Apple slipped the surly bonds of earthly economics during intraday trading on Monday (Jan. 3), becoming the first U.S. company to achieve a $3 trillion valuation before slipping back down.
Just months after the 10th anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death in October 2011, the company he founded, quit, then went back to and made a humanity-changing force of ingenuity and commerce is, in many ways, the progenitor of the connected economy we’re living in now.
Critics of the company today say it’s no longer the innovation engine that Jobs built, while proponents hold that Apple laid the groundwork — some of it perceptual through groundbreaking marketing — for the connected economy, particularly the mobile internet.
Jobs grasped the technological efficiency and vastly improved user experiences that platforms and ecosystems can provide, and that’s debatably the inspiration that set it all in motion.
A favorite of graphic designers, Macintosh (Mac) computers kept the company a smaller, sexier player when compared to the numerous competitors in the PC camp through the 1990s. Mac’s attempts at clever devices always seemed to fall flat, such as the Pippin and the Newton, which Jobs reportedly saw as toyish line extensions.
He had something else in mind entirely.
In 2014, The Wall Street Journal published emails from the late Jobs in which he named 2011 “year of the cloud,” saying that “we invented the digital hub concept” while expressing a grand vision to “tie all of our products together, so we lock customers into our ecosystem.”
Except for the “locking into,” it sounds like the connected economy on a smaller scale.
Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, and in 2001, the first iPod was released. It combined device miniaturization with a database approach to music (iTunes) that was light-years ahead of the reigning portable tech of the time — a compact disc playing Discman and two pounds of CDs.
Music and device were now effectively one, and that was a flying leap into becoming connected.
To call the 2007 introduction of the iPhone “game changing” is, in this rare occasion, an understatement. Blackberry was the entrenched smartphone then, and millions were devoted to their Blackberries. They scoffed at the first iPhones, but within a year or two, they owned one.
What changed consumer’s minds? Seeing their friends effortlessly taking and sending high-resolution photos and videos, and sharing YouTube music clips to something called Facebook. When the app store launched in 2008, it began a longterm love affair with mobile computing that deposited us at the doorstep of the connected economy of 2022.
In 2012, Apple added its mobile Wallet, followed by Apple Pay in 2014, closing the loop on a fully interoperable ecosystem where consumers can watch TV, listen to music, play games, communicate, shop and pay, all while sitting in an Uber, an airplane seat — or anywhere they choose.
To date, iPhone owners have yet to acclimate to Apple Pay in massive numbers. The PYMNTS report “Apple Pay at 7: Winning the Battle but Losing the War In-Store” notes that “Apple Pay is faring better than other mobile wallets in the U.S., but this still puts it on the losing side of the war for in-store payments. Consumers are using mobile wallets for just 4.5% of their in-person shopping in 2021, 26% less often than in 2019 — meaning Apple has been growing its share of a shrinking market.”
We haven’t heard the end of Apple Pay, just as we hadn’t seen the last of Steve Jobs in 1997. It’s easy to imagine he would’ve been pleased at today’s brief stock market fireworks.
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