This morning, as I played around with the new iPhone 3G S at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference, it dawned on me: This really isn't a phone anymore. There are 437 things you can do on it between calls. You wouldn't call an elephant a tusk, or your automobile, a cigarette lighter. The iPhone is a computer that you sometime talk through. Why call it a phone?
I remember when Apple CEO Steve Jobs spoke about "iLife," the way to inject your computer with pieces of software that could bring together music, video, and photos in one place. Now, most computers are fully functional stereos, movie theaters, and TVs, as well as newsstands, social hangouts, and bazaars.
The iPhone is no exception. In introducing video, the 3G S removed the last glaring limitation. Now that you can download movies, listen to (and find) any song in the universe, and check the Web in seconds, you pretty much have a laptop computer in your pocket. (That reality must burn Microsoft, which never popularized its own Pocket PC.) Add in a mobile video camera, GPS locator, compass, and pretty good still camera, and your pocket computer just got even more powerful.
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Phone? To be honest, that part of the gadget didn't even come up in the entire Apple keynote. At no time did anyone talk about how you can talk to your friends, coworkers, or family members on it. Sure, you can hook it up to your guitar amp, or shoot galactic invaders, or hail a cab, or share data by bumping your fists, but talk? I guess there's an app for that, but no one brags about using it.
Which brings me back to my point: We need a better name. Would Apple have called its find everything piece of software "iTunes" if it knew it would be selling movies and software, too? Jeff Bezos called Amazon.com Amazon, after the world's biggest river, because he believed it would be far more than a bookstore.
The iPhone is, I'll admit, a terrific piece of technology. But it's got the wrong name. What would you call an entire "iLife" in your pocket? Any ideas? Suggest themin the comments.
Scott Budman watched the developer sitting next to him at WWDC do seven things with his iPhone, without talking once.