Like a lot of people, I am the proud owner of a shiny new iPhone 4S. Now, that may not sound unusual (I mean, Apple has sold MILLIONS), but the guys and gals I work with are saying “OMG!!!”
You see, for years, I’ve had an old LG 9900 ENV. Those that know me have always wondered why I’ve never upgraded my phone. The reason I did not upgrade to an iPhone years ago was simple: I never warmed up to the onscreen keyboard. It just didn’t seem the same as the “real” keyboard on my trusty old Env 9900, with real buttons to push. Text messages have become the primary method of communication with my three kids (their choice, not mine). I quickly realized they would generally reply to a text message and ignore all other forms of communication. Sometimes you’ve gotta go with the flow. But it made a real keyboard that much more important to me.
But with the iPhone 4S, it’s no longer an issue, because of Siri. I can get things done via voice command and control. I can add items to my calendar, make phone calls, send text messages, get stock quotes, and my new best friend: I can set reminders and timers. Which has me yelling OMG!!!, but in a good way.
I spend 60 to 90 minutes a day in the car, and sometimes more. It’s my downtime, when I can both collect my thoughts and break out in a panic over the things I’ve forgotten to do. But now, while tooling around on old New England roads, I can actually DO something about those gremlins that slipped through the cracks, like set a reminder to do them in the morning. I can even set a location-based reminder to do them when I get home. Or, if I realize that I need to call someone next week, I can set a reminder for that too. All via voice. All without looking at the iPhone screen at all; all without a keyboard! The iPhone 4S takes a time during my day when I’m most alone with my thoughts, and allows me to capture and schedule it. OMG!!!
Apple recently announced that 70% of their revenues came from iOS. Here’s an industry that’s only five years old, yet already it provides many tens of billions in revenue for Apple. Some claim that iOS devices are supplanting their desktop/laptop counterparts. For personal and business communications and basic day-to-day organization that is likely true. I’m using my trusty MacBook Pro to write this article; iOS devices aren’t designed as well as a tool for the creation of larger documents… authoring so to speak. Well, not yet anyway.
During the great Halloween storm of 2011, pretty much all of New England lost power to one degree or another. My daughter’s a junior at Mount Holyoke College out in Western Mass, where they had lots of trees, power lines and branches down across campus. She texted one morning after a full day without power that her phone was almost out of juice. Later that day she texted that she was charging her phone off her MacBook. What does that tell us? She finds her phone more important than her laptop, particularly when there’s no Internet access. The phone is her lifeline, and limited power resources are going to go to the device that keeps her connected.
In a conversation recently with one of my managers, I noted that iPhone reminds me of the early days of the Macintosh. I worked at Apple in 1984 and 1985 and was there to witness the beginning. Here’s the thing: the Mac’s interface was revolutionary; it changed the way we worked with computers. It kindled a flame deep inside, making technology accessible to the masses without their having to type long, ugly, syntactically sensitive strings of DOS commands. And that’s what Siri and the iPhone 4S are doing too… it’s the next revolution in technology that will drive major innovation.
Certainly Apple did not invent voice recognition. They didn’t invent the graphic user interface either. Instead what Apple has done is taken existing technologies, smoothed off the rough edges, and made them available to the masses. Yes, Android had this ability earlier, and yes, I tried it. But I just never warmed up to Android’s implementation. It didn’t work as smoothly or elegantly for me. And that’s what Apple does best.
Although Siri isn’t available on older iPhones nor iPads, we’ve seen a staggering increase in businesses using these devices to improve their productivity. Wherever there is a distributed workforce, there’s an opportunity to use these portable technologies to review or collect information outside the office. Our clients are using iPads and FileMaker Go to collect inspection information for ships, to review and enter information on sales activities, and to check in guests for bus trips and tours. The future is here! And hey, you can even use voice dictation on the iPhone 4S with FileMaker Go too!
Years ago the late, great journalist Don Crabb was at our home for a party. At one point I asked Don if my kids would ever use a keyboard in their business careers. He felt that they would, but not forever. He said the keyboard was a very crude method of getting our thoughts and words into a computer. But it was the best we had.
Well, Don, I wish you were here to see this and to read your thoughts and insights, ‘cause the new revolution has just started.