iPhone Realizes Steve’s Dream to Exploit Mac OS

by Chris Howard Mar 14, 2007

If the iPhone succeeds, it will very quickly have numbers that could dwarf the Mac and run down the iPod. That alone could lead to a significant halo effect. But being a very visual device with a sexy flavor of OS X running on it (unlike the iPods whose interface now looks suddenly 1983 by comparison) this will expose millions to the real Mac experience, especially, if as expected, Leopard bears much similarity to the iPhone’s OS X.

In a marketing coup that, if you believe Steve, was partly luck from having to announce early so the FCC wouldn’t reveal the iPhone, Apple has had stunning marketing success of the iPhone already. Expressions like “most anticipated electronics device in years” are not uncommon. Writers from all persuasions seem to be lapping it up.

USAToday reported on Friday that the avalanche of headlines and TV news stories about the iPhone—which hits the market in June—already have generated $400 million in free publicity, says Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie. “No other company has ever received that kind of attention for a product launch,” Yoffie says. “It’s unprecedented.”

Consider, too, the secondary effect of that publicity: the iPhone’s halo effect will already be happening. Anyone who’s seen images of the iPhone could already be curious to see more of that OS and could be visiting their local Apple Store as a result. Interestingly, the more I see the iPhone images, the more Tiger’s GUI looks dated. The iPhone may mean Leopard will have to carry a revamped GUI so those users don’t suffer a bit of an anti-climax.

After years of banging their heads against the beige world of Windows and PCs, one that couldn’t even garner much more than a “yippity doo” over the new significantly sexier Windows, journalists seem genuinely excited about the iPhone. It appears they see it as having greater significance than just in the phone sector and may revolutionize the whole gadget market.

Apple has a history of its innovations transcending other markets. The most memorable of recent years was the simple colored translucent casing of the iMac, which became the ubiquitous styling of everything from toasters to pencil sharpeners. The iPhone has the potential to cause a total rethink of the design of gadgetry of all kinds.

If, as hoped by Apple, it manages to sell 10 million iPhones in the first twelve months, that more than doubles OS X’s presence in consumer-land. In January, Apple announced it sold 1.6 million Macs in the previous quarter. Although that figure was inflated by seasonal and other reasons, if we suggest Apple sells 6.4 million Macs per year, then adding 10 million OS X-carrying iPhones increases OS X’s numbers to 16.4 million per year—a whopping 156% increase in OS X’s presence. Of course this is a bit of mathematorial gymnastica that doesn’t take into account Windows’ own mobile market share, but it does lead to the second and more important advantage.

That same quarterly report had Apple selling 21 million iPods, yet none of those exposed the user to the OS X experience, the closest being using iTunes. Yet, as my friend Halo Girl attests, that sampler in iTunes has been enough to convince many to switch. Imagine then the effect of using the iPhone’s interface? (Although expect future iPods to also sport a trimmed down OS X.)

The iPhone will expose many to OS X who will be using it alongside a decidedly sadder looking Windows, even Vista, which despite Microsoft’s best efforts, still has the look and feel of Windows. A sewer rat wearing Armani, you might say.

It’s not all one-way traffic for Apple, though. That spiffy looking sewer rat could still spread a plague to stop Apple’s potential juggernaut.

Mobile Vista on a phone device could seriously dent Apple’s efforts. And as Windows 95 showed, even a 10 year head start and an inferior product doesn’t mean anything. Despite what we’d like to believe about users being more savvy nowadays, 1995 could easily be repeated simply because of the familiarity of the “W” word.

That same familiarity contributed to Microsoft’s success in the handheld computing market. That is, Windows on PCs had a significant halo effect on Windows-based PDA sales.

Apple has great potential to achieve the same but the other way around, with the iPhone leading to sales of Macs. With its very sexy GUI, the iPhone has the potential for a much more significant halo effect than the iPod ever did, provided Apple keeps on guard against that rat.

At MacWorld 1997, Steve said Apple’s two core assets are the Apple brand and Mac OS. He described Mac OS as “yet to be fully exploited” and that “at the core, Apple is about the Mac OS.” The Mac OS has moved on to become Mac OS X, but I don’t doubt that that still holds true.

Ten years on, it looks like we are finally seeing the realization of Steve’s desire to fully exploit the Mac OS.


  • Many people keep citing how Apple lost to an inferior product even with a ten year head start as if it could happen again the same way in this sector.  I don’t think it can.  When Microsoft perpetrated its coup, people and business were naive to computing in general.  Cheaper (not just more inexpensive) seemed better because the market was immature and even if Windows was total garbage early on, it allowed people to use computers in a novel way.  Now, people don’t want crap because they know that carp in computing has major consequences.  That’s why Vista isn’t selling.  Apple will continue to grow because of this.  Will it rival MS over time?  It’ll be a fun competition to watch.

    ricksbrain had this to say on Mar 14, 2007 Posts: 14
  • Also remember that many of those 10 years where Apple lost its tech lead to an inferior product were years where a Steve Jobs was NOT at the helm…if nothing else, he learned from the glaring mistakes of Scully, Spindler, and Amelio, and was determined not to repeat them.

    tao51nyc had this to say on Mar 14, 2007 Posts: 45
  • I think what’s gonna be interesting is that Apple no longer has to tought it’s own horn. They have others doing it for them, Allchin, and in June Cingular/Att will be spending millions advertising the iPhone.

