Apple's (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report iPhone 2 (or "iPhone 3G"), which goes on sale Friday, is a Steve Jobs' product par excellence: brilliant, affordable and lust worthy -- and also deeply uncompromised.
As I detail in my book about Steve Jobs,
, Jobs has turned his personality traits into unique business processes at Apple.
Jobs' deep-seated perfectionism, for example, has created at Apple a culture of exhaustive product prototyping. On average, most companies prototype new products half-a-dozen times, but Apple's designers and engineers prototype new products hundreds of times. The endless prototyping ensures the products are up to Jobs' high standards, but also means that potential problems are discovered and worked out.
Indeed, Jobs often scraps prototype products in the late stages of development and starts over again because something is discovered that can't be worked around. The process can seem persnickety and obsessive, and it drives some of his workers crazy, but it ensures Apple makes great, well-designed products like the iPhone, which was three years in the making.
Likewise, Jobs' control freak tendencies ensure that Apple controls the entire experience of its products. Apple controls not only the hardware, the software and the Web services its products connect to, but also the advertising that makes you want the products and the store you go to buy them.
Jobs' control may limit choice and flexibility, but it ensures Apple's products work seamlessly together. The iPod and iPhone are generally trouble-free and reliable when plugged into iTunes. And the Mac operating system suffers from far fewer of the viruses and malware that plague Windows
. Increasingly consumers are happy to pay a small premium for reliability and ease of use -- not to mention Jobs' world-class industrial design.
The iPhone is a product of Jobs' persnickety perfectionism and his control freak tendencies. It was obvious years ago that the iPod would be superseded by an entertainment-oriented smartphone, but unable to simply slap a cell phone onto an iPod, Jobs rethought both.
The result is a radical remake of the standard business-oriented smartphone for the consumer market. Corporate email and calendaring has been supplemented with always-on Web browsing and an easy-to-use finger-controlled interface.
And now, with the iPhone 2, Apple has opened up the iPhone and made it a platform: a truly mobile computer that third-party developers can create applications for.
is the most important feature of the iPhone 2 -- not the 3G networking or built-in GPS, but the ability to run third-party applications (a feature that will also be added to current first-generation iPhones with a software update).
Indeed, the ability to run third-party software makes the iPhone Apple's most important product to date. It will not only make over the cell phone business, it will remake the computer industry also.
Inside Steve's Brain
explains, Jobs was 30 years ahead of his time when he cofounded Apple in the late 1970s. Jobs at the time wanted to bring computers to the masses -- to make computers for "the rest of us" -- but the masses didn't need computers in the seventies. Corporations did -- and companies like
that sold computers to the enterprise thrived.
But Jobs has always been interested in ordinary consumers, hence his focus on ease-of-use and design. Thirty years ago, these were losing traits: Companies weren't interested in great design. They wanted cheap machines that could be put on millions of desks.
But these days, our lives are becoming entirely digital. Everything we do is mediated by a computer or smart device, from the movies we order over the internet to the digital pictures we take of our kids. Microsoft may dominate the workplace, but the new frontiers for the computer industry are in digital entertainment and communication.
And Jobs is right in the sweet spot. Without the support of a corporate IT department, home users want easy-to-use, reliable devices that don't look ugly in the living room.
The iPhone 2 is the evolution of the Macintosh. It's an easy-to-use mobile computer -- a Mac for the mobile age. It's a smartphone for "the rest of us."
TheStreet.com has a revenue-sharing relationship with Amazon.com under which it receives a portion of the revenue from Amazon.com book purchases by customers directed there from TheStreet.com. Leander Kahney is the author of New York Times bestseller Inside Steve's Brain (Portfolio, 2008) and the news editor of Wired.com.