revolutionary products

When Jobs announced the device, he called it “a revolutionary product”, one of those that comes along and “changes everything”. In many ways he was right. Merchant describes it as an agent of “civilisation-scale transformation”, the first universally desired, portable technology since clothes. But by the end of the book he backs away from this a bit. A welcome note of humility comes from an engineer who helped build the software: he points out that devices tend only to dazzle in their moment: “My wife is a painter. She does oil painting. When she does something, it’s there forever. Technology – in 20 years, who’s going to care about an iPhone?”

Jacob Mikanoswki. I suppose that depends on what you mean by “care about an iPhone”: in 20 years iPhones as such may not exist, but I suspect that most people will care very much about the always-connected way of life that the iPhone first made feasible and attractive. In the same way, if in the future every word of text is produced and distributed digitally, no one will care about the printing press; they may not even know what a printing press is; but they will care very much about the world the printing press first made possible. (I’m not saying that the iPhone as an invention is as important as the printing press. I’m also not saying that it won’t be.)