Chief executive Steve Jobs is reportedly set to unveil Apple Inc.’s second-generation iPhone this week. Will it capture the electronic gadget zeitgeist yet again? That would require Apple to roll out something truly shiny and new—and not just make incremental improvements.
Given Apple’s legendary secrecy, reports vary widely on what new features the phone will pack.
Most agree it will run the third-generation or 3G standard for faster data transmission, contain updated business applications in order to compete more effectively with Research in Motion Ltd’s BlackBerry offerings, contain more memory, and have a longer-lasting battery. All these advances would be great for users.
But everyone expects Apple to offer such incremental improvements in its devices and software. Indeed, it’s shocking, and rare, when the next generation of a product doesn’t improve substantially on earlier versions. This goes a long way towards explaining why Microsoft Corp.’s Vista operating system has been panned by so many users.
Apple now has to spur current iPhone owners to upgrade, and convince BlackBerry addicts and others who haven’t yet joined the iPhone cult to give it a try. To achieve that, Jobs will have to deliver something unexpected, which is much more difficult.
Tapping outside brains might help—third-party developers are creating novel applications for iPhone, which Apple could sell on its website. If some of those become must-haves, it could give the new phone the cachet it needs. Jobs may be brilliant, but there’s no monopoly on genius.