The thing Steve Jobs didn’t see coming | Innovation Tech
APPLE co-founder Steve Jobs is considered one of the most influential tech visionaries of a generation but there were some things he couldn’t quite predict.
When he introduced the company’s most famous product in 2007, the iPhone, the device did not provide any support for third-party software. Jobs believed that web apps served over the internet could provide adequate functionality but pretty quickly developers managed to “jailbreak” the phone and begin coding third party apps and put them on the device via programs like Installer.app.
The following year, with the release of iPhone OS 2.0, Apple launched the App Store and officially introduced third-party app development and distribution to the platform.
But Steve Jobs had no idea how big it would become.
A month after it opened, he was surprised by how successful its first few weeks had been and invited a journalist from The Wall Street Journal to the company’s headquarters for a rare on-the-record interview.
Now 10 years later, the full transcript of that interview has been released and it contains some revealing insights at a crucial time for the company.
“We didn’t expect it to be this big. The mobile industry’s never seen anything like this. To be honest, neither has the computer industry,” he said.
The rate of app downloads far outstripped the rate of song downloads during the early years of iTunes — a fact that really surprised Apple.
“We have over 1500 applications on the App Store today. We thought that the input would start to slow down from developers, but it’s accelerating,” he said.
The transcript (the audio can also be found online) reveals Jobs vastly underestimated the size of the market.
“Who knows? Maybe it’ll be a billion-dollar marketplace at some point in time. This doesn’t happen very often. A whole new billion-dollar market opens up. 360 million in the first 30 days, I’ve never seen anything like this in my career for software,” he said.
In 2017 alone, Apple’s App Store generated more than $US38.5 billion ($A51 billion), a 34 per cent increase from the previous year, according to a report from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
Since its inception a decade ago, Apple has paid out more than $US80 billion ($A107 billion) to app developers.
In an event in Melbourne last year to launch an app building course at RMIT, Apple executive Lisa Jackson went as far as telling the audience that “Apple is nothing without the App Store and the App Store is nothing without developers”.
While Steve Jobs didn’t envision the massive growth of the App Store, he did at least realise projecting its growth was a futile exercise.
“I would not trust any of our predictions because reality has so far exceeded them by such a great degree that we’ve been reduced to spectators just like you, watching this amazing phenomenon and just doing our best to try to help everybody get their apps done and get them on the store,” he said at the time.
Steve Jobs would die from cancer a little over three years later.