    How could Apple capitalize on this? Well aside from there contracts reading their logo MUST be displayed they could also offer discount coupons good at .com and stores for new Macs. Just throw them in the box. This would make the iPhone more affordable as it gives you a discount on a new mac and at the same time encourages the purchase of a new Mac that works/looks/operates/co-integrates with your new iPhone (lifestyle device).

    What does Apple need now that they don’t have to make switching easier? A way to hook a PC to a new Mac and transfer EVERYTHING over. In a similar fashion when you upgrade from your old to new mac, SIMPLE.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Mar 14, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Didn’t Microsoft show off their latest version of Windows CE, and didn’t it look just like the older version, only with darker colors?

    Someone pointed out today that Windows Vista takes 15gb while MacOS X takes about 3-4gb, with about 0.5gb for the cellphone version.  If you use a similar ratio, Windows Vista Mobile will take about 2gb and that’s a huge hit for the current capacity of flash memory.

    It took about 2.5 years for Apple to develop the iPhone OS and I think it would take a similar period at minimum for MS to come up with a Vista lightweight enough to work on a phone.


    David H Dennis had this to say on Mar 14, 2007 Posts: 7
  • a Vista lightweight enough to work on a phone


    Benji had this to say on Mar 14, 2007 Posts: 927
  • The halo effect from the unreleased iPhone is a really interesting idea.

    Assuming that OSX 10.5 has a new look, some great new ideas, and some tight integration with the iPhone - Steve could do a further preview of the iPhone and the top secret features “coming soon” for OSX. This could boost the OSX mindshare significantly (and Leopard’s final feature set will have to be shown soon)

    However, if the iPhone is only for OSX, it could back fire. People could see it as an OSX device and far less interesting if they use Windows

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Mar 14, 2007 Posts: 228
  • Chris, your article made me think a bit about just how many people could be using OS X in the next few years.  Sure there will be millions of more adopters through the iPhone . . . but it just occured to me that the other foot is about to drop!  The next version of the iPod could never be less than what was shown in the iPhone version . . . so it’s logical to assume that the next versions of iPods will ALSO run OS X.  I’ve even heard a little speculation that Apple TV will be runing it.  Let’s see . . . add all that up and the number of OS X users could be huge.  I think I’ll hold my apple stock just a little longer!

    schininis had this to say on Mar 14, 2007 Posts: 8
  • Hold the stock a little longer? You NUTZ! 1700% return since 1996! HELLO! Get your stock out of Moto, Verizon however.

    The pods were Mac OS Only when they were released, however the iPhone in order to catch public adoption at rates never before seen (you can quote me on this-it’s gonna take off like a bat outa hell) it would need to sync with Winduhs.

    Cingular/Verizon have reported in with analysts and the numbers SUCK! 46% drop in new phone sales. When asked why? iPhone. I’m hearing stories that Cingular may actually offer a contract buy out for new iPhone customers only. It’s gonna be big, huge, monumental… In other words, just another product release for Apple.

    I actually feel like doing part time sales at a Cingular kiosk for the summer… Salesman get $50-100 per contract.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Mar 15, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Yes . . . I will hold onto some apple stock . . . but don’t think I haven’t been taking a little profit now and again!  How else could I afford to keep buying new apple gadgets to play with all the time . . . I’m optimistic but not NUTZ.
    I think you missed my point, but I completly agree with you about iPhone sales.  I was not talking about being able to just sync to OS X or windows, I was talking about the fact that many new devices will be running OS X.  So then . . . somewhere down the line there isn’t an “I just don’t understand how to use a Mac” attitude out there anymore because many (MANY) more folks will already be using a limited version of OS X on other devices.  Forget the iPod halo effect . . . it’s the opposite . . . the iPod (and iPhone) will BE mini Macs running OS X.  Then the jump to OS X on a laptop or desktop is a no brainer . . . you like it already.  Plus, I think apple will make many products in between the iPod and the MacBook.  With that lean and mean OS X running in flash on those sub-laptop products they will OWN mobile computing in not time I think . . . which of course is the fastest growing segment of the market.

    schininis had this to say on Mar 15, 2007 Posts: 8
  • Take a look at the specs… Apple and Linux are the ONLY OS that can fit (currently using current specs) onto a flash drive. And were talking 5 sec bootup, INSTANT load ups, Virtual Memory that works almost like real ram. And the power issue is absolutely fabulous. 32gb would be OK for mobile computing as it’s designed but the real power will shine when drives go over 60gb. Less heat, less power, 28mb/s transfer rates (Clean up drool).

    Agree on the OS X part 100%.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Mar 15, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Check that… 50+mb/sec with over 2 million hours half-life! Typical ATA style drives have 150k hrs, SCSI is 1.5m hours.

    Once there more affordable you’ll see adoption rates in double digits.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Mar 15, 2007 Posts: 172
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