Chances are, the smartphone in your pocket bears little resemblance to the cell phone you were carrying 5 years ago. That's largely because of what happened on June 29, 2007, the day the was released in North America.
As I wrote on the anniversary , "every major smartphone that has gone into production since the iPhone's release has, in some way, been a response to the iPhone itself."
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Since 2007, I've written hundreds of thousands of words about the iPhone, iOS and the modern smartphone ecosystem. I have chronicled the impact the iPhone has had not just on Apple, but on the telecom industry, the smartphone market and computing as we know it.
Now, on the fifth anniversary, I want to home in on a few specific examples of companies and individuals that the iPhone has profoundly changed.
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On June 29, 2007, Microsoft was still the largest technology company in the world. Sure, Windows Vista was getting a rough reception in the marketplace, but its maker was flying high. Windows Mobile wasn't a huge hit, but it did well enough.
Steve Ballmer in January 2007, remarking that businesses users would never go for the phone because "it doesn't have a keyboard."
Whoops. Five years later, Apple now tops Microsoft in terms of revenue, market cap and profits. Microsoft has upended its mobile strategy and has a good product -- but it's struggling to gain a foothold in the market, which is dominated by Apple and Google's Android OS.
More importantly, Microsoft's entire strategy has started to shift. At the last week, Microsoft announced that for the first time it would be competing directly with its manufacturing partners with its own hardware.
This is a profound turn for a company that was built on a licensing model. Bill Gates famously to license its hardware and operating systems to other companies. Apple refused. For the next two decades, conventional wisdom dictated that Apple should not have ignored Gates's advice. It should have licensed its software and hardware designs.
What we've seen since the iPhone's introduction, however, is a move away from the license-to-all model. Though Android does this and does it well, there is also widespread recognition that owning both the hardware and software experience is good for both profits and for customers.
Microsoft's switch to an integrated product approach with Surface -- and its plans to use a shared core between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 (much as Apple uses the same core for OS X and iOS) -- is a tacit acknowledgment that in the new era of computing, the strategy Apple executed with the first iPhone is going to lead the way.
If you had asked me five years ago whether Microsoft would be adjusting its entire business model to be more like Apple (and not merely trying to ape its products), I would have laughed. Yet this is Microsoft's current reality.
Canada's Research in Motion (RIM) is another company that expressed doubts about Apple's potential in the smartphone space on June 29, 2007.
In June of 2007, RIM and the BlackBerry brand were on a tear. BlackBerry was just starting to hit the consumer space with a bang, thanks to handsets such as the Pearl and the original BlackBerry Curve. Profits and adoption was growing by leaps and bounds.
The smartphone market, as it existed in 2007, was essentially the BlackBerry market. Like Microsoft, RIM wasn't worried about the threat from the iPhone. In fact, if one report is to be believed, the then co-CEOs of RIM didn't even .
Only after the Apple device was released, and lived up to the hype, did RIM started to consider the implications. It would take the company years to really get the iPhone, and to see the reverberations not responding would have on its business.
More than any other company in the smartphone space, RIM has squandered its position, in large part because that the iPhone changed the game for enterprise customers as well as consumers.
Even Nokia, for all its mismanagement and poorly executed OS strategies, started working on touch and app-centric approaches for its phones soon after the iPhone was released. Symbian, Maemo and MeeGo might have failed to deliver real competition, but at least Nokia tried.
Until RIM in 2010, the Canadian company didn't even appear to be trying.
RIM can't be faulted for not being prepared for the keyboardless wonder of the iPhone. It was counterintuitive. Still, the fact that it took five years for the company to finally understand that significance is what will probably end up sinking it.
On June 29, 2007, I was not an iPhone owner. I wasn't even a full-time Mac user. My phones of choice were a Motorola Razr, an HTC Windows Mobile device and a BlackBerry 8800.
Despite my early bullishness on the iPod (I got my first device in September 2002) and my determination to "go Mac" before that fall semester, I was not convinced that the iPhone would be the next big thing. Sure, I thought, it'll do well -- but it's too expensive, and the single-carrier issue (especially the fact that single carrier was AT&T) will hurt it.
I wasn't wrong about it being too expensive. Apple lowered the price by $200 just two months later. But I was wrong about everything else.
Within a week of the device's release, it was clear to me that the iPhone was the technology story of the year -- if not the decade. I was already writing about technology on my own personal weblogs, but it was the fervor over the iPhone that made me to want to do it in a more substantive way.
By the end of the summer, I was a full-time Mac user, an iPod touch owner, and about to become a blogger for and .
Writing about Apple, mobile technology and web apps changed my professional life. It changed my personal life too, as my work introduced me to the man who is now my husband.
I was still a BlackBerry user until 2009 -- though I had long moved to doing everything but phone calls on my various iPod touch device. It took two years before I finally broke down and agreed to give AT&T my hard-earned money.
Five Years Later
Five years after the iPhone's release, the device permeates our culture and consciousness. The iPhone -- especially since 2008's introduction of the App Store -- has transformed from a low-functioning device into the companion many feel they can't live without.
The market for point-and-shoot cameras, low-cost video recorders and even handheld game consoles have all contracted because of the success of iPhone, and the similar-looking smartphones that have followed in its footsteps.
Some pundits like to argue that the iPhone didn't invent anything; it merely popularized technology (touchscreens, Gorilla Glass, etc.) that was already available. That may be true in a sense, although nothing before or since has done more to bring technologies together and create something entirely new.
What the iPhone taught us is that execution is vital. It's not enough just to have all the pieces; you must have them fit together properly.
As a smartphone owner before the iPhone, I remember how I used that device. It was to check and send email or text messages, perhaps look up the odd website on a WAP browser, make phone calls and play simplistic games.
My phone wasn't my primary portable music player. It wasn't my video camera. It wasn't my still camera. Nor was it my instant outlet to the world via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It wasn't my compass or my portable eReader. Today, my phone is all that and more.
All of which makes me excited about the next five years. It's not a guarantee that Apple will still be the world's biggest tech company in five years time. Maybe it will be Google, perhaps Facebook, perhaps something else entirely.
Still, I have to think that the gestures, the touch-centric and app-centric worldview popularized and properly executed by iOS will still be visible in the ways we work and play.
How is your life different five years after the iPhone's release? Let us know in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable .