thing got increasingly personal. So, I think the next big thing will be a blend of technologies, but something that probably makes the smartphone, laptop, and MP3 player obsolete, probably using the cloud to provide services.

Right now, our cell phones are on our waists, our Bluetooth devices on our heads, our laptops in our backpacks, and our MP3 players are often clipped to our clothing.


As a result, I also think it is likely it will be wearable. We increasingly want these technologies wherever we go, and unless we have a major plague, (which unfortunately is likely), we’ll still want to go a lot of places. In addition, we are also clearly on a heavy design vector with products; even workstations are now being designed by folks like BMW, suggesting something approaching clothing, and maybe a more personal kind of design as a result. Maybe you’ll even be able to design it yourself, kind of like you can with t-shirts or shoes or cars today.

Looks like some others are already exploring this, but what do you think the next big thing will be? Something revolutionary, or just another smartphone, media device, or personal computer?

Editors' Recommendations

Rob Enderle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rob is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. Before…
